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Demetri Goodson hit a game-winning shot in the NCAA tournament for Gonzaga in 2009.

No desperation heave

Demetri Goodson gave up basketball at Gonzaga to play football at Baylor. Now, he’s trying to make it in the NFL at cornerback. Don’t bet against him.

By JASON WILDE

GREEN BAY – The video quality, especially by YouTube standards, is actually quite good.

You can hear the CBS broadcast team of Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner, echo-y though they may be, pretty clearly, including Bonner’s observation that the five Gonzaga University players on the floor, looking to protect a two-point lead over Western Kentucky, comprise the Bulldogs’ quickest and defensive-oriented lineup. The bootlegger’s hand is steady, despite the end-to-end action and thrilling finish. It’d been watched just 7,122 times as of Monday, so it won’t be catching Psy’s Gangham Style and its nearly 2 billion views anytime soon.

But there it is, for Internet posterity – or until CBS or the NCAA claim copyright infringement and gets it removed – for all to see: Demetri Goodson’s greatest athletic accomplishment to date: A game-winning, last-second basket to send the Zags into the Sweet Sixteen of the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

The Green Bay Packers’ sixth-round pick is hoping there is a moment in his football future that will surpass it, of course. The rookie cornerback has come this far – if you haven’t read the Houston Chronicle's excellent series on Goodson’s path to the NFL Draft by Brian T. Smith, it is well worth your time – but believes this is only the beginning for him.

“To actually do it and get here, it’s definitely been a blessing for me,” Goodson said at the end of the team’s rookie orientation camp earlier this month, with the first full-squad organized team activity practice set for Wednesday. “The fans are great, the team is great and I’m happy just to be here. It’s been such a long journey for me to be here.”

Which is why the video is the perfect metaphor for what the man they call “Meech” is doing.

There are 7.2 seconds left as Austin Daye releases the inbounds pass. He has two guards with their hands extended, calling for the ball – Jeremy Pargo, a senior, and Goodson, a freshman.

Goodson is a few feet closer to Daye and gets it. The game is tied, following a Western Kentucky put-back basket. He turns, his eyes up court, the game in his hands.

There is no stopping him.

“I got the ball and Pargo was calling for it and I kind of ignored him – not trying to be selfish, but I was just determined to go find somebody,” Goodson would say after the game. “Then the lane opened up and I thought, 'I'm taking it in.'”

At halfcourt, two Western Kentucky defenders continue to backpedal, while Goodson continues full speed ahead. He reaches the top of the key and veers to his left, leaving his defender behind. Another Western Kentucky defender half-heartedly reaches in as Goodson blows past him, and before anyone else can collapse on him at the left block, the ball is already in flight, kissing softly off the glass and through the net with 0.9 seconds to play. The Bulldogs are headed to the Sweet Sixteen – but not before a mob scene at midcourt, celebrating the Zags’ unlikely hero.

“I shot it, it went in and then the celebration was crazy,” Goodson says. “I felt like I was dreaming.”

Watching it all as he trails the play is Pargo, who is then one of the first players to hug him as the Hilltopers’ wayward three-quarters court heave falls harmlessly to the floor.

“We won a game with a shot by a guy that no one else expected to take it,” Pargo, his roommate and friend, would say. “But it was the right shot by the right guy at the right time. The stage he did it on was unbelievable – and I'm more excited for him than I am for myself or for the team for getting the win.”

Five years later, Goodson is standing in the middle of the Packers’ locker room, holding court. After three seasons of basketball at Gonzaga, he decided to play football – a game he’d given up as a sophomore in high school in the Houston area – and once again, he’s in a spot no one else expected him to be. Including Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who was caught by surprise by Goodson’s decision to give up hoops in April 2011.

“He was like ‘What, you’re going to play football?’” recalled Goodson, who transferred to Baylor, which allowed him to return to football and be closer to home. Despite overtures from Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew upon his arrival on campus, Goodson was committed to giving football another try.

He spent three football seasons at Baylor – arriving two weeks before the 2011 opener – but played in only four games in 2011 (ankle) and 2012 (broken arm) before receiving a medical hardship waiver and seeing action in 11 games (10 starts) last fall, when he had three interceptions and 16 pass break-ups. He has NFL bloodlines – his older brother Mike has played five NFL seasons with three teams, and is currently on the New York Jets’ roster – but is raw after the long layoff from the game and the injuries that limited his on-field time at Baylor.

But much like that day in Portland, Ore., with a Sweet Sixteen berth in the balance, he is determined. It would seem the odds are against the 5-foot-11, 194-pound Goodson, but the Packers have developed cornerbacks whose preparation for the position was less-than-ideal.

In 2010, they signed undrafted free agent Sam Shields, who’d spent only one season playing cornerback after three at wide receiver at the University of Miami. And late in 2006, they signed Tramon Williams, a street free agent who’d gone undrafted out of Louisiana Tech – where he’d spent his freshman year watching from the bleachers believing he could be better than the guys on the field.

Those two players are now the Packers’ top two cornerbacks and will be paid a combined $21 million in 2014.

Set to turn 25 on June 11, Goodson believes he would have gone much higher in the draft if not for his age. He does not lack for confidence, although he admits to being raw.

“The basketball thing, that’s in the past. I just strictly look at the football player,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. ‘Some of the things he did in basketball – being able to stay in front of guys and use your feet and things like that – it’s just like playing corner. So that will help him. But other than that, I like the kid’s skill set. He’s a guy that has a chance to be a good player down the road.

“I like [that Goodson is raw], because there are not a lot of bad habits that you have to erase. They are what you coach. You’re not coaching anything out of them. I like to take a guy that’s played receiver or has a limited background because if I do my job, he’s going to be a quality player if he has the skill set.”

Goodson, who was the 30th cornerback drafted, believes he has that skill set. And he’s ready to work – against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ No. 1 offense starting Wednesday.

“I’ve never been the type of guy where things came easy and simple to me. I’ve always had to work for what I got,” said Goodson, who admits he’d likely have ended up playing basketball overseas – like Pargo does now, following brief NBA stints – had he stuck with hoops.

“I tell the coaches that all the time. I’m like ‘Watch, Coach. Watch. I’m telling you.’ Basically, once I learn the plays and get out there and play against Aaron, watch. I’m going to be a steal.”

Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde