The football team has been a second family to Ean Goodwin for a long time. When tragedy struck his immediate family during the 2020 season, Goodwin found comfort in that football family.
Goodwin, a Durango High School junior cornerback and wide receiver, has played a big role in helping the No. 3 Demons (7-0) reach the Class 3A state championship football game against No. 1 Roosevelt (7-0). When the Demons take the field at the CSU-Pueblo ThunderBowl Stadium at 2 p.m. Saturday, they’ll have a special tribute on their helmets for Goodwin.
Goodwin’s father, Justin, died by suspected suicide Oct. 25 at the age of 42. The team has worn a sticker with the initials J.G. on their helmets ever since.
“After my dad died, the whole football team, the players and coaches, they all brought food to me and my family,” Goodwin said. “They were always there looking out for me. The sticker, it reminds me that this team is always there, always thinking about me all the time.”
Justin Goodwin’s death came a day after Durango beat Pueblo County 49-21 on the road in its second game of a five-game regular season. Ean Goodwin returned to practice Oct. 30, a day before DHS played Evergreen at home in a top-10 matchup.
“Football was somewhere to go and not think about anything else,” he said. “I can go and just play football.”
DHS senior lineman Rocco Estes had the idea to put Goodwin’s father’s initials on the helmets. The coaches and players asked Goodwin what he thought about the idea.
He agreed. A week later, the Demons all had the stickers in place.
“Ean is a program kid who has worked super hard every day in the weight room and practice for us,” DHS head coach David Vogt said. “It’s just great to see him and how the kids really came together for him and supported him through hard times. We wanted him to know he could come here to get his mind off things and be with a bunch of people who love and support him, to use football as that outlet and us as support.
“I just want to thank CHSAA again for allowing us to play because it means so much to these kids. It’s not just playing games, it means everything to the kids. For him to have the football family to rely on and help him through that was just one of the best things ever.”
Goodwin is a reserved young man off the field but a fierce competitor on it. As a sophomore last season, he had three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
He has yet to intercept a pass this season, but he came up with perhaps the play of his life in the regular-season finale Nov. 13 against Cañon City, when he hauled in a tipped pass from backup quarterback Jordan Stanley and took it 75 yards for the game’s first touchdown. It took all the pressure off a short-handed Demons team playing without two all-state wide receivers and its starting quarterback with a league championship on the line as well as the chance to host a state quarterfinal game the next week. DHS would go on to win 27-13.
“I saw (Stanley) was going deep, but there was double coverage over there,” Goodwin said. “I tried to run in and maybe get a block if our receiver caught it. The ball hit the defenders’ hands and bounced right into my hands like a miracle. I ran and hoped nobody would catch me. That’s the fastest I’ve run in a long time. It was unbelievable having everybody jumping and screaming. It was an intense feeling.”
Vogt couldn’t wait to congratulate Goodwin after the big play that took the weight of the world off the shoulders of the entire Demons’ sideline.
“Seeing his face, seeing his teammates embrace him, that’s why we do this job,” Vogt said. “There are moments where a kid can be lifted up.”
After Justin’s death, the Demons organized to bring meals to Goodwin and his mother, Maggie, and brother, Logan. Junior linebacker Cole Matava, one of Goodwin’s best friends, and his father, Bubba, delivered the meals.
“We went up the day we found out the news. Ean is such a great kid, and he’s pretty close to the vest about everything, but to see Cole and Ean have a special moment together and bond the way they did, it solidified their brotherhood,” Bubba said. “The football family really came to the forefront. We were able to bring meals for two and a half weeks or so to show the family that his football family will be there for him his whole life through the good and bad.”
For the Matava family, seeing Goodwin’s miraculous touchdown catch against Cañon City brought tears to their eyes.
“There are times in life where sports transcend things,” Bubba said. “I was watching the game at home on the livestream with his mother. We had lots of tears paired with screaming and yelling and hugs. The elation in that moment for him, it was one of those moments.”
If Durango is going to win a state championship Saturday, Goodwin will play a big part on defense. He has enjoyed the feeling of being locked in with a common purpose alongside his football family during the three-week playoff run, a feeling he said is unmatched.
He knows the Demons are ready to win the last game of the season.
“It is intense this week,” he said. “We’ve known for a while that this year would be our year to win. I am thinking about all of my teammates and winning for them. We have to work together to overcome the best football team in the state. I am looking forward to it, hopefully getting some stops and some picks.”