For being so conscientious, Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin hardly keeps track of his numbers.
For example, the junior doesn’t know what his spring 40-yard dash times are; or how much lean muscle he’s gained like a lot of players do — he just knows he “feels bigger and stronger.”
“I try to focus on the day-by-day,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t really focus on stats or anything like that. I finish my days based on if I feel like I got better or not, or if I’m helping the team with my performance that day.”
Cornerback Grant Haley, often matched up against Godwin in coverage, knows exactly how strong and how fast he is, though.
“People don’t really realize his speed,” said Haley. “I mean he runs a 4.4 (-second 40-yard dash).”
Laid back, a little softspoken and easygoing off the field, teammates say Godwin prefers to stay in with close friends rather than go out and enjoy the stereotypical “college life” at night.
When Godwin does get a little “type-A” and intense, it’s in regards to his craft itself; the intricacies of his position that helped him become one of Penn State’s breakout players last season and the top target of NFL-bound Christian Hackenberg.
“There’s actually a lot of things I want to improve on,” he said on Tuesday. “As far as the physical things, there’s always ways to get better whether its with my footwork in transition or getting out of (my) breaks, or just hand-to-hand combat with a defensive back. So there’s a lot of things I’m working on right now.
I’m very critical of myself. So I’m not really going to sugarcoat anything. If I don’t feel like I helped my team, then I’m going to do something to fix it the next day.
Penn State junior receiver Chris Godwin
“I’m very critical of myself. So I’m not really going to sugarcoat anything. If I don’t feel like I helped my team, then I’m going to do something to fix it the next day. … Last year, (I was critical of) more so the technical things of every route, of every play. There’s a lot of detail that goes into the routes that we run. Just making sure, just being honest with myself on whether I got the right depth or used the right release, or whether I won my rep on that play. It helps me in the long run because I’m not going sugarcoat anything to myself, so when it comes to time to execute in the games, I’m ready to make the play because I’m prepared.”
He’s hard on defensive backs, too. Godwin became known last year for impressive 50-50 catches and, on more than one occasion, for dragging a hapless corner along behind him as he powered his 6-foot-1, 208-pound frame 10 or so extra yards on his way to 1,101 yards in 2015.
“I just think it’s the mind that you gotta have,” he said. “Just going into the game you gotta understand that when you get the ball, you gotta make the most of it. And that’s kind of my way of making the most of it.”
Now, he’s also honing his on-field deceptiveness; something Haley has noticed immediately.
“He’ll start off sometimes chillin’, outside of his route,” said Haley. “Then he’ll just break out, and just go and kind of dust you a little bit. So you gotta be cautious of that, he really realizes his body and is natural with his speed, natural with his hands and things like that.”
And then, there’s his mind.
Godwin gets down-to-the-minute details of his position, often talking with Haley and the other corners about what they saw on a play or different techniques that could help him with the competitive secondaries around the Big Ten this season.
“He’s perfecting his craft right now, I would say,” said Haley. “He had a great year last year. Every single little detail ... he’s trying to figure out every single little flaw and perfect his game. He’s very hard on himself. … We’ll talk to each other about other things he thinks I can do, or something that gives him trouble. … So he’s just one of those players that’s motivated by every little mistake that may happen.”
The receiver also wants to become more of a vocal leader on the team — Haley said Godwin is the type to “lead by example,” but Godwin wants to do a little more with his mouth, and already has helped Haley and the other defensive backs with coverage feedback on routes just as they’ve helped him.
“I want to be one of the guys who helps us get to where we want to get,” he said.