When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Dwayne Goodrich in the 2000 NFL draft, they had specific plans for him. Deion Sanders was on his way out, and Jerry Jones believed the Tennessee star cornerback and hero of the 1999 Fiesta Bowl would be a significant help in filling those big shoes.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan and injuries limited Goodrich on the field early on in his career. After the 2002 season where he played in 11 games, Goodrich and the Cowboys expected 2003 to be his breakout year. It never happened. Tragedy struck in the early hours on a cold January morning in Dallas when Goodrich was involved in a car accident that left two men dead, and he fled the scene.
Dwayne Goodrich becomes a hero at Tennessee
Dwayne Goodrich saw limited action his freshman season with the University of Tennessee but he made the most of it. As a backup cornerback, he had a pair of interceptions and led the team with four fumble recoveries. It was just a glimpse of his big-play ability on defense.
For the next three seasons in Knoxville, Goodrich was a mainstay for the Vols defense. In 1997, his sophomore season, he registered 45 tackles, and picked off four passes. Goodrich’s junior season was when he became well-known in the houses of college football fans across the nation.
After a solid season statistically, in which he recorded 41 tackles and three interceptions, Goodrich, quarterback Tee Martin, and the Vols defeated Mississippi State in the SEC Championship and earned a bid to face Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl for a shot at the national title.
In that contest, Goodrich etched his name into Tennessee history when he intercepted a pass from Florida State quarterback Marcus Outzen and returned it 54 yards for the score. It was the difference in the ball game as Tennessee won 23-16 earning its first national title in 50 years. Goodrich was named the game’s defensive MVP.
Dwayne Goodrich struggles with injuries with the Dallas Cowboys
Without a first-round selection, the Dallas Cowboys selected Dwayne Goodrich in the second round with the 49th overall pick. During his rookie campaign, Goodrich strained his left hamstring in training camp. The injury was a huge setback and he didn’t see live action until November. He played in five games his rookie year.
His bad luck at training camp continued in 2001, but this injury was much more costly. He suffered a torn right Achilles tendon and missed the entire 2001 season on injured reserve. Finally, in 2002, Goodrich made it through training camp unscathed.
Dwayne Goodrich played in a reserve role most of the season but did get a start late in the season. He finished the season with eight tackles and one pass deflection. Despite his almost non-existent numbers, the Cowboys and Goodrich were hopeful 2003 could be a turning point in his career.
Goodrich accident kills two men and goes to prison
On January 14, 2003, after a few hours playing video games at home with friends, Goodrich and the group decided to go out for the evening. They ended up visiting a pair of strip clubs and had more than a few drinks. What happened next altered the life of Goodrich and the lives of many others forever.
On his way home from the club in the early morning hours, Goodrich’s BMW drifted off the highway and struck three men on the side of the road who were trying to free another man from a burning car that had been involved in an earlier accident. Two of the men died. A third man had his leg completely shattered. Goodrich never stopped to render aid.
Nine months later Goodrich was found guilty of two counts of criminally negligent homicide with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison, plus five more years for failure to stop and render aid. For two years Goodrich appealed. After all his appeals and money dried up, he ended up going to prison in October 2005.
He served six years in prison and was released in 2011. Since then, he has gone on the speaking circuit where he shares his experience with young players with the hopes they don’t repeat the same mistakes. He also returned to school at Tennessee and in 2014, he received his degree.