Elija Godwin is no forgotten man.
When the 2016 football season ended, Godwin — already established as a track star and state champion in the 200 and 400 meters — was carving out a reputation for himself as a budding defensive back.
He held six offers from Division I schools and was expected to be one of the anchors of a fast and stingy Newton defense in 2017. Then track season came, and buoyed by another pair of state titles, Godwin set out to qualify for the Junior Olympics.
The 5-foot-10 speedster wouldn’t make it to the Olympics though. Not because he didn’t have the ability. He pulled a hamstring that ended that bid prematurely. Godwin was largely missing during spring and summer football workouts, which may have raised questions about his presence on this year’s football team.
But track coach Kevin Barnes had no such questions.
“He’s recovering from the little hamstring injury, but he’ll definitely be back,” Barnes said during a late summer workout. “You’ll be seeing him soon.”
Sure enough, Godwin was on the sidelines during Newton’s 41-0 win over in-county rival Eastside last Friday. Donning his No. 11 jersey in shorts and no shoulder pads, he wasn’t going to be on the football field that night, but he definitely wanted to. You could see it in the way he eyed the field while talking about the time he missed.
“I mean, it’s been real frustrating,” Godwin said while intently watching his teammates in pre-game warm ups. “It’s really made me anxious to come back. Watching these boys out here playing, it makes you want to get out there with them.”
Especially for that Eastside game, perhaps.
Godwin was one of the stars of last year’s 41-41 thriller when he answered an Eastside touchdown by streaking down the sideline on a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown. He probably could’ve gotten in and played fairly effectively last Friday night. But he said his desires to help Newton (2-0) for the long haul.
“I said I’d probably sit out a couple of games,” Godwin said. “I didn’t wanna be injured the whole season. Right now it’s kind of okay because we aren’t doing bad.”
That may be a bit of an understatement.
In the Rams’ 2-0 start, they’ve largely dominated the competition, showing off their physicality against Drew and Eastside by dominating them to the tune of a combined score of 77-22. Neither opponent has cracked 200 yards of offense against the “Blue Swarm” defense. Eastside finished with 103 total yards last week, checking in with less than 40 at halftime.
Godwin said Friday’s bye week will “give me a lot of time to mentally prepare and get back for Peachtree Ridge.” Junior corner Tim Newton also missed the Eastside game with an injured ankle. He stood next to Godwin on the sideline with his foot in a boot.
Those two key cogs in Newton’s secondary represent a pair of reasons why Newton head coach, Terrance Banks isn’t complaining about the early-season off week.
“I like it, I really do,” Banks said. “We’ve got a lot of kids with bumps and bruises and this is going to give us a chance to get a head start on the next two weeks.”
That next pair of games against Peachtree Ridge (0-2) and No. 4 Lowndes (2-0) — the first of a four-game road stand — will say a lot about the kind of team Newton can be by season’s end. By the time Newton returns to Sharp Stadium (Oct. 6), it will be jumping into Region 8-AAAAAAA play, hosting No. 8 Archer and then top-ranked Grayson (Oct. 20).
And Godwin says he can’t help but get excited about the kind of impact he hopes to have in such high profile games.
“I like being able to watch them do what they’re doing,” he said. “But when I get back, it’s going to be a big difference.”