Sports heroes who served: Football star becomes Marine Corps three-star

John Floyd Goodman had all the makings of a football star and in fact, he became one. He later earned three stars off the gridiron in the Marine Corps.

Goodman grew up in Sacramento County, Calif. As the varsity quarterback at Encina High School, he earned All Conference, All City, All Sacramento County, and All Superior California honors during his senior year. 

After high school, Goodman attended Arizona State University, where he was the Sun Devil’s starting quarterback in 1965 and 1966, leading the team in total offense both years. 

John Floyd Goodman gives a farewell speech at his retirement ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Aug. 22, 2008. (Marine Corps photograph)

In 1967, after graduating from ASU, he was invited to the New Orleans Saints rookie camp. He reported to rookie camp, made the Saints team, and then deferred playing football in order to fulfill his military commitment, as a draft notice had just arrived.

As an Army second lieutenant, Goodman deployed to South Vietnam in the spring of 1967. He was assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division in III Corps area of operations, north of Saigon. He was then reassigned to I Co., 75th Ranger Regiment as a long-range patrol team leader in support of the 1st ID.

During his Vietnam tour, he earned a Bronze Star Medal, a Soldier’s Medal and a Purple Heart Medal.

Of his Army service, Goodman said: “I was extremely proud to be a soldier. I learned a lot about leading a small team when it wasn’t just about scoring a touchdown; it was about completing a mission where people might get killed. It gave me a whole new sense of values and responsibilities.”

John Floyd Goodman as an Army lieutenant serving in South Vietnam sometime in 1967. (Courtesy photograph)

Goodman told the story of how he was wounded in combat. During a patrol, he was with four other soldiers when a booby trap was set off. Three of the five were killed and Goodman and the other survivor were seriously injured. But he was able to carry the other man out and they both survived. 

“I can credit my athletic experience with saving my life,” Goodman said of that incident. “Athletics made you define who you are and what you stand for. At every practice they push you beyond your limits, and test whether you have the courage to do what you have to do.”

After returning stateside, Goodman was honorably discharged from the Army and played briefly for the Saints. However, a clavicle injury sidelined his football career.

After recovering from his injury, Goodman decided that military life, not football, was more to his liking. In 1971, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He became a naval aviator, flying the A-4 Skyhawk and later on, the F/A-18 Hornet. Goodman even graduated from Navy Fighter Weapons School, also known as TOPGUN, made famous by the movie “Top Gun,” starring Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis and other notables.

While in the Marine Corps, Goodman logged more than 4,100 hours in jet aircraft.

John Floyd Goodman’s three sons fold their father’s 3-star flag at his retirement ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Aug. 22, 2008. From left: Jeff Goodman, Michael Goodman and John Goodman II. (Marines Corps photograph)

For more than four decades, Goodman served in the Marine Corps. He commanded Joint Task Force Caring Response in 2008, a humanitarian relief effort following Cyclone Nargis, which ravaged Burma. He also commanded Marine Forces Pacific.

On Aug. 22, 2008, Goodman retired from the Marine Corps, with a rank of lieutenant general.

Following retirement, Goodman continued to serve. On Oct. 17, 2008, Goodman became the director of the Department of Defense’s Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, which is responsible for educating, training and preparing U.S. military and international governments in disaster preparedness and response.

He currently is an advisor and subject matter expert with the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, where he addresses the effectiveness and efficiency in the U.S.-funded reconstruction program in Afghanistan.

Two of Goodman’s three sons are currently serving in the Marine Corps.

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