Several weeks ago, Newton junior sprinter Elija Godwin pushed past defending 100 meters state champion and UGA football signee Eric Stokes from Eastside in a closely contested 100 meter dash.
When Godwin crossed the finish line, he threw up his hands in victory in a shoulder-shrug kind of way, as if to announce his expected arrival into the conversation of top sprinters in Georgia.
But Godwin will be the first to tell you that the antics of competition between himself and Stokes were all just fun and games between two highly competitive buddies.
“Me and Eric, we’re real close friends to be honest with you,” Godwin said. “He does both (football and track) like I do, so we relate and we have a lot of things in common. When we went up against each other, I knew he was coming off of the knee injury and everything. But, you know, that’s just an in-county thing for bragging rights and all that. I was just having a little fun with it.”
The fun that Godwin, a 6-foot, 190 pound speedster on the track and safety on the football field, is having is one of the reasons why he’s excelled as much as he has during his junior track season.
The two-sport star is part of Newton’s 2016 Class AAAAAA state championship track and field team. But he’s also a fast, physical, run-stopping presence for Newton football’s defense. And with a 3.5 grade point average, Godwin is getting it done in the classroom as well.
We had a chance to chat with Godwin during the Newton track teams’ Senior Night celebration this week about his improvement as a runner, his top five for football scholarships and more.
The Covington News: So we see you out here doing your thing on the track just like in football, and you seem to enjoy both. Which one do you like more?
Godwin: “I like both equally, really. They go hand in hand. In track, I like the crowd, the atmosphere. I get to feed off that. Them actually looking at you as an individual more so than just seeing you as a part of a larger team. I am a team player when it comes to football, but in track, you get to go out there, with little kids screaming your name and you get to perform and do what you do as a person. You get to show what you can do athletically as an individual.
“What I like about football? I love the brotherhood of football. I love going out there and going to war with my brothers every day. I love practicing and the coming together to create chemistry with each other and going out and watching it manifest on the field.”
TCN: How have you improved yourself as a track and field runner since last year’s state championship journey?
Godwin: “I just feel like I’ve improved with finding ways to help us come together as a team. Like I said, in track most of the time I’m doing stuff by myself and on my own, and in the past I’ve just been caught up in thinking track is an individual sport only. But this year I think I’m better at helping the team be a team. I’m better at finding out how to be a team player even in a more individualized sport. I still go out and do my thing, but I’ve gotten better at making sure everyone else around me is doing their thing too.”
TCN: How do you see your confidence and the team’s confidence going into region? Can this team repeat as champions?
Godwin: “I feel like confidence is the biggest thing for us. Last year we came out and dominated and won state, but this year we’ve had some bumps and bruises throughout the year, but we’re starting to get right. But now I think building confidence as we get ready for regionals and sectionals is the best thing we can do right now. We feel we’ve still got the talent, so I’m not worried about that. I know we can go out and compete with the best, but we need a big confidence builder before going into these next meets.”
TCN: So we know you’ve got some football offers. But you’re also getting some track attention as well. Who’s all offered you so far?
Godwin: “In football, it’s Central Michigan, Ball State, Virginia, Samford and Miami-Ohio. I’ve got some other offers, but that’s my top five right now of schools I want to go to. And then in track, I can’t officially get an offer until my senior year, but I’m getting a lot of looks and a lot of mail coming in from schools on a daily (basis).”
TCN: Since you like both sports equally, how will you choose which school you’ll go to and what sport you’ll play when it’s time to make that decision?
Godwin: “Whatever ones I can balance out with my two sports and manage getting a great education, that’s what I’ll be looking at. I want to be able to do both track and field and football and get a quality education, maybe studying psychology. It will come down to where I feel like I can do all three to the best of my ability, and I’ll go where I feel the best fit for all three is.”