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ASU quarterback on how he used training from Kush on Vietnam battlefields

Retired Lt. Gen. John Goodman says playing for the iconic coach was tough but instilled in him crucial lessons he took into war

Lt. Gen. John Goodman in Vietnam
November 02, 2017

John Goodman, a three-sport star at Encina High School in Sacramento, California, received full-ride offers from every Pac-10 school — but all it took was one meeting with Frank Kush to seal his fate as a Sun Devil.

The Arizona State University football coach told Goodman's parents that the ASU athletics program was about building men with character and getting an education. That's all his mom needed to hear.

Goodman's first game for the Sun Devils was in 1964, when he connected on a touchdown pass. A year later he was starting quarterback. Two years later he finished off his ASU career with a touchdown pass to beat Arizona 20-17.

Playing for Kush was tough and often not pleasant, but Goodman said it developed his drive to be the best he could be. That would serve him well when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in the spring of 1967. His initial assignment was Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division in III Corps area of operations, north of Siagon. He was then reassigned to India Company, 75th Ranger Regiment as a long-range patrol team leader in support of the 1st Infantry Division.

Here he talks about both experiences — war and football — and how they tied together.

For his service, Goodman received the Bronze Star, the Soldier’s Medal and a Purple Heart. He would return to ASU and receive his bachelor's in business administration and accounting in 1971. He briefly played professional football for the New Orleans Saints before joining the U.S. Marines, becoming a naval aviator. He emerged as an elite TOPGUN pilot in the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, completing training in F/A-18 Hornets and then serving in Kuwait as the air plans officer during the first Gulf War.

"The greatest achievement and accomplishment during my military career was the honor to serve with and to lead United States Marines, in both peace and war," he said.

Over 37 years of military service, Goodman moved up the ranks, retiring as a lieutenant general in 2008, commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces in the Pacific. Since retirement, he has served as the director of the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, on the ASU President’s General Officer Advisory Council, on the Arizona State University Military Advisory Council and as special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

Top photo: John Goodman in Vietnam on Christmas 1968. Photo courtesy of John Goodman

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