Just try to get Pat Goodwillie to talk about his accomplishments on the football field. It is by no means an easy task. Like a thoroughly preoccupied philosopher, he sighs and begins to reflect. He silently considers each question, careful not to reveal his thoughts before speaking. When he finally does speak, he chooses each and every word with the delicate precision of a surgeon. The words he does choose are not numerous. At first impression, he appears rather reserved for a football player. For an inside linebacker, he seems almost too reserved. "He really doesn't seem to have a linebacker mentality," Penn senior safety Nick Morris says. "I mean, he's really laid back in his approach. It's not that he's cocky. That's just the way he is. He doesn't show much emotion or excitement." But Pat Goodwillie would not have it any other way. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior linebacker has never been one for emotion or conversation. At least not when football is involved. The reason for this is simple. When it comes to football, Goodwillie prefers to let his play do the talking for him. He would rather punish running backs and quarterbacks than give fiery and emotional locker-room speeches. Rather follow each big play with another than with a celebration. Rather stay silent and go about his business than attract attention. To the Pennsylvania football program, this silence has been golden. When Goodwillie ends his Quaker playing days tomorrow in Ithaca, he will be closing the book on what has been a truly phenomenal career. Since joining the varsity squad in 1992, he has consistently improved as both a player and a leader. He has been instrumental in Penn's back-to-back Ivy League championships and has been a foundation of the best defense in Division I-AA football this year. "There is a tremendous amount of regret in seeing him go," says Penn defensive coordinator Mike Toop. "He's not very verbal, but he is someone that people have come to rely on. He is someone that I can ask any question of in order to get a sense of what's happening on the field. "Even with the level of talent in this year's senior class, he manages to stand out. He is one of the premier players, if not the premier player, in the league." Such praise is best understood in terms of Goodwillie's achievements, which seem to read like an unending scroll. Upon joining the varsity team in coach Al Bagnoli's first season, the Ada, Mich., native had an immediate impact and was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Since then he has twice led the Quakers in tackles and twice earned all-Ivy recognition. Goodwillie needs three tackles against Cornell tomorrow to reach 100 for the third consecutive year, and is nine tackles away from passing Joe Kopcha for second place on the Penn's all-time list. His exceptional versatility has permitted him to once again excel this season in Bagnoli's 5-2 defensive scheme. "I think I've been a lot more relaxed this year," he says. "I've made myself better as a player. My sophomore year I was primarily a run defender, and last year I got more used to our pass defense. This year I've gotten much more involved in the actual pass rush. I'm not going around celebrating and cheering, but I'm focused on the field." Goodwillie has been more than focused this year -- he has been dominant. He leads the Quakers in both unassisted and total tackles, and is tied with junior defensive end Tom McGarrity with six sacks. He has helped the first-team defense hold opponents to four touchdowns in Penn's eight games, and was a key to last week's Ivy championship-clinching 33-0 win over Harvard. "I was a lot more excited over the title this year than last year," Goodwillie says. "Last year it really wasn't our team. It belonged to the guys who were seniors, like Dave Betten and Andy Berlin. But this team is definitely our team." Oddly enough, Penn almost was never Goodwillie's team. His grandfather, John Goodwillie, was an All-America offensive guard at Dartmouth and there was some pressure to play football in Hanover. But Goodwillie did not want to go from one small town to another, and he liked the feel of Philadelphia. He also liked the idea of a business education at Penn's Wharton School. Tomorrow, Goodwillie will wear the Penn colors for the last time. As for the finality of it all, he does not have many words. "It's really not going to hit me until after the season," he says. When it does hit him, he still won't have much to say about football. In a certain light, this seems fitting. Fitting because Pat Goodwillie's Penn career has told the entire story.Comments powered by Disqus
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