Kiyaunta Goodwin burst onto the scene earlier than most highly sought after football stars.
In 2018 he was the subject of a Bleacher Report article in eighth grade, while he was a student at Olmstead Academy North in Louisville. At that point he already had a handful of verbal offers from high-major schools, including two in the Southeastern Conference, nearby Kentucky and Georgia, despite having been in an adequate weight-lifting program for all of three months.
Part of the headline: “He’s a Growing 6-foot-7, 370-Pound Marvel Who Can Move”
Goodwin’s eventual high school enrollment was a hot topic in Louisville. He first attended Louisville Holy Cross before transferring to Ballard ahead of his sophomore season. By the time he was with the Bruins, Goodwin weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 425 pounds, a number that threatened to betray his athletic gifts and frightened some colleges in pursuit of them.
He transferred once more — across the river to Charlestown High School in Indiana — after moving in with his trainer, Chris Vaughn, as the COVID-19 pandemic overtook the world. The two worked together to get Goodwin to where he is now: 300 pounds and on the precipice of choosing what he hopes will be a three-year home from a final list of five schools consisting of Kentucky, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Michigan State.
“Ever since I’ve known him, he’s always been a kid I felt the sky was always the limit for him, it was just a matter of whether he realized it for himself and if that’s what he really wanted to do,” Vaughn said in a phone interview with the Herald-Leader. “I think he got to a point where he realized the weight was really stopping him being able to accomplish his goals and getting the attention from schools that he liked and having the opportunities that he wanted to have, to be able to go to any school in the country and stuff like that, and to be able to take care of his family one day. He made the decision that he wanted to make a change for the better and make some sacrifices and dedicate himself.
“I think what you see now is the by-product of work he put in behind closed doors that people didn’t see. ... A lot of people see Kiyaunta as a top recruit but I remember a time where I was, and I still will always be, more concerned about his overall health than anything. When you start approaching 425 pounds as a 15-year-old kid, you have some serious heart issues that come along with that. I was just always concerned about him being able to enjoy his life and live his life.”
Goodwin over the last year effectively shed the weight of an entire person from his now 6-8 frame. He can tell.
“It’s like a boost of energy, almost like you just chugged 20 5-Hour Energys,” he told the Herald-Leader.
He spent ample time “behind closed doors” to realize that gain. In the thick of his routine, he was working out six times a day in two-hour intervals, mixing in weight training and position work with as much cardio training as possible. His legs were always likened to tree trunks, “but they’re defined now,” he says, after undergoing so much work.
The result, beyond an improved health outlook? Goodwin is considered a four-star prospect by both 247Sports and Rivals, each of which tabs him as the No. 54 overall recruit in the country and a top-10 offensive tackle.
As some schools tempered their pursuit of Indiana’s top football prospect, Kentucky doubled down. Vince Marrow, UK’s recruiting coordinator, was one of the biggest voices encouraging Goodwin as he was slimming down.
“Even when I was heavy he talked to me a lot, always gave me extra motivation and consistently recruited me,” Goodwin said.
The relationship built between those two is a big reason why most recruiting analysts predict that Goodwin will commit to the Wildcats during a ceremony scheduled for Saturday evening at Vaughn’s gym, Aspirations.
“He’s a great mentor and given him motivation to propel himself and work hard and fight through the adversity he was going through,” Vaughn said. “I think there’s a good chance that him sticking with him and staying on him and believing in him early, talking about stuff outside of football and really caring about what makes him tick, is gonna pay off for him.”
Earning Goodwin’s commitment would be significant for Kentucky, but it probably wouldn’t signal the end of his recruitment. With a longstanding NCAA dead period expected to be lifted soon, recruits who’ve been unable to take official campus visits could be able to do so going into the summer and fall. The Alabamas and Clemsons of the world will keep calling, so the Wildcats wouldn’t be able to rest.
While not technically part of an in-state recruiting class that already includes two other UK commits (Johnson Central’s Grant Bingham and Corbin’s Treyveon Longmire), Goodwin considers himself a Kentuckian. He would be the state’s top-ranked recruit if he were still playing high school football within its borders, and will sing the commonwealth’s praises whether he returns within them or plays elsewhere.
“I’m from Kentucky, I represent Kentucky,” Goodwin said. “It’s my state. I love my state.”