It was the second game of the Jackrabbits’ 2016 season when Dallas Goedert rose up over a defensive back from Drake and somehow pulled down an incredible, spectacular, you-gotta-see-it-again, one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone.
The catch, somewhat reminiscent of that famous Odell Beckham Jr. play, made its way to every highlight reel around and introduced the then-junior tight end to the world.
“Yeah, that one was pretty incredible,” South Dakota State tight ends coach Luke Schleusner said to NBC Sports Philadelphia.
But it wasn’t the only one.
Goedert, the Eagles’ pick at No. 49, is 6-foot-5, 260 pounds. He has long arms, big hands, a basketball background and a penchant for amazing grabs.
“He makes the amazing play and has a knack for that highlight-reel play,” Schleusner said. “And the balls that he’s caught one-handed, he’s had to. When the situation presented itself, he would make the play.”
Like Beckham Jr., Goedert likes to work on those one-handed catches as a part of his pre-game routine. It has seemingly served him well.
“Yeah, I mean, I was lucky enough to play at South Dakota State where they used me in the offense a lot, put me in different positions, and I was kind of the go-to guy,” Goedert said. “So sometimes a quarterback would be in trouble, and would throw a ball that was a little bit too high or a little bit too far in front, and I think I have really good ball skills. My athletic ability helped and I was able to make some plays.”
While Schleusner made sure to mention that Goedert is a hard-worker, he also said his former player is a naturally confident person. Goedert showed that Friday night when he was asked for his basketball comparison and he said, LeBron James.
“He’s not going to be afraid in the NFL; I know that,” Schleusner said. “He’s going to go in there with the attitude to dominate.”
While the spectacular catches caught the eye of fans, his blocking impressed the Eagles. Goedert is already a better blocker than most tight end prospects. He’s a balanced player, equal parts grit and finesse.
“It didn’t start off that way,” according to Schleusner. In fact, Goedert still gives his old position coach a hard time about all the blocking drills he had to do early in his college career. Back then, the Jackrabbits had a 2,000-yard rusher in Zach Zenner, so they ran the ball a lot. And Goedert wasn’t going to get on the field if he couldn’t block. Every day in practice, coaches had the tight ends go against the defensive line and worked on Goedert’s pad level.
The work paid off; Goedert was named first-team all-Missouri Valley Football Conference despite catching just 26 passes as a sophomore. He did it on the strength of his blocking. Now, it’ll help him get on the field as a rookie.
“We've got to go sort of — you don't want to say spoon feed, but you've got to go piece by piece,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “You've got to start from the ground floor and work up. It's a unique position because there's run and pass involved. There's route running and there's blocking schemes. So we'll begin slow. He's a smart kid. He's going to learn fast, and it shouldn't take him long at all to get into the mix and get him going.”
Schleusner touted Goedert’s intelligence on and off the football field, saying Goedert arrived at South Dakota State as a mechanical engineering major. On the field, he played in the Jackrabbits’ pro-style offense, which should help him adjust to the Eagles’ scheme.
That catch against Drake was flashy, but Goedert’s performance in the opener in 2016 against TCU the week before was even more impressive. The Jackrabbits lost to the 13th-ranked Horned Frogs, but Goedert dominated against an elevated level of competition in all phases. He’ll try to continue that dominance at the highest level starting this season.
“Dallas loves a challenge and he does not lack for confidence, that’s for sure,” Schleusner said. “When he steps on the football field, he believes he’s the best player on the field.”