Cornerback Dwayne Goodrich: "The Cowboy Who Killed Those Kids"

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In here, past the endless cotton fields and wind-energy turbines at the West Texas intersection of desolate and dusty, he has too much time.

  Out there, thrust into a violent vortex of disorienting speed, blurring fire and chaotic cars, he had too little time.  

For six long years, Dwayne Goodrich has been haunted—and mostly handcuffed—by six short seconds.   


Dwayne Goodrich

The driver in one of the most disturbing hit-and-run accidents in Dallas history, the former Dallas Cowboys' cornerback has spent the last 39 months incarcerated for killing two Good Samaritans and injuring another on Interstate 35 early on January 14, 2003. After a night on the town that included topless bars and alcohol—but by his account, not intoxication—Goodrich swerved his BMW through a turbulent crash scene, struck three pedestrians who were attempting to free an unconscious man from a fiery car, and sped away without slowing down.

Ever since, he's been besieged by the jarring juxtaposition of having so much time to ponder not taking enough time.  

"It's hard, but I try not to replay what happened over and over in my mind," the 30-year-old Goodrich says slowly in a private holding room at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Wallace Unit in Colorado City. "It all happened so fast, like a big blur. When I think about it, like what I could've done differently, it starts to drive me insane...I used to think about suicide, and a part of me will always be depressed. But I don't need to punish myself forever. This place does that for me."  

Killed in the accident were childhood Plano friends Joseph "Joby" Wood (21) and Demont Matthews (23); the left leg of Joshua "Shuki" Josef (41) was also shattered. It also left Goodrich, a former University of Tennessee star and the Cowboys' top draft pick in 2000, with a bleak future void of football or freedom.  

Cut by the team a month after the tragedy, Goodrich was charged with two counts of manslaughter and three counts of failure to stop and render aid. A jury found him guilty of the lesser offense of criminally negligent homicide with a deadly weapon and sentenced him to seven and a half years in August 2003.  A judge tacked on five more years for failure to stop and render aid on January 5, 2006, after the appeal of the first trial had been affirmed. The judge stacked the sentences; the second beginning to run only after the first one had been served, making his total punishment 12 years in state prison. Though lawyers are commencing machinations aimed at freeing their client via parole next spring, Goodrich could remain imprisoned until 2011.  

Once idolized by fans and coddled by coaches, he's now shunned by a society prepared to banish him into everlasting anonymity.  

"Dwayne didn't have a bad bone in his body," recalls former Cowboys' teammate and mentor Darren Woodson. "But I knew he was doing some drinking and running hard on the streets. Sooner or later you hoped something clicked with him, because he was a smart guy. But I guess to really slow him down something really bad had to happen."  

According to prison officials, Goodrich is a model inmate excited about a post-prison career he hopes includes motivational speaking, coaching and the establishment of college scholarships in his victims' names.  

But not all wounds are healing.   

"Am I ready to forgive him? No," says Laura Wood, Joseph's mother and now the caretaker for his 7-year-old son, J.J. "I still think about it every day. The thought never leaves my mind that my son is gone because Mr. Goodrich killed him. I don't see any remorse from him. I just know that I'm about to have to explain again to my grandson why his daddy won't be home for Christmas."  

 Despite Goodrich's three-year stint with the Cowboys, both owner Jerry Jones and assistant coach Dave Campo (Goodrich's head coach from 2000-'02) declined to be interviewed for this story.  

Until today—a crisp, clear mid-November afternoon—Goodrich too has refused to talk publicly. But after an exchange of 12 letters in the past eight months, he's allowing the Dallas Observer into his life, into his head and into what he says is a changed heart.

   "I learned quickly that in here the hardest part is silence. When your mind sits there and races, that's when it really sucks. So you talk," he says. "In here everybody's got a story, so you can tell the raw, uncut truth, and nobody will think a thing about it. In here I don't have family taking my side or glossing things over. In here, I'm the Cowboy who killed those kids."

The Prison  

Once No. 23 in your Cowboys' program, Dwayne Lewis Goodrich is No. 1384254 in the state penitentiary.

That's him, with the dark eyes, white jumpsuit and—despite replacing the star on his helmet with a scar on his reputation—the surprisingly chipper disposition.   

"I've adjusted to this OK," Goodrich says after a firm handshake. "But I'm definitely ready to go home."  

Since September 20, 2006—after remaining free on bail during two years of appeals and serving his initial 11 months in Dallas County jail—he's been locked up in Colorado City, a blip of 4,000 along Interstate 20, west of Abilene and next to nowhere. Out here, 250 miles from Dallas, the collars are blue, the necks are red, and if you're not wearing a camouflage cap to lunch at the Dairy Queen, well, you must not be from 'round these perts.   

Wallace Unit is a medium-security prison housing 1,300 criminals. Today, inside the miles of chain-link fence topped with rolling razor wire, armed guards in watch towers eye inmates playing basketball, sitting idly in the sun and planting flowers in the garden. 

Entry into the interview area—a bare, 10-by-15-foot room with two doors, round metal stools and a concrete table—reveals that there's a certain amount of freedom to Goodrich's confinement. In fact, his good behavior has earned him inclusion among Wallace's 65 "trustees," allowing him to roam the grounds unsupervised and work as a janitor in the chapel rather than digging holes in nearby fields.  

In here, he can be "written up" for the tiniest thing—untied shoes, sagging pants—but Goodrich's slate is pristine.  

"Offender Goodrich is more or less a model inmate," Wallace Warden Jason Heaton later says. "He's one of the ones who sets the right example of how to do your time. He doesn't abuse his celebrity."  

During a 90-minute interview there are stark reminders—slamming metal doors, inmates in shackles—that Goodrich is closer to Death Valley than Valley Ranch. But his is anything but a Spartan existence.  

"County was more my wake-up call, like 'What have I gotten myself into?'" Goodrich says. "In there, I was confined to one room all day. This isn't so bad."  

Trustees have access to a commons area complete with daily newspapers and cable TV. Goodrich, a Chicago native, remains a Bears' fan, but says one of the four TVs is always reserved for the Cowboys.  

"The feeling in here is that there's too many distractions for the Cowboys to go to the Super Bowl," he says. "Pacman and T.O. and Romo's injury and Wade Phillips looking over his shoulder at Jason Garrett. It can't work that way." 

Goodrich awakes each morning at 5:45. By 6:30 he is in the warden's office, making coffee and organizing paperwork for officers. In between his custodial duties, working out and a cognitive intervention class, he finds time to shove down the slop in the chow hall.    

He says inmates recognized him as a former Cowboy "before I put my stuff up," though no member of the organization has ever paid him a visit. It's the sporadic appearances of his family and the promise of parole that get him through most days.  

"I've visited three times, and it's always shocking," says Goodrich's brother, Steve, over the phone from Chicago. "Dwayne's a good kid. But in a way this has been good for him. It's slowed him down and put everything back inside of him. You can tell he has his feet on the ground now."  

By Christmas, Goodrich will have spent 1,200 days behind bars. Because the court found that he had used his car as a deadly weapon, Texas law requires him to serve half of his original seven-year sentence—45 months—before he's eligible for parole. His parole hearing is scheduled for May. But because the five years for leaving the scene of the accident was tacked on to the end of his first sentence, he'll have to serve at least 20 more months before he becomes eligible for parole on the second sentence.   

Unless, that is, his Dallas-based attorney, Doug Fletcher, can convince a federal court in a habeas corpus proceeding to allow Goodrich's sentences to run concurrently instead of consecutively. For that to happen, Fletcher will need to convince Laura Wood to sign an affidavit giving her blessing to Goodrich's early parole release. If the sentences aren't combined, the earliest he can make parole is 2011. If they are, he could be a free man in 150 days.

Fletcher plans to call Wood after the holidays."She needs to know that Dwayne is very understanding that her interests need to be addressed," says Fletcher last week from his 16th-floor office overlooking NorthPark Center. "But having him in prison isn't helping anyone."

Goodrich's mother, Pam, is gathering evidence for these proceedings, recruiting acquaintances—like his former Tennessee teammate, kicker Jeff Hall, and his old Richards High School (Oak Lawn, Illinois) football coach, Jim Bolhuis, to write supportive letters to the Board of Pardon and Paroles. 

"Dwayne has a choice to stay in the night of the accident and never move on, or to get on with his life and make amends to those families and be a positive role model in this world," says Pam recently from her home in Tampa. "It'll take a long time, but he's willing—even though his whole life was turned upside down in the blink of an eye."  

The Accident 

Goodrich doesn't flinch when the topic turns to the night of the accident.  

"My accident," he calls it.

Monday, January 13, 2003 was boring. A 5-11 Cowboys season had prompted Jones to hire Bill Parcells as head coach two weeks earlier, but this was the off-season. Goodrich, who had one year left on his original four-year, $1.6 million contract, was coming off an underwhelming season in which he made his first and only NFL start, but managed just eight tackles and one pass defense in 11 games.

Goodrich, after an afternoon of PlayStation videogames with teammate and boyhood buddy Bashir Yamini at his Coppell home, decided to venture out into the clear, cool night. First to the Olive Garden on Highway 183, then to The Lodge gentlemen's club on Northwest Highway and finally to Silver City Cabaret at Interstate 35 and Mockingbird Lane.  

Goodrich says he had five mixed drinks in four hours, but only water in the final two hours at Silver City.  

"I know the perception is that I was drunk," he says. "I'd probably think that too if I heard some dude ran over three people. I'd think he was drunk off his ass. But I wasn't."  

As he left Silver City just after 2 a.m. and headed toward Interstate 35, Goodrich's 2002 silver BMW 745i made a light that caught Yamini.  

"If I would've ran that yellow, who knows?" Yamini would later say. "It could've just as easily been me as Dwayne."  

While Goodrich sped north toward 635—admittedly driving his normal 85 mph—up ahead the deadly dominoes began falling.   

Driving a 2002 black Mitsubishi Galant with a suspended license, no insurance and opened beer cans in the back seat, Frederick Lamont Person—a 27-year-old male with a Garland address—clipped the rear end of an 18-wheeler in the far right lane of I-35, according to the Dallas Police Department's accident report. The collision, at 2:05 a.m., sent Person's car careening across the freeway 220 feet and into the concrete median, which catapulted it another 60 feet before it came to rest diagonally in the far left lane.  

With Person unconscious from the impact, his car's engine burst into flames.  

Matthews and Wood, who were in the same car, and Josef parked their vehicles on the right shoulder of I-35's Merrell overpass, ironically, just across from SpeedZone. As they scrambled for a sharp object to cut Person from his seat belt and out of the burning car, Goodrich barreled toward them.  

Driving in the second lane and closely following a Nissan Pathfinder driven by a Silver City dancer ("Total coincidence," says Fletcher), Goodrich claims he never saw the pileup. When the SUV slammed on its brakes, he violently swerved to the left.  

"Next thing I know there's a car on fire and nowhere for me to go," Goodrich calmly explains. "So I go to the left, between the car and the wall. I was so concentrating to make sure the left side of my car didn't scrape the wall that I never saw what I hit. Deep down I probably knew, but my mind wouldn't let me believe that I'd just run over a person. I panicked. After that it's really fuzzy, like my subconscious has blocked it out."

Goodrich, who later testified at trial that he thought he'd struck "debris," reiterates today that he didn't see any of his three victims. "You see a car on fire like that," he explains, "and the last thing you'd think is that people would be standing around it. I was focused on avoiding a wreck myself. I never saw them."

Photos of the scene depict horrifying carnage.  

Though witnesses claimed Goodrich was going 100 mph, the state's accident reconstruction expert at trial estimated that Goodrich's car slammed into the three Good Samaritans and the Mitsubishi's driver door at 54 mph, in the process crushing Josef's leg, momentarily embedding Wood's head into his BMW's windshield, and impaling Matthews on the hood and depositing him 155 feet up the freeway. The impact of the collision knocked the jeans, shirts and shoes off the two fatalities.   

Matthews was pronounced dead at the scene by the medical examiner. Wood died at Parkland Hospital three hours later.  

Investigators found hair and blood under the weather stripping around Goodrich's windshield and human tissue lodged into the right headlight. All Goodrich left behind was his right mirror.  

"It was total chaos," recalled Yamini who immediately came upon the wreckage. "Cars were on fire. People were running all over the highway. It was hard to tell what was going on. I saw two bodies laying on the road, and the first thing I thought, 'Where's D?'"  

Yamini arrived at Goodrich's house to find his friend dazed, kneeling in his driveway. When he saw the condition of the BMW, he knew. But he wasn't sure Goodrich did.   

"You hear these eerie stories about people going into shock," says Yamini, now a corporate IT specialist in Dallas. "He was shaking like he was in a freezer or something. He was mumbling, almost speaking in tongues."  

After Goodrich gained some composure, Yamini drove him back to the scene, which had been mostly cleared away. He returned Goodrich home where he phoned his mother, the Cowboys and a lawyer. News of the two fatalities had hit the local morning TV. As Goodrich prepared to leave his house to turn himself in—21 hours after the accident—police officers, led to him by the serial number on his mirror, showed up at his door. Person, meanwhile, was treated for minor injuries at Parkland, released and—despite Goodrich's lawyers hiring private investigators to locate him—never heard from again.

   "I accept responsibility for what I did, and I'll never forgive myself for what I did to those kids or how it affected their families," Goodrich says. "But it wasn't all my fault from start to finish. To me, [Person] should be sitting right here next to me. Six years later and I'm still trying to come to terms with that." 

The Trials

Of all the subjects he spoke about, Goodrich is most bothered by his trials and their bizarre plot twists. He squirms in his seat, leans forward on his elbows and shrugs his shoulders with a sigh when asked to assess his legal representation.  

"Look, I don't blame my lawyers or the system, because I should've been sent here," he says. "But did I get adequate counsel? No. I should be home by now."   

At the heart of Goodrich's discontent?

The fact that a quirk in Texas law prevented the jury from considering probation in his case:

If Goodrich had been found guilty of the original charge of manslaughter (recklessly causing the two deaths), which carried punishment range of 2-20 years, the jury could have considered probating his sentence. But the jury returned its guilty verdict on the lesser charge of a negligent homicide (2-10 years), and under the law, which has since been amended,  a defendant convicted of a state jail felony (negligent homicide) involving a deadly weapon (his car) was not eligible for probation. Intoxication manslaughter wasn't an option since Goodrich fled the scene and wasn't available for a Breathalyzer test. "We knew he had been drinking throughout the whole night," recalls Fred Burns who prosecuted the case. "But proving he was drunk beyond a reasonable doubt with bar receipts is almost impossible."

Goodrich, who broke down in tears several times on the stand, testified that he didn't see the accident scene until too late because the SUV was blocking his view, and that he initially thought he'd hit only debris.

"I just panicked and got scared," Goodrich told jurors. "I've never, ever in my life been in any kind of situation like that and didn't know how to handle anything."

Burns attempted to discredit Goodrich's testimony by pointing out that he never mentioned an SUV in his initial police statement; he also questioned why the defendant panicked if he thought he only hit debris.

"You panicked because you saw the faces of the men who bounced over your windshield," Burns said. "The men you killed."

In his closing argument, Burns told the jury that Goodrich was "driving recklessly, pure and simple." After six hours of deliberation, however, Goodrich was convicted of the lesser charge. But because the quirk erased probation from the equation, that lesser charge equaled prison time.

"I didn't know it, they didn't know and the judge didn't even know it," says Goodrich's criminal defense attorney, Reed Prospere, who indicated that prosecutors were alerted to the quirk by the District Attorney's staff over the weekend between conviction and sentencing. "Turned out that the only two offenses ineligible for probation in the state of Texas were capital murder and negligent homicide. It made no sense to anyone."

Because the jury sentenced Goodrich to 75 percent of the maximum penalty, it's unlikely it would have granted Goodrich probation. Nonetheless, Prospere says, the system didn't work in his client's favor.

"Did it make a difference? You can debate that all day long," he says. "Regardless, it's something Dwayne shouldn't have had to deal with."  

It also bothers Goodrich that testimony about Person's accident wasn't allowed into evidence: Prospere contended that Person's initial action played an important, punishable role in the night's events.

   "[Person]'s a drunk, on probation with a DWI, who caused a wreck," Prospere says. "Dwayne didn't create that situation that night. Sure we thought that was admissible, and we tried to get it in. But the judge agreed with the state's position that it was immaterial. He wouldn't allow it."   

Says Dallas attorney Cecil W. "Cas" Casterline, who briefly defended Goodrich in preparation for his appeal, "Fact is, the poor kid wasn't well-defended, and there were forces aligned to make an example out of a Dallas Cowboy." By forces, Casterline means the DA's office, which he feels acted harsher and swifter than usual.   

The tactics of Prospere, who's no longer associated with Goodrich, infuriated Dwayne's father.  "To me, he didn't do anything," Walter Goodrich says. "He showed no effort at all. My son deserved better."

Counters Prospere, "He was represented as well as he could have been represented."  

And Goodrich claims that Burns offered to recommend to Judge Lana McDaniel that his five-year, failure-to-stop-and-render-aid sentence run concurrently if only Goodrich—who pleaded guilty on all three counts—would admit he was drunk the night of the accident: Goodrich says he refused.  "Their lawyers turned me into a monster. But I won't turn myself into a liar."  

"That's pretty powerful stuff," Fletcher later says. "A lot of people wouldn't think twice about lying to stay out of prison for a year or two. That speaks volumes about Dwayne's integrity."

Says Burns, "We discussed a lot of things, but saying I offered to run it 'cc'[concurrently] if he would lie is absurd. That didn't happen." The reason the cases were stacked, he maintains, is because "the facts of the case are horrific. You have two men, risking their lives to save someone, killed as brutally as they were. It's terrible. What more do you need?"   

The Victims  

While he sits here in prison, Goodrich's meter is running. Interest is compounding on a $6 million civil judgment awarded Josef and the Wood family in August 2006, these days running the tab upward of $9 million. A Dallas County jury found Goodrich negligent in the two deaths, but cleared Silver City and The Lodge of any responsibility. Laura Wood received a $5.3 million judgment and Josef $755,000. The Matthews family settled out of court.   

If he chose, Goodrich could have those debts to Josef, the families of Matthews and Wood, and any other creditors discharged in bankruptcy. Imprisoned Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick did it, why not Goodrich?  

"I don't want to run from my responsibilities," he says. "Do I have any money to pay anyone? No. But I plan to do what I can."   

Barring a lucrative NFL comeback or a lucky lottery ticket, it's unlikely Goodrich will amass enough cash to fully pay the victims, who in 2004 were awarded national Carnegie Medals for their extraordinary heroism.  

Says Fletcher, "Nothing would make him happier than being able to provide for the people who depended on those who were taken away."  

Goodrich paid for both funerals and his Allstate insurance policy paid its limit, giving each victim $100,000. (Because Goodrich was never proven to be intoxicated, more lucrative lawsuits against the parent companies of Olive Garden, The Lodge and Silver City were dismissed.) Before depositions were taken in the civil case, Goodrich sat on a park bench outside Fletcher's office with Laura Wood and offered a face-to-face apology.

But only Josef, who escaped death because he was inside the Mitsubishi with only his leg dangling out, seems willing to forgive. With Goodrich already behind bars but appearing in a Dallas courtroom for his failure-to-render-aid sentencing, Josef—walking painfully with a cane after five surgeries—stepped down from the witness stand and embraced him with a long hug. "I forgive you," Josef told Goodrich. "I'm sorry for you."  

Matthews' mother, Deloris, on the other hand, refuses to forgive Goodrich, convinced he was intoxicated the night he killed her son. "I believe he was drunk and on some type of drugs," she says from her home in East Texas. "He says he wasn't, but that's bullshit. I'm not going to help him get out of prison. I think he should serve his full time."

Laura Wood, who along with Josef lobbied prosecutors to seek stacked sentences, remains vocal in the fact that she keeps tabs on Goodrich in order to protect the interests of her grandson, J.J.   

"I have bad thoughts, horrible nightmares, about how my son died," Wood says. "But my main concern is my grandson. I feel like Mr. Goodrich owes him, not me. So far he hasn't as much as bought him a pair of shoes."

The Family  

A hard-working group that made ends meet in a modest Chicago neighborhood, the Goodrich family also has experienced its share of heartache.

Dwayne's parents divorced when he was in college. His oldest brother, James, just finished 10 years in an Alabama prison on drug charges and brother "Shank" died in a motorcycle accident in 2004.

 "We were always really close, all of us," Goodrich says. "It's been tough on me. Tough on everyone. Everything's come down on my mom pretty hard. Through it all she's been a rock."  

Dwayne's plight hit the family particularly hard. He was the youngest but most naturally gifted of his siblings. Whether he chased his dream of being an FBI agent or followed his natural attraction to a childhood plastic Hutch football helmet, no one doubted he'd be successful.    

"He was the easiest kid to raise because he had direction," says Pam, who makes the trek from Tampa to the Wallace Unit twice a year. "I always believed in him. Still do. But I'll be honest, this is the most devastating thing I've ever experienced."   

Other than a 1999 disorderly conduct arrest in Knoxville in which charges were quickly dropped, Goodrich never found trouble until Dallas. He had friends among the Cowboys but mostly kept to himself, apparently saving his charming persona for after hours. He's fathered two children—Jillian, 6, and Dylan, 3—from different mothers.  

"He's a great person and a good dad, and he'll be an even better one after going through all this," says Jillian's mom, Inetra Nelson, an elementary school teacher in McKinney. "While he's been in there, Jillian has learned how to write. When she sent him her first letter, I think it hit him pretty hard about what he's missing."  

Goodrich receives regular visits from his family, except Dad. "As a parent you never want to see your kid suffer any undue hardships," Walter says. "Walking away and leaving him in that place...it was very painful."  

Walter says he has difficulty leaving his job at a Chicago railroad for any length of time, and there's no doubt he harbors ill feelings about the entire episode. He attended Goodrich's trial, but stormed out before it concluded. "He wasn't treated fairly, and I couldn't take that," he says. "There was a loss of life, and he's truly sorry for that. We all are. But that shouldn't cost him all this time in prison. It just never made sense to me."

Nor to his mother, who is adamant that justice has already been overserved. "It was an accident," she says. "Dwayne did not wake up that day with intentions of going out and taking someone's life. But this is about to end....Who knows, maybe he'll play football again." 

The Career  

Ironic that Goodrich's NFL career all but ended because of a hit-and-run. Because he did neither while with the Cowboys.

After a standout stay at the University of Tennessee, highlighted by returning an interception for a touchdown and being named Defensive MVP in the Volunteers' 1999 National Championship Game victory over Florida State, the 6-foot, 190-pound Goodrich was the 49th overall pick in the 2000 draft. Pegged as an athletic cornerback with shut-down potential, as a Cowboy he was a colossal disappointment. A big-time bust.

He strained a hamstring in his first preseason, tore his Achilles in 2001 and never made an interception in Dallas.  

"I thought I'd have a 10-year career like Champ Bailey and Darren Woodson," Goodrich says, his eyes lighting up. "But the truth is I thought just getting drafted and being in the NFL was it. I didn't work hard enough. I just did enough to get by."  

Woodson remembers being frustrated that the young cornerback's mental approach didn't match his physical skills. "With Goody it seemed like my advice would go in one ear and right out the other," he recalls. "He just never put his working hat on and treated his life in the NFL as a job. Shame, because he could've had a long, successful career."  

Goodrich, who plays basketball but not football during recreational hours at Wallace, is sober about an NFL comeback. But in prison, there's plenty of time to dream.  

"I'd be lying if I said a part of me didn't want to try it again," he says. "Hopefully I'll still be 30 when I get out, but that's old in football years. It would make a great story, and it would give a lot of dudes in here hope to watch me play on TV. But I'm realistic. It's not my main focus."  

As for the Cowboys, for now Goodrich just wants to apologize in general to fans and in specific to Jones. He asks that this message be delivered to the Cowboys' owner:   

Mr. Jones,  I hope someday soon to be able to apologize in person. I am sorry. I know I let you down and cheated you. You didn't get your money's worth when you drafted me, and I wound up embarrassing myself, my family, my teammates and you. For that I am truly sorry.

The Future   

With his reputation in ruins and career path narrow, Goodrich has only one asset: his story.   

Given Laura Wood's continued bitterness, and Fletcher's legal hoops, perhaps Goodrich is a tad naïve in thinking he'll stroll out of Wallace before his May 29th birthday. But when he does get out, Goodrich promises a positive impact.  

"I'm not trying to be too callous, but I'm over that night," he says of the accident. "I've re-lived it, and it doesn't change a thing. I can't sit here and waste my life dwelling on it. What I want to do is tell my story to others, to educate them about the harsh consequences of their actions."  

After initially following Prospere's advice not to speak publicly about the incident, Goodrich tried to air his side of the tale in 2005 but broke down in tears in KDFW-Channel 4's downtown studios before reporter Shaun Rabb could ask the first question. Unable to compose himself, he abruptly canceled the interview and remained mum until today.

"This is going to sound weird, but I'm truly happy now," Goodrich says. "It was a great accomplishment to be a Dallas Cowboy, but in here I've grown up. I feel like a man. Now I'm who I want to be, instead of who everybody else thought I was supposed to be. I'm going to turn this negative into a positive. It's all I want to do."   

With his second chance, Goodrich wants to finish his Sociology/Criminology degree at Tennessee, then move back to Dallas and launch a career in coaching and/or speaking to at-risk groups and individuals.  

"I know I could help Pacman," he says. "Somebody better, before it's too late and he winds up in here."  

Through family, Goodrich is reaching out to friends and fellow Chicagoans Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dwyane Wade of the NBA's Miami Heat—looking for help when he lands.  

"Hey, I'm a convicted felon who's done hard time," he says. "I'll need a favor or two." 

He's also placed calls to the NFL Players Association, offering to speak at the league's Rookie Symposium. At Wallace, Goodrich volunteers in a mentoring program called Life Decisions.   

The night before his interview he went to nearby Big Spring and spoke for the third time to 15 kids and adults, some of whom were rebounding from a DWI or alcohol-related accident.

"I tell them that if I'd thought about my choices—that if I'd stayed home with my 6-month-old daughter instead of going out to topless bars—then maybe I'd be a part of America's Team instead of in here cleaning toilets," he says. "I realized that, hey, my story is a powerful tool. I've got a platform as a former Cowboy, and I've already seen it affect people in amazing ways. It's really inspired me, really got me excited for my life outside these walls."  

In there, a hollow place that exacerbates his six-second sin, he's got nothing but time.  

Out here, sooner or later, Dwayne Goodrich's time will come.    

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