The Bruise Brothers
A Look at the running back combo for the Monarchs
Written By: Justin Brown
A two-headed monster. Thunder and lightning. The two running back offense. Coaches love it. When the starting running back gets tired they throw in number two. Rested and ready to go, the backup becomes the go-to guy and hits the hole full-speed. When the backup gets tired, the starter returns fueled up, ready to go, and a step quicker than a worn down defense.
Old Dominion University’s Angus Harper and Colby Goodwyn give the Monarchs that two-headed monster, The two-back offense. “We get equal time, we split off every series. He goes, I go, he goes, I go,” says Harper, his voice trailing on. “He goes, I go, I go, he goes.”
The two-back offense works when the running backs are willing to work together. Luckily for the Monarchs, the competition between these two isn’t to win the starting role, but to win the game. When one back gains yards the team gains yards. When one back scores a touchdown, the team scores a touchdown.
“It’s not about what he’s doing or what I’m doing,” Harper says. “Collectively we’re brothers. We both want to see each other do well. If he got 190 [yards], the backfield has 190 [yards], we have 190 [yards].”
This style of offense doesn’t work when running backs get selfish. Reggie Bush achieved the greatest victory a football player can achieve in 2009, winning a Super Bowl. Unfortunately,. it wasn’t enough in his mind and he was shipped off to the Miami Dolphins.
There are situations, however, where the two-back alternating offense has worked like it is working here in Norfolk. The Auburn Tigers had two future first round picks in Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams in 2004. The two backs could have entered the NFL after the 2003 season, but decided to come back and share time for one more year.
The two were able to take the Tigers to a win in the Sugar Bowl and an undefeated 13-0 season. It takes two men, with the same goal, a splash of talent, a little bit of humility, and some dedication to help take the two-back offense to the next level.
The Monarchs’ two running backs, Harper and Goodwyn, are a duo that seems bound to work great together for the next couple years. Harper, who speaks confidentially through his in-the-process dreadlocks, has a slightly darker complexion than Goodwyn. His dreads aren’t the kind that flow from out of his helmet, but are a bit longer than Goodwyn’s blonde tipped ones. Harper is the more vocal of the two. He likes to speak and is intelligent when he does so.
Goodwyn is more reserved, but always backs up what Harper has to say, to a point where it is almost unconditional. They think on the same wavelength. They are the Monarchs’ Bruise Brothers.
The two aren’t running backs that switch it up on defenses when they come in and out of the game. One is not really faster than the other, even though Goodwyn will tell you that people think he’s faster because he’s a little smaller. At 5 feet 10 inches 200 pounds, Goodwyn gives up a little size to Harper’s 6 feet 210 pound build, but they both run with an intensity to keep defenses on their heels. They are both down hill runners that enjoy playing smash mouth football. They punish defenses with a geared up and ferocious running game.
“Me and Angus’s running games are similar,” said Goodwyn with his big smile. A smile that you could imagine seeing when you are looking up at him from the ground after catching one of his broad shoulders into your chest. “We feed off each other. I would see Angus run somebody over and that gets me pumped up. I feed off his playing abilities and I’m pretty sure he does the same.”
Feeding off of each other’s performances. It seems to be what these two are all about. Goodwyn does something, Harper has to prove himself. It isn’t a competition to show who is better, but that they can both complete the job at hand.
“It’s like Colby goes out there and makes somebody miss then it’s like, ‘Angus, you go out there and do what you do best, go run somebody over.’ We just feed off each other and it helps us,” said Harper, finishing off on the same note that Goodwyn had started.
The two backs are young. Harper is a redshirt freshman and Goodwyn is sitting comfortably as a true sophomore. That means Harper has a potential of three more years following this season and Goodwyn has two more. The strong bond these two formed didn’t just start at Old Dominion. The two actually became close while working out with each other just a couple years ago before they even knew where they were going to school.
“We met at a football camp in high school. It was an elite camp, so they only invited a certain amount of [players]. It was Colby and I from Virginia, but you had maybe eight other running backs from other places,” says Harper.
Not only did the two meet at the camp, but they worked out together, talked about their future plans and became fast friends.
“We were partners at the camp together,” said Goodwyn, at this point clearly the quieter of the two. Harper goes on to finish his thought, “Back then we were talking about he’s going to UNC and I’m going to Boston College and we ended up at ODU together and we just clicked back off.”
The tandem worked together then and they are working out well this year. Through three games the backs have amassed 480 rushing yards and 91 receiving yards. They have put the ball in the end zone five times and have been a terror for defenses to defend. While Goodwyn has put up a little beefier numbers in the running game this season, Harper has been the one catching passes. It doesn’t matter to these two. Goodwyn goes on to explain that it is just the way it goes. It depends on who, by the luck of the draw for that series, is getting more carries. Not which back is favored.
“In a game when he has 14 carries and I have 26 I feel like any given Saturday he could get 26 and I could get 14. It’s just the way the play calling works out. Either of us are capable of getting that amount of carries.”
Humility. To these two it’s about pushing your friend and teammate to his physical and mental limit. That is what they bring to the table. So watch out defenses, because you don’t know which of them is going to hit you next.
Photo taken by Ariella Gould