Syracuse DE Deon Goggins: a true champ

The clothing line happened on a whim, really.

The football? Well, the football would have to wait.

You see, Deon Goggins knew he was never really done with football. Not after giving up the sport his last two years of high school. Not after going into business as a bona fide T-shirt designer, his unique Ch@mps logo the product of some fiddling around on the computer with friends one night. Not after nearly completing a deal to get his clothes on trendy Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

Doing art, being a designer, that was fun. But it was not football.

So four years after giving up the sport, Goggins decided to give it the ol' college try. Er, junior college try.

Now here he is, the product of hard work, discipline, perseverance, dedication -- and some pretty outstanding role models along the way -- set to make a major impact on the Syracuse defensive line this year.

Goggins moves from tackle, where he started 12 games last year, to end -- his more natural position, and one the Orange are desperate to fill with the departures of Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich.

"I'm really excited playing on the edge now, because I really get to use my speed and my strength and I have space," Goggins said in a recent phone interview. "I think the group as a whole is going to be great. It's going to be a big surprise for the world to see."

You can say the same about Goggins. A natural running back, Goggins had great speed for his size. But he took football for granted and got lazy with his schoolwork. In order to focus on his grades, he did not play football as a junior or a senior.

Goggins preferred expressing himself through artwork, a skill at which he excelled. His group of friends called themselves "Champs." One night, they were sitting around his computer coming up with different logos, and the Ch@mps design stuck.

At first, he had T-shirts printed up for himself and his friends. But eventually, he borrowed money from his family, got a patent for his logo and spent the next two years designing and producing shirts.

But football was never out of his mind. Not when so many of his friends had gone off to play and came home each summer to nag him about getting back into the game.

One player in particular got to him. Monte Parson, the older brother of a friend, looked him over one day and said, "You need to play football." Parson had attended L.A. Harbor College before getting a scholarship to Cal.

"I thank God every day for my older sister," Goggins said. "She asked me, 'Do you really want to go back and play ball?' I said I did. So she took up another job and put me through junior college."

Thanks to connections Parson had, Goggins ended up at L.A. Harbor College in 2008. When coach Andrew Alvillar took one look at Goggins, he sent him to play defensive line -- a position he had never once played.

At 280 pounds, Goggins was extremely athletic, and it was easy to see that he had Division I potential, even though he spent so much time away from the game.

As he slowly began learning his new position, Goggins became friends with another end, DeQuin Evans. Both grew up in Compton and came to the game late . Evans took up football at the age of 20, so they had to work for what they wanted. A natural bond formed.

Even Evans could see what Goggins had in him.

"We used to race each other -- he weighed 30 more pounds than me and he left me in the dust," said Evans, now with the Cincinnati Bengals. "It wasn't only me. It was coaches who played in the league before, they were like some of the greatest defensive players of all time have been running backs on the high school level because they have good feet, quickness, stuff like that. I always told him, 'Man, you're going to be a monster once you learn how to play D."

That first year, Goggins played on athletic ability alone and still had 5 .5 tackles for loss and three sacks in eight games. When Alvillar left to become an assistant at Cerritos Junior College, Goggins decided to transfer there.

Heading into his second year as a defensive lineman, he knew more of what to expect. He then started watching tape on guys like Deacon Jones, Dwight Freeney and Trent Cole. In 2009 at Cerritos, Goggins had 36 tackles and led the team with 10 sacks. By that time, scholarship offers came in.

"Deon and DQ, those guys had that common bond and you can see the common drive," Alvillar said. "They both had the experience of life hitting them in the face a little bit and then they saw there was this, and they said, 'I’m going to go get it,' and they did. I’m so proud of Deon. It’s amazing what he’s doing."

Goggins opted to go to Syracuse, but he was completely raw. He took a redshirt his first year in 2010.

“I had to realize at this level, it's not just off brute strength. You have to know the technique,” Goggins said. “[Former line] Coach [Jimmy] Brumbaugh took time with me, Coach [Doug] Marrone, took time with me and helped me learn the position.”

Last year, Goggins had 43 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Playing outside will allow him to utilize his speed more. Goggins says he runs a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash, incredibly impressive for a player who now weighs 272 pounds.

As for the art, that is still a very real part of his life. Since last year, Goggins has helped out with a program called the Photography and Literacy Project, where kids from different Syracuse-area schools are encouraged to tell their stories through photography, artwork, video or any other media form as a way to help foster their writing skills and critical thinking. He also has been nominated for the 2012 Allstate AFCA Good Works team for all his off-the-field endeavors.

Goggins still plans on picking up his clothing line whenever his career ends.

Right now, his own art has got to wait.