TAMPA, Fla. -- Before he was darting across the field, torching defenses at Happy Valley, former Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin suited up for the NCCFL Buccaneers in New Castle, Delaware. He just might get to suit up for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers if they call his name in April’s NFL draft. He even got a strong endorsement from former Lions star Calvin Johnson.
After a strong pro day, Godwin worked out privately for Bucs assistant wide receivers coach Andrew Weidinger and will pay Tampa a visit next month. He spoke to ESPN.com about his early beginnings, how he handles playing with a quarterback who likes to improvise, what's helped him be so effective in big games and more.
You started playing football when you were 6. Were you torching kids with the 4.42 speed back then too?
CG: It was funny, because, I’m from Delaware and [there] a lot of the youth football leagues are weight-based, and so I was always one of the bigger kids in my age group … I was also one of the faster kids, but being that I was one of the bigger kids, I had to play [defensive] lineman (laughs)... I didn’t play receiver until I got into high school, when I actually got the opportunity. It was something I always wanted to do.
Is that one of the reasons why you’re a good run blocker?
CG: I’d like to think so. I think run blocking is a mentality. A lot of guys don’t want to run block, so they don’t. But once you really make that decision in your head, to run block and to be an all-around better player, it’ll really start to come together for you.
The Bucs like to run the ball a lot, and it sets up their play-action. What are you thoughts on playing for a team like that?
CG: If you look at any of the top offenses in the league, they’re run-first offenses. I feel like in the NFL, you have to have that [run-first mentality] because it’s such a physical league, you can’t just go out there and expect to pick guys apart in the passing game. Not only is it a physical league, but defenses are smart, the players are smart, the coordinators are smart -- they’re not just going to allow you to just throw the ball 70 times a game as you do in college. I definitely see the benefit in playing in a run-first offense.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston does a lot outside the pocket and improvisationally. How do you handle playing with a quarterback like that?
CG: That comes with a lot of practice. We had a lot of improv plays this past season with our quarterback, Trace [McSorley], just kind of keeping the play alive. That's something we practiced. Whenever he scrambles, that's what we call our "scramble drill." There are specific rules that we go by that are ingrained in the backs of our minds that whenever he scrambles, we know exactly what to do so everybody's not running into each other or standing still, and I'd imagine that it's something the Bucs worked on this past year, which is why they had so much success with it. A lot of times that can be really good for receivers because you know that your quarterback is gonna do whatever he can to keep the play alive and he'll always going to be looking downfield. He's not running out of the pocket to scramble -- he's running to buy himself time to get you open to make big plays down the field.
You had some really big moments in big games in college -- two touchdowns and 187 receiving yards against USC, 140 yards against Boston College, 133 yards against Georgia. What do you those big games do for you mentally?
CG: I’ve definitely noticed that I have a tendency to perform really well in bowl games. Honestly, I didn’t really take any different methods of preparation leading up to those games to do anything different -- I just took it as another game. When we got to the game, I think the routine I built really allowed me to be comfortable in the moment. And I try to be solely focused on what’s happening in the moment and not really look at how big of a stage it is or what kind of game it is.
Is an NFL stadium ever going to compare to Saturdays in Happy Valley?
CG: I can tell you, the white-out, that is something special. I don't know if I've ever experienced anything quite like that up until this point in my life, especially this past year when we beat Ohio State -- the stadium went crazy. The students rushed the field. That experience itself, it was just unreal. I don't know if I'll ever experience something like that, but that's really what makes Penn State the special place that it is.
You had a huge curveball thrown your way at your Penn State pro day. Gunner Kiel, who you’d expected to have as your quarterback, wasn't allowed to throw to you, so you had a New England Patriots scout throw to you instead.
CG: It was kind of shocking when it first happened, just because you prepare with a guy, you get comfortable with him and pro days are kind of supposed to be "your rodeo" and you get in a setting that’s comfortable for you. I didn’t find out until literally 10 minutes before pro day started that he wasn’t going to be able to throw.
How'd you get it together? Because from what I heard, you did.
CG: One thing I’m big on is controlling the controllables. That’s me doing the things that I can physically control -- me running my routes the right way, me catching the ball, me being an effective run blocker -- just me making the most out of my situation regardless of the circumstances around me.