From Football to Faith

Seated: Vernell Goode, standing from left: Chris Goode, Clyde Goode Jr., Pierre Goode, Clyde Goode III and Kerry Goode 

On July 28, 1965, although unknown at the time to all but his parents, a legend was born to a Town Creek family which was destined to produce several legends of the gridiron. This particular one would bring his family many reasons to be proud, one of them, of course, was his power on the football field the other would turn out to be much different. It would involve more stamina than a bowl game, more determination than a season of playing a sport that is now the nation’s pastime and more faith than Job.

Think of the hardest thing you’ve ever done and then multiply by one hundred.

Kerry Goode was one of five siblings born to Clyde and Vernell Goode, who also raised two grandchildren and a nephew who also made a name in Lawrence County football, Antonia Langham.  All of them, were certainly special in their own way. Kerry once heard his father, Clyde, say when asked which of his sons he thought would be the most famous, “That one there,” he pointed with pride to Kerry. “It wouldn’t have mattered which of us had been standing there,” he laughed. “Whichever one of us it was, that was the one he pointed to, but it did mean a lot to me that I heard him say it.”

The Hazlewood High School running and defensive back says that he was most influenced by his father, but there were others along the way who taught him everything from football to faith. One of them coached him in his younger years, Coach Aaron Goode who was also a relative, another was his high school coach, David Hogan.

Although he admits that he never planned too far ahead, reasoning that it took away from him the ability to concentrate on what was happening in the present. He did dream of playing for the Crimson Tide.

“The best thing about playing football is the competition,” Kerry says. “Win or lose, you leave the field with your head held high, satisfied that you have done your best. You not only compete against the opposing team, but against your personal best.”

He should know. While still in high school, Kerry Goode played in two state championships, one against Dadesville, the other against McKenzie High School. But the games he enjoyed and remembers most were against local rival schools, Courtland High and Colbert County High. “We always beat them, even when the score board said different,” he laughed.

Sometimes he tried to out-do his own teammates, one in particular, his older brother, Chris. “We all played together at some point, although not all at the same time,” he explained. The oldest son, Chris, was the brother he played with most and then there was Pierre, two years younger and Clyde, III, who was four years younger than Kerry. Their first child was a girl, Valerie, who held her own with all of these big, strong brothers.

Like most kids in the small Lawrence County community of Town Creek, the Goode brothers started out playing football in their backyard, which Kerry refers to as being like their own private stadium. It was actually the Hazlewood stadium, which was directly behind their property.  Even before little league, they played football with neighborhood kids from the time they got in from school until moms voices came from all around, summoning them in for supper along about dusk dark. On Sunday afternoons they played for hours, never tiring of the rough and tumble sport, never cutting each other any slack.

Besides football, Kerry was involved in baseball, basketball and track. An all-round athlete, he was just what the recruiting coaches were looking for. Kerry led the Hazlewood Golden Bears to state championships both his junior and senior year while being selected as 2A ‘player of the year’ in football.

After graduating, Chris was heading to play for the Auburn Tigers, but due to over-signing that season, he had to change his plans. He attended UNA, where he excelled.

Chris was a senior in high school when the recruiting scouts started showing up. Kerry was a junior that year. He was on the practice field when he heard his name called. It turned out to be the day that Louis Campbell, defensive back coach and a recruitment officer for Alabama, “We were doing our conditioning training and he came up to ask if I would like to come and play for them,” Kerry recalled.

“I knew that there was more out there than Town Creek had to offer,” he said. “I wanted to travel and experience the world,” so he held out for a while, and in time, another offer from Alabama came through.   

Kerry would go on to travel extensively in the years he played football. He visited places like Germany and Tokyo and lived in Atlanta, Denver and Tampa, but he says he always breathes a sigh of relief when he crosses the city limits of Town Creek, “There’s never anywhere like home,” he said. “My parents are still here, this is home.”

He is pragmatic to a fault. He stays grounded in the things he learned here, from his parents and his grandparents. He was in church every time the doors opened, he says and his parents, one set of grandparents and a grandmother from the other side of his family, all sat in the same pew every time, making sure that the Goode boys learned right from wrong at an early age.

“I have been blessed,” said Kerry, humbly. “I tell people I’m just an ol’ boy from Town Creek, Alabama that has been blessed and I appreciate every blessing, every prayer.

All of his life, he can remember his great-grandmother praying these beseeching, heart-wrenching prayers. She would close the door and they could always hear what she was praying, always feel the sincerity of what she was asking for. Even today, he knows that she watches over him from heaven, knows his every pain and sorrow.

In 1983, Kerry achieved something he‘d dreamed of since he was old enough to tote a football around in his backyard. “I set foot on the University of Alabama campus, my parents put me out of the car and I assured them, ‘Don’t worry about me, I can make it happen!’”  

By this time, Chris had transferred from UNA to Alabama. The brothers roomed together, which suited them just fine. “We loved it,” he grinned.

He was still riding the high, coming from belonging to a team that just won the state championship when he was recruited by Coach Bear Bryant. By the time he arrived, Bryant had announced his retirement, so he never actually got to play for him, but he remembers him well and learned valuable life lessons from the most respected coach in the game.

“I liked playing football because I liked winning,” said Kerry.  “I played mostly for Coach Ray Perkins and I liked and admired him, too, but nobody is Coach Bryant and no one tried to be like him,  they were each their own person with their own coaching style.”

Prophetically, Kerry and his parents were sitting in Bear Bryant’s office in Tuscaloosa with the famous Alabama coach when, in his gravelly voice, Coach Bryant looked intently at Kerry and asked, “Well, are you coming here or not?”

“I looked over at my parents and Coach Bryant said sternly, “Don’t look at them, look at me!”  Kerry recalled.

Of course, after that, you know he went on to play for Alabama, realizing his dream, and it wouldn’t be the last. Be sure to read next week’s Moulton Advertiser as this inspiring saga continues….

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