Ex-Steelers WR C.J. Goodwin cornering a spot with Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Suddenly, C.J. Goodwin's name is being mentioned a lot around the Atlanta Falcons' facility.

That's what two interceptions in the first two days of minicamp will do for you.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 190-pound Goodwin quietly was added to the practice squad last November as a wide receiver. Then in January, he signed a reserve/futures contract. Secondary coach Marquand Manuel was the one who suggested Goodwin make the switch from wide receiver to cornerback during Week 16 of last season.

"I just started playing receiver so why not try to play DB?" Goodwin said. "We're going to see how far it goes."

Now, Goodwin finds himself as a legitimate contender for the third cornerback spot after those two minicamp picks, including one Tuesday off Matt Schaub.

Goodwin just shrugged his shoulders like it was no big deal.

"I'm still learning," he said. "It's exciting, though, I'm not going to lie. But if I follow my technique ... Coach [Manuel] never says go make a play. He says follow your technique, and things will happen. That's what I've been trying to do."

Goodwin, from West Virginia, left high school with aspirations of playing basketball at Bethany College in West Virginia, but his hoop dreams never materialized. He moved on 85 miles south to Fairmont State, where he ended up playing football after being discovered playing intramural basketball. From Fairmont, he finished college at California University in Pennsylvania, where he caught 11 passes for 126 yards and one touchdown in one season (2013).

Goodwin caught on with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted receiver in 2014. A story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette documented how Steelers legend Mel Blount helped Goodwin get his opportunity after Goodwin cut grass at Blount's youth home. But Goodwin couldn't stick in Pittsburgh.

``It was my fault,'' he said. ``I just didn't perform like I was supposed to perform, like they expected me to perform. There's no hard feelings toward them. I understand.''

The Falcons love Goodwin's speed and athleticism. Since he played wide receiver, he certainly has the hands and ball skills. Plus, his toughness has been clearly evident.

Since second-year cornerback Jalen Collins is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, don't be surprised if Goodwin gets a long look outside opposite Pro Bowler Desmond Trufant, with Robert Alford covering in the slot as the nickel. Akeem King and Demarcus Van Dyke are other candidates as the third corner.

"Everybody has a legitimate shot to get it," Goodwin said. "Coach [Manuel] said anybody who he thinks is best is going to play. There's no, like, depth chart here. I like it here. It's a blessing.

"I loved Pittsburgh too, man. I'm blessed to be in the league. Wherever I'm at, I'm happy and I'll make the best of it."