SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Only hours after his baby boy’s death, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin arrived at the team hotel to check in before Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.
After his wife, Morgan, encouraged him to play, the usually dapper Goodwin arrived in sweats, having come directly from the hospital after their son was delivered stillborn in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Goodwin hadn’t slept after spending the night by his wife’s side and he was about to play in a professional football game wholly unprepared, save for the two most important influences in his life: his faith and his wife.
“Honest to God truth, the only reason I made it through the game is because of my faith in God,” Goodwin said Tuesday. “I mentally and physically was not prepared to play in the game. At all. I really didn’t even practice that week, I was just going through a lot. Just trying to get my body rested from the week before and the week before that. Coming into the game, I wasn’t really in it because I had just lost my baby. My wife, we prayed about it and I guess she felt that God moved her to allow me to go play and she encouraged me. She raised my spirits up and helped me get ready for the game.
“So that’s what’s so cool about the situation is, my wife, how supportive she is and how encouraging she is, all these great things that she does for me to help me go out there and play the way that I did. I think it speaks more about her character than mine because here she is, she could be holding me back, she could make me feel guilty about having to go and play football, which is just a game in the grand scheme of things and what we dealt with was a real-life situation, a death. Not only a death but a death to our infant child. So, situations like that, you only make it through that with your faith in God.”
Morgan Goodwin told People magazine that they had decided to name their son Marquise Jr. After experiencing complications the previous week, she told People that she was rushed to the hospital by ambulance hours before the birth, with her husband by her side throughout.
“We cried. It was a hard thing to take in,” she said. “This hurts because I was 19 weeks, I was almost halfway there.”
The couple wed in February 2016 and she told People they’d dreamed of starting a family and used fertility treatments after she suffered a previous miscarriage.
“I was looking forward to having someone to call our own — our own creation,” she told People. “I feel I was placed in this world to be a mother, and I want to be a mother. I want to be a mother to four kids, five. I want a lot of children so this hurts.”
Despite the hurt, Marquise Goodwin didn’t just play against the Giants, he also contributed two of the biggest plays of the game in helping the 49ers to their first win of the season. He threw a key block to spring tight end Garrett Celek for a 47-yard touchdown and caught an 83-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
On his long touchdown catch, Goodwin blew a kiss to the sky before crossing the goal line and then knelt in the end zone to pray as the emotion poured out of him.
“All the pain that I was feeling at the time, it just came over me at once,” Goodwin said. “It wasn’t something that was planned. If you had lost something that you wanted more than anything, something that you expected because you could see it without seeing it, you would know how I felt in that situation. So just to be able to score a touchdown and ultimately help my team get a win was just a great moment in my life and it’s a moment that I’ll remember forever because I could have easily not been at the game and that never would have happened. Nobody would have ever known about this story and we wouldn’t be able to help ourselves and then be able to help other people along the way (in) healing. I’m grateful that I was able to play in the game and get a touchdown.”
In the midst of the highlight-reel touchdown catch and crushing block, Goodwin could also be seen kneeling over an injured Giant in prayer. It’s part of a faith-based approach Goodwin said he adopted when he got old enough to understand it and has been a regular part of his life since.
“I pray for everybody throughout the game, even my opponents,” Goodwin said. “Outside of the game we still have to live life, still have to lead normal lives and we still need our bodies. Praying for him is pretty simple because if I was down, I would want people to pray for me. I just believe in helping other people.”
After the game, Goodwin quickly exited the locker room to be by his family’s side. He and his wife soon made the decision to share their story on social media. For Goodwin, that choice to share something so personal was made in an effort to tell their story without others making assumptions or spreading false rumors.
As it turned out, sharing his family’s story in such a public way has resulted in what Goodwin calls a “tremendous amount of support” from people all over.
“Morgan and I appreciate all the love that we’ve gotten,” Goodwin said. “We didn’t realize that sharing our journey with this baby would gain so many people (supporting). We do have a lot of people that followed us through our journey so maybe we can help people who have dealt with similar things that we have gone through and learn things from people who have been through our situation.”
With the 49ers off this week for the bye, Goodwin and his wife have returned home to Texas to be around family as they attempt to move forward.
Morgan Goodwin told People she experienced mixed emotions holding their son.
“I felt joy in holding my baby even though it was a sad moment,” Morgan said. “I was so amazed. His eyes were still shut at this point, but the hands, the feet. He looked exactly like his daddy.”
Speaking about such a tragic loss only a couple of days after it happened, Marquise Goodwin already has a message for others who might be dealing with something similar.
“Never stop believing,” he said. “The reward will last longer than the pain. Just because something that you wanted your whole life didn’t quite work out as you planned it to — a lot of the times it’s not supposed to work out how you want it to — it will grow you as a person and make you better. I know my wife and I will be better after this situation and we’ll know how to handle it next time even better.
“And faith, faith (is) No. 1, believe that God has a plan for everything. No matter what the outcome is, as long as you pray to him and be genuine because he knows when you’re genuine and when you’re not and maintain the faith, I think things will turn around for you. I know things will turn around for you. And ultimately, you will always be victorious when it’s all said and done.”