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KU linebacker Ben Goodman was raised on rodeo

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, at 9:47 p.m.

Kansas at TCU

When: 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: Carter Stadium, Fort Worth

Records: KU 2-2, 0-1 Big 12; TCU 2-3, 0-2

Radio: KFH, 1240-AM, 98.7-FM

TV: FSKC (Cox Ch. 34, DirecTV 672, Dish 418, Uverse 750)

Three things about TCU

1 TCU has won 30 of its last 35 home games and is 60-11 under coach Gary Patterson at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

2 TCU announced this week that defensive end Devonte Fields would miss the rest of the year after undergoing foot surgery. Fields was the Big 12’s defensive player of the year in 2012, finishing the season with 10 sacks .

3 After starting quarterback Casey Pachall suffered a broken arm in early September, sophomore Trevone Boykin stepped into the same role he held for much of last year. He’s thrown for 791 yards and rushed for 176 yards while playing parts of five games. The Horned Frogs’ backup is McPherson native Tyler Matthews.

Key matchup: Kansas QB Jake Heaps vs. the TCU secondary: The Horned Frogs are tied for first in the Big 12 with nine interceptions, and safeties Chris Hackett and Sam Carter have picked off three passes apiece. It could mean bad news for a struggling KU pass offense.

Rustin Dodd’s pick: TCU 34-10

The Horned Frogs have played the second-most difficult schedule in the country, according to the Sagarin Ratings, dropping games to LSU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. They’re back at home, and KU hasn’t shown the ability to win on the road (20 straight losses) or in the Big 12 (22 losses).

— The summer before Ben Goodman left for Kansas, he made a pact with his father. For four years, he would dedicate himself to football, to the simple joy of sacking the quarterback and blowing up opposing running backs.

But first, before he had to report to campus, he wanted one more run on the rodeo circuit. Life only gives you so many chances to wrestle a steer or rope a calf, you know?

“I know I’m not gonna be able to do it for four years,” Ben Goodman told his father, Ben Sr.

So off they went, making stops in Biloxi, Miss., and Caldwell and Livingston, Texas. This was the rodeo life, the life Goodman had grown up in. And one last time, Goodman went head first into the seemingly insane sport of wrestling a live steer. He also competed in calf-roping competitions — his specialty event.

“He wanted to get it out of his system,” Ben Sr. says.

More than two years later, Goodman, a sophomore linebacker at KU, will take the field for Kansas against TCU in Fort Worth at 11 a.m. on Saturday. In his first year starting, Goodman has sparked a rejuvenated pass-rush that has produced nine sacks.

Earlier this week, KU coach Charlie Weis has promised that this matchup with TCU could be the Jayhawks’ most physical test of the season. But what’s so scary about meeting a running back in the hole when you grew up watching your father steer wrestle in events in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. His father would jump off a horse at 35 mph (“You gotta have a good horse,” Ben Sr. says) and grab the beast by the horns, flipping him to the ground.

“The rodeo life just makes you physical,” says Goodman, who grew up in Beaumont, Texas, near the Texas-Louisiana border. “It makes you so physical and tough-natured already. And just being around that, I just grew up physical and faster than the average kid.”

For Goodman, the rodeo life is a family tradition that goes back generations. His grandfather, a man known as Little Henry, was a bull rider, competing in rodeos all over Texas. Ben Sr. would try bull riding, too, but after cracking a few ribs, he thought better of it. Football was his first love, anyway, and he went off to play safety at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla.

“I always said that rodeo would be there when I got back,” Ben Sr. says.

By the time his children, Ben Jr. and Jasmine, were growing up, he was competing in maybe 50 rodeos a year. It could have been more, too. But Ben Sr. didn’t want to miss any of his kid’s football games or events back home.

“He was good enough to make it,” Goodman says. “But he always had a family to come back to.”

The family, including his mother, Reecie, spent their days at a local rodeo arena owned by Little Henry, tending to horses and working on the family hobby.

When he was growing up, Goodman always wanted to go play football during the fall. But he was too big to make the weight limit in the local youth league. So he took up calf-roping, becoming one of the best local calf-ropers in the Anahuac Saltgrass Cowboy’s Association. His specialty event was the junior breakaway, and in one contest at the Mesquite Rodeo in Dallas, Goodman competed neck-and-neck with a future professional.

“He roped both of his calves that day,” Ben Sr. says.

And in some ways, his father believes those days prepared him for playing rush-linebacker in the Big 12. The speed, and the coordination, and the angles. The skills all translate to the field.

“If you gotta calf in the arena, you gotta take an angle,” Ben Sr. says. “The calf is just so fast, it’s just like a running back. Except he’s got four legs, and you’ve only got two.”

Someday, after his football career is over, Goodman may go back to the rodeo life. But that’s in the future. He still has this season and three more to help the KU football program get back on solid footing. And he enters this Saturday with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss in four games, one of KU’s most important players in an aggressive scheme.

Ben Sr. says his son could probably be a successful steer wrestler or calf-roper someday. He has the tools and the athleticism. But if you listen to Goodman, there’s one event you won’t see him doing anytime soon: Bull Riding.

“No,” Goodman says. “That’s for the crazy people.”

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