Mario Goodrich joined Clemson in 2018 as a four-star recruit from Missouri. He was the 6th-ranked cornerback in his class and played both cornerback and wide receiver for Lee’s Summit West High School. He chose the Tigers over Nebraska, Georgia, LSU, and Arkansas. CB Kyler McMichael and Derion Kendrick (who was a five-star WR as a recruit, but eventually converted to CB) joined him in the recruiting class.
During his first two years in the program, he was buried in the depth chart. In 2018, he had just 6 tackles and 3 pass defenses as Trayvon Mullen and AJ Terrell were the Tigers’ star cornerbacks. Both had interceptions in Clemson’s epic 44-16 National Championship rout of Alabama.
After the season, Trayvon Mullen was a first-round NFL draft pick and Kyler McMichael transferred to North Carolina, but Goodrich, now a sophomore, was jumped on the depth chart by Derion Kendrick, who had just converted to cornerback. Goodrich had his first career interception but finished with just 7 tackles and 2 pass defenses in 2019.
Goodrich could have transferred and found another school where playing time would be easier to come by. Instead, he stayed the course and continued to hone his craft. As a junior in the weird COVID season, he had two interceptions along with 13 tackles and 1 pass defense. The following off-season, Derion Kendrick was dismissed from the team which put Goodrich in position to start alongside rising star Andrew Booth.
With that opportunity, Mario Goodrich had a breakout season. He finished 2021 with 42 tackles, 9 pass defenses, 1 INT, and 1 TD. He earned First-Team All-ACC honors alongside teammate CB Andrew Booth. He saved the best for last and ended his Clemson playing days on a high note with a big performance that earned him the Cheez-It Bowl MVP.
The cheesiest #MVP! Congrats to Mario Goodrich on being the @CheezItBowl #MVP! pic.twitter.com/alh0DXHJsN— Bowl Season (@BowlSeason) December 30, 2021
His MVP performance included the biggest play of the game, a pick-six off a twice-batted ball. It was the first touchdown of his career:
Additionally, Goodrich came up with the game-winning play when he knocked the ball out of Iowa State QB Brock Purdy’s hands and prevented a fourth-down conversion:
After the game, Coach Swinney was excited to talk about Mario Goodrich and his development from an immature 18-year-old to a grown man and a winner:
“Really proud of Mario... He didn’t get off to a good start. Like a lot of 18 year olds, [he was] a little immature, not quite as focused, a little distracted. In my office a couple times when he didn’t need to be in my office. You know, he got my foot in his rear a few times, but you don’t know what you don’t know and now here he is. First-team all-conference. Had his best semester academically in his entire career... Was voted team captain by his team. Going to the senior bowl. That’s what is great about coaching is seeing transformation and seeing young men buy in. He probably would have been in the portal if the portal had been around back in his sophomore year, but to be up here in this moment with this guy right now. He knows. This is a winner... This dude right here, he’s a grown man. He gets it and he’s equipped.... Nobody deserved it more than this guy. He’s been amazing.”
Mario never quit working. He never gave up on himself or the Clemson program. Now, he can look back and appreciate the journey to becoming an All-Conference cornerback and an NFL draft prospect. He recently announced that he will not be using the NCAA COVID waiver to stay for a fifth season and will enter the NFL draft.
It’s been real unbelievable experience these past 4yrs… I am forever grateful! Thank you Clemson Nation. ✌ pic.twitter.com/ydrII1zSet— MGIII™ (@_MG3__) December 30, 2021
Earlier mock drafts had him as a late-round selection, but with the way he played towards the end of the season, and especially in the bowl game, perhaps he improved his draft stock. He’s an easy one to root for and we’ll certainly be rooting for him to go as early as possible in April’s 2022 NFL draft!