Re­ly­ing on faith to han­dle tragedy

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Eric Branch Eric Branch is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: ebranch@sfchron­i­ Twit­ter: @Eric_Branch

Af­ter prac­tices, 49ers wide re­ceiver Marquise Goodwin leads on-field prayer ses­sions and dur­ing games, he keeps the faith.

In fact, in Sun­day’s 31-21 win over the Gi­ants, Goodwin prayed on the field over in­jured New York de­fen­sive lineman Ja­son Pierre-Paul.

“I pray for ev­ery­body,” Goodwin said, “through­out the game.”

Given his faith, it’s not sur­pris­ing how Goodwin ex­plained how he played Sun­day hours af­ter his wife, Mor­gan, de­liv­ered their still­born son at 19 weeks be­cause of com­pli­ca­tions.

“The hon­est to God truth, the only rea­son I made it through the game was be­cause of God, my faith in God,” Goodwin said. “I men­tally and phys­i­cally was not pre­pared to play in the game at all … Com­ing into the game, I re­ally wasn’t in it be­cause I had just lost my baby.”

Still, Goodwin fo­cused enough to grab an 83-yard touch­down catch, add an 18yard run and de­liver a key block on tight end Gar­rett Celek’s 47-yard touch­down catch.

Early Sun­day morn­ing, af­ter his son died at 3:52 a.m., Goodwin was an­guished and torn. In his grief, he felt a strong de­sire to stay with his wife, but also an obli­ga­tion to his team. Goodwin said Mor­gan made the de­ci­sion for him: She in­sisted that he leave and as­sured him she would be fine un­til he re­turned, which he did al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter the game.

“I think it speaks more to her char­ac­ter than mine,” Goodwin said. “She could be hold­ing me back from it. She could be mak­ing me feel guilty for hav­ing to go and play foot­ball, which is just a game in the grand of scheme of things.”

Both Goodwin and his wife shared their story Sun­day via so­cial me­dia and it has res­onated na­tion­wide. Goodwin said they’ve been over­whelmed by the re­sponse.

“We didn’t re­al­ize shar­ing our jour­ney with this baby would gain” so much sup­port from peo­ple, he said.

Mor­gan be­gan hav­ing com­pli­ca­tions about a week be­fore the birth and Goodwin said he didn’t prac­tice, missed team meet­ings and had lit­tle sleep lead­ing up to kick­off. He told just a few team­mates about what he and Mor­gan were en­dur­ing, a group that in­cluded safety Eric Reid and his cousin, safety Adrian Col­bert.

Dur­ing the na­tional an­them, Goodwin knelt with Reid, as they have done through­out the sea­son, and Reid put his left arm around him. Goodwin, clearly emo­tional, buried his face in his left hand.

In the sec­ond quar­ter, Goodwin fell to his knees af­ter his touch­down catch.

“I just felt like it was all God,” Goodwin said. “It was all God in that sit­u­a­tion that I was able to score a touch­down and to dis­play all the pain that I was feel­ing at that time that just came over me at once.”

Goodwin sug­gested his son’s death hap­pened for a rea­son that he doesn’t cur­rently com­pre­hend. He al­luded to his be­lief when asked if he had mes­sage for oth­ers who are in the midst of sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions.

“Never stop be­liev­ing,” he said. “The re­ward will last longer than the pain. … It will grow you as a per­son and make you bet­ter. And I know my wife and I will be bet­ter af­ter this sit­u­a­tion.”

Marcio Jose Sanchez / As­so­ci­ated Press

Wide re­ceiver Marquise Goodwin (right) is com­forted by 49ers team­mate Eric Reid dur­ing Sun­day’s na­tional an­them.

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