Grant Goodrich: A man who loved and excelled at football

Editor’s note: This is the first of four features about this year’s inductees into the Lovell High School Athletic Hall of Fame. The four will be featured in order of their graduation date from LHS: Grant Goodrich (1949), Tim Winland (1986), Chad Lindsay (1989) and Janis Beal (2001). The four will be inducted this Saturday, Feb. 10, during the Lovell vs. Rocky Mountain basketball games.

Grant Goodrich loved to hit, and he was a fearsome competitor on the gridiron or in any sport he played in. But he was also known as a kind and thoughtful man with a big heart to those who knew him best.

A 1949 graduate of Lovell High School, Goodrich excelled in football, basketball and track at LHS, played town team baseball in the summer and attended the University of Utah on a full ride football scholarship before embarking on a long and successful career in education.

Born in 1930, Grant was the second of four Goodrich boys and the third of seven children born to Porter Merrill and Eldona Thaxton Goodrich, who taught the family a great work ethic.

When Grant was just 14 years old, his father died after contracting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite. As brother Gary Goodrich recalls, World War II was still raging at that time, and there was a shortage of penicillin. As Porter’s condition worsened, the family heard about a vial of the life-saving antibiotic available in Worland. Oldest brother Vernal raced to Worland on a motorcycle and returned with the medicine. The penicillin was injected, but it was too late, and “Port” died.

Grant Goodrich

Porter had run a sheep-shearing crew and also worked at the Great Western Sugar Factory, Gary said, and his loss proved to be a great hardship on the family, so after his sophomore year in 1946, Grant took a year off from school to work, working for uncles and other relatives and doing any job he could to help provide for the family.

Gary said his brother worked in the oil fields, drove a sugar beet truck and worked in construction, and pushing heavy wheelbarrows of wet cement damaged his knees, which affected him later in life.

He returned to school and the year off put him in the same class as younger brother Bruce. The two played sports together and graduated in 1949.

Grant played tackle and end on the football team, forward on the basketball team and ran the 100- and 220-yard dash, plus the 440 in track. He also threw the shot.

He was named to the Wyoming All-State Football Team as a tackle as a junior and as an end as a senior, and he was selected for the all-star Turkey Bowl in Casper in 1948.

Gary recalls that his brother absolutely loved football and excelled at the sport.

“He loved to hit,” he said. “He loved contact. He couldn’t understand why everybody didn’t like that.

“He had great hands and was a good receiver (at end). His quarterback was (brother) Bruce, and they played together as juniors and seniors.

“I played with them as a freshman when they were seniors. Our coach even drew up one Goodrich to Goodrich to Goodrich play that was quite unique. They put me in at quarterback, and I got the ball back to Bruce, who threw to Grant. It went for a touchdown against Greybull, but the referee called it back saying Grant had pushed the defender out of the way. Bruce could throw the ball about a million miles.”

Not only did Grant have great hands, he had the speed of a sprinter, Gary said. At about 6-1, 180, he used his speed and strength to terrorize opponents as a defensive tackle.

“I still remember one game against Thermopolis,” Gary said. “Grant was just tearing their backfield apart, getting in there at almost the same time as the handoff. One of their players said, ‘You big bully! Leave us alone!’

“He was very good, but I never saw him angry. He loved contact, and he loved running into somebody. We didn’t have facemasks in those days, so consequently his nose was broken several times. He would set it himself. He didn’t ever go to the doctor.”

On the hardwood

In basketball, Grant didn’t score much, mainly rebounding and playing defense.

“He would give it to Bruce most of the time,” Gary said. He said Grant told stories about playing against the tall and talented Al Simpson of Cody, later a U.S. Senator, and while he couldn’t stop Simpson, he did what he could to slow him down “pinching him” or grabbing his uniform trunks, Grant joked.

He was recruited to play football for the University of Utah Utes, then called the Redskins, and played end on the freshman team, then offensive tackle for the next three years. He was named an all-conference tackle his senior year by the Denver Post.

Gary said Wyoming and Utah both recruited Grant and Bruce, Grant for football and Bruce for basketball, but Wyoming wanted Grant to walk on, whereas Utah offered him a full ride scholarship. Both brothers headed to Salt Lake City. Had they been given any encouragement, both would have played at Wyoming, Gary said.

An ‘agile’ lineman

At Utah, Gary said, Grant’s first coach played power football, but then a new coach came in, Jack Curtis, and wanted speed and agility. So he moved Grant to offensive tackle, where his athleticism fit the new scheme perfectly.

Gary recalled that Grant received a letter from Sen. Simpson when their mother Eldona died and Simpson wrote that he remembered playing across the line from Grant when Utah played Wyoming. The letter read something to the effect that playing Grant “was a rich experience I’ll never forget. I was fired up and would be trapped beautifully” by the quick and agile Goodrich.

“Grant was excellent for that,” Gary said.

One time Utah was playing Oregon, Gary said, and Grant found himself opposite a massive All-American defensive lineman who was about 6-5, 270 or 280 pounds.

“Grant was just a little runt by comparison,” Gary said.

Grant battled and battled the All-American trying to keep him out of the play, and finally the big player grabbed him with one arm, picked him up, and said, ‘Nice play, kid!’,” Gary recalled.

During his senior year at Utah Goodrich was named an all-conference tackle by the Denver Post and was also voted as the “Hardest Hitting Player.” The Redskins won the Skyline Conference both his junior and senior seasons. As a sophomore he also had the opportunity to play in the Pineapple Bowl in Hawaii.

After graduation from Utah with a bachelor’s degree in education, Grant taught P.E. and orientation at Lovell Junior High for a year (1953-54), then joined the Army in June of 1954 and served in Japan in the Special Services, playing and coaching football for the Army in the Far East Football League.

Goodrich then returned to college at Utah State University to complete his master’s degree in education in 1955-56.

Returning home

After marrying Rhoana Mills, Goodrich taught math and science and coached at Encampment High School in 1957-58, then returned to Lovell in the fall of 1958 to teach junior high algebra and general science and high school P.E. He was also the head football coach at LHS, assistant junior high basketball coach and head junior high wrestling coach. He later served as the high school guidance counselor (1961-63) and in 1963 was hired as the principal for both the junior high and high school, focusing on the high school principal position after the new school was built in 1964. He served as principal until his retirement in 1991, concluding 34 years in education.

During his time as principal, he also served as athletic director, transportation director and student council director, as well as the driver’s education teacher.

Former Lovell High School science teacher Tom Dixon recalled his friend and principal fondly.

“Man, that guy was great,” Dixon said. “He handled things so well. He was even-keeled. Those were some of the best days I’ve had.”

Dixon recalled that Goodrich and Supt. Glenn Engelking wanted him to teach a fly-tying course, so he did, for community education. Both men wanted to learn to tie the Rio Grande King wet fly, which they both used in the Big Horns.

“Glenn had short, stubby fingers, and Grant had big hands,” Dixon said. “I didn’t know if they’d ever learn to tie. But they stuck with it and learned to tie several flies. I’ve never forgotten that.

“Grant was a gentleman, and he was a good friend.”

Dixon said Goodrich was good-natured about some of the high school staff antics. One time home ec teacher Eva Hanson put a “wanted” sign up in the teacher’s lounge offering a reward of two dozen brownies for the capture of Tom Dixon.

“Cliff Revelle and I went to the janitor’s room and found a cart and a bunch of rope. He tied me on it and wheeled me down the hall to her room,” Dixon said. “Cliff knocked on her door and said, ‘I want my reward.’ She made the brownies, and we split them. Grant thought that was great.”

Another time, Dixon said, his father was coming for a visit from West Virginia, so realizing that Hanson wouldn’t know who he was, they had him wear a suit to Hanson’s home ec classroom and perform a detailed inspection, saying he was a health inspector. He went over the room with a fine-toothed comb, then asked her to report to Goodrich’s office.

As his father entered the principal’s office with a nervous Hanson in tow, Dixon said he kind of hid behind Goodrich, knowing what was coming. As Hanson and his dad came in, he said, “Hello, Dad,” and the reply came, “Hello, son.”

“She went from scared to furious in about one second,” Dixon said. “Steam was coming out of her ears. Grant was always a good sport. He loved to laugh. He would find a way to tell you what he thought in a nice way, which is a rare quality in this world. I enjoyed him and Glenn. Those were really good times.

“He was a great football player. We went to Laramie one summer to take a class in driver’s education. It was a long drive, but we talked a lot about football. It was really an interesting trip. I enjoyed that trip.”

Goodrich joins brother Bruce as a member of the LHS Athletic Hall of Fame.

Grant Goodrich died on Dec. 6, 2017, but had been informed of his induction by members of the hall
of fame committee prior to his passing.

By David Peck