Chris Godwin has always had to take the long road. The Middletown High All-Stater wasn’t a big-name recruit coming out of high school and when he first went to Penn State, he had to sit the bench behind highly touted recruits.
He finally got a chance to shine with the Nittany Lions, but the most recognition he received was to be named honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference by the league’s coaches. And then he didn’t get drafted in the first round of the NFL draft or even the second.
Then, when he was finally drafted in the third round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was once again playing second fiddle and even third fiddle, this time to All-Pro wide receiver Mike Evans and big-play threat DeSean Jackson. And, of course, it didn’t help that he was playing for one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Now, in his third NFL season, Godwin has stepped out of the shadows – rather, he’s jumped out of them. Last week, in the Bucs’ 55-40 upset of the Los Angeles Rams, Godwin had a career day – he caught 12 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
Not bad for a guy who was questionable for the Rams game because of a nagging hip injury. Godwin was a game-time decision and he obviously made the right decision as he set career highs in just about every category. He also had the most receptions by a Bucs player since Keyshawn Johnson had 12 against Chicago in 2001.
And after four weeks of the season, the Bucs are a surprising 2-2 under new coach Bruce Arians and Godwin is tied for eighth in the NFL in receiving, with 26 catches (for 386 yards and four TDs). That’s better than some Pro Bowlers and even future Hall-of-Famers like Julio Jones of Atlanta, Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona, Odell Beckham of Cleveland, Julian Edelman of New England and, yes, Mike Evans of Tampa Bay, who has 18 catches for 368 yards and four TDs.
After the exhilarating victory over the Rams, someone mentioned to Evans that Godwin was one of the best No. 2 receivers in the NFL. Evans bristled and said that, at the least, Godwin was now co-No.1 on the Bucs.
Godwin showed enough of that potential that the Bucs were willing to trade DeSean Jackson to the Eagles, and since Godwin has been in the Bucs’ starting lineup he has developed a rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston.
“Chris Godwin always finds a way to get open and make plays,” Winston said after Godwin had his big day against the Rams. “He’s been doing that all year – he gets open and catches the ball.”
Godwin was Delaware’s Gatorade Player of the Year when he was a senior at Middletown and played for coach Mark Del Percio. He earned a scholarship to Penn State, and after spending some time on the bench, became a full-time starter as a junior and that’s when he showed everybody what he could do. Godwin finished his career with 153 receptions, which is seventh in Penn State history, for 2,404 yards and 18 touchdowns, which are both fourth in school history.
And Chris Godwin saved his best for last. In the Rose Bowl against Southern California, he caught nine passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, and those are all Penn State bowl records.
As has been the case throughout his football career, Godwin paid his dues with the Bucs and has gotten better every year. As a rookie, he played in all 16 games, starting two, and had 34 catches for 525 yards and one touchdown. Last season, he once again played in all 16 games, starting five, and had 59 catches for 842 yards and seven touchdowns. And this season, he’s on pace to catch 104 passes for 1,544 yards and 16 TDs.
Of course, it’s doubtful Godwin will actually reach those lofty numbers, simply because he’s not going to catch 12 passes every game. Still, it’s clear that he’s broken through, and now Chris Godwin can be mentioned along with the best wide receivers in the NFL.