NEW ORLEANS — Jonathan Goodwin’s teammates often joke with the 11-year veteran by calling him dad, using his age of 34 years against him.
Truth be told, though, they can only hope the former New Orleans Saint and current San Francisco 49ers center is as good to them as he is to his family.
You see, when Goodwin says his family is the most important thing in his world, he means it.
Less than two hours after the 49ers had polished off the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional playoffs, Goodwin was at the airport, set to fly across the country as his wife Alneesa was set to give birth to their third boy, Cade.
“Kids mean the world to me so I knew I was going home to welcome a new one into the world, it was something I was really excited for,” Goodwin said. “I didn’t get much sleep during those couple of days but definitely well worth it. I guess just another way to remember that playoff game.”
Goodwin’s year could get even better.
On Sunday, he’ll play in his second Super Bowl. He helped guide the Saints to the 2010 Super Bowl title, helping cap a 16-3 season that remains the most successful in franchise history.
And though he left the Crescent City for a better contract in the Bay Area, he still feels at home in New Orleans. More than any of his other stops, New Orleans remains strong in his heart.
“I’ve said it throughout the week, a lot of great memories here,” Goodwin said. “So it would be really special to get another great memory here, especially a memory like this. Definitely adds a little bit of more motivation on it that it’s here; just giving me the chance to come back down here and spend the week down here is something that I definitely cherish.”
The place meant so much to him that he waffled endlessly in making the decision to leave. It’s not that the Saints didn’t want him back. It’s just that San Francisco sweetened the deal to get him to sign.
After originally saying yes to the 49ers, Goodwin woke up in the middle of the night in a panic, eventually calling his agent to cancel the deal.
“He calls them and basically then Coach (Jim) Harbaugh and Trent Baalke come to the hotel and try to talk me out of it,” Goodwin said. “I’m like, ‘Nah, I just can’t do it. I can’t do it.’ And so I head to the airport.”
At the airport, he received another call from his agent, who said the 49ers added certain things to the contract, turning the tide for good in favor of San Francisco.
His former teammates understood.
“They all were happy for me and sad at the same time, so bittersweet,” Goodwin said. “But they all definitely told me they understood and they thought I should do what was best for me and my family.”
The former Michigan offensive lineman isn’t going to wow you with brashness. Instead, the soft-spoken South Carolina native leads by example, extolling his teammates to remain focused and on point, a trait he developed with the Saints and has maintained in San Francisco.
Maybe that’s why he’s referred to as dad.
“He’s the leader and when he wants stuff to get done, he either yells at you,” guard Mike Iupati said. “Or when he gets frustrated, he yells at you. He’s obviously the oldest in the group. He’s just a great player.”
And in New Orleans, a comfortable one.
When the 49ers beat Atlanta, cementing their trip to Super Bowl XLVII, Goodwin knew he had to have one thing during the week.
“Right after the game, I joked with the equipment manager that I had to have my old locker back and they were like, they’ll make it happen,” Goodwin said, smiling while recounting the story.
That wish has come true – he has had his locker in the back left corner.
Now he just hopes his other wish, a second Super Bowl title, comes through as well.