As a senior at Poly in 2009, Antoine Goodson was a star quarterback garnering legitimate interest from Division I football programs, including Maryland, Georgia Tech and West Virginia.
In his first two games that season, Goodson accounted for 635 total yards and eight touchdowns.
But his dream turned into a nightmare less than a month into the season when he suffered a dislocated throwing shoulder; Goodson would eventually need surgery to repair ligament damage. After the injuries, not a single Division I program remained interested in him as a quarterback.
Little did Goodson know, however, a certain coach was licking his chops for the chance to start a former Baltimore star under center: Joe Garner, coach of the Coppin State club team.
"A lot of schools just kind of forgot about him and left him to the wayside," Garner said. "I was able to give him a call and say, 'I have an opportunity now. Would you come and help Coach Joe out and help me build a program?'"
Help is an understatement.
In the program's second season, Goodson has starred, leading the National Club Football Association in passing yards (1,257) and touchdown passes (13).
Goodson's unlikely opportunity at Coppin has given him hope that his dream of playing Division I football is not out of reach.
"After this season, me and Coach Joe will talk, we'll get some tape together and send it out," he said. "That's my decision."
However, Goodson has more in store this season before he focuses on his Division I aspirations. He will be leading the Bald Eagles (7-2, 5-0 Mid-Atlantic) to Salem, Va., on Saturday for the NCFA championship game against undefeated Miami (Ohio).
A large part of Coppin's success is attributable to Garner's ability to recruit local talent. Garner has spent the past several years coaching in the state, including stints at Poly (while Goodson was there), Patterson, St. Frances and McDaniel.
"Going Division III recruiting, I kind of built a nice little network in the state of Maryland," Garner said. "We were able to pull a lot of talent from this area and make things happen."
But for the players, it hasn't been Garner's recruiting that has made the team so successful. It's been his coaching.
"He's everything," said Kyle Queen (North County), a defensive end for the Bald Eagles who is second in the nation with five sacks. "He's teaching us how to be men, teaching us life lessons and stuff that we can take into our daily lives."
Added strong safety and linebacker Anthony Holland (Western Tech): "He's a strong influence. Every game we win, it is because we have a head coach who coaches us and motivates us. Every game I try and go out and do everything I can for him."
According to Garner, the university decided to start the football program in an attempt to increase male enrollment. Coppin is known for its teaching and nursing schools, Garner said, majors that attract far more female students.
However, the program now stands for a lot more than that. It provides opportunities for young men from the Baltimore area who otherwise might never have gotten a chance to play in front of their families on a college football field.
"I always wanted my grandma to come see me play, but she was sick during the time I was in high school," Holland said. "She came to my first football game, which was at Coppin against Ohio State JV. It was great. That's all I can say. It's just a great opportunity."
With a potential national championship on the horizon for the Bald Eagles, there's only one goal for this young squad.
"We're just hoping to keep on growing," Queen said.
@DPwhatspoppinCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun