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On Sunday Jonathan Goodwin will return to the place he turned his NFL career around with a chance to add his name to the rare list of NFL players to have won Super Bowls with multiple teams.
Having drank from football's Holy Grail once before, Goodwin and fellow former Super Bowl champion Clark Haggans can attest -- it's a feeling like none other.
"It never goes away," said Haggans, whose five tackles and sack helped the Steelers win Super Bowl XL seven seasons ago. "That type of experience -- this type of experience -- it's timeless. You remember what you wore to the game, what you ate. I don't even remember what type of cereal I had this morning."
Goodwin and Haggans are two of four 49ers to have reached football's pinnacle, but the only two to raise Vince Lombardi's trophy in victory.* Prior to the NFC Championship in Atlanta, they recognized the feat during a quiet moment riding the elevator in the team hotel.
Goodwin recalled: "We were saying, 'It's hard to put into words, the feeling. If guys think the feeling Sunday was great, the feeling when you win the Super Bowl is ten times as great.'"
As a fifth-round pick out of Michigan, Goodwin wasn't pegged for NFL glory. He looks back on his rookie training camp battles with fellow Jets Kevin Mawae and J.P. Machado with regret. Goodwin finally got the call for his first NFL start in his third season, and he helped Chad Pennington beat the 49ers.
"I didn't want to be pegged as a backup," Goodwin said before making the trip to New Orleans.
Everything changed in 2009 when, in his first year as a starting center, Goodwin was elected to the Pro Bowl and became a Super Bowl champion. However it happened, the eight-year veteran developed what was required to be a reliable center.
Not only did the 6-foot-3, 318-pound former tackle display the physical skill set to snap the ball in the NFL, he became the vocal leader of the offensive line -- the anchor that's required to keep both wings of the wall on the same page of a cohesive unit.
Known for his kindness and described as a gentle giant by peers, it isn't always so.
"Not on third down. Not in the fourth quarter," right tackle Anthony Davis said. "He's a competitor."
His linemates agree.
"When he yells, we listen," first-time Pro Bowl left guard Mike Iupati said. "And he yells at everyone."
Joe Staley offered a calculated appraisal: "On the field, he's very fiery."
"They joke with me about yelling at them," said Goodwin with a knowing smile. "I get -- on the field sometimes -- a little mean and angry." Another smile. "I just try to keep 'em in line and teach 'em as much as I can like guys did when I came into the league."
Goodwin has the full respect of his offensive line, a unit that bowled the way for the fourth most effective rushing attack in the NFL this year.
According to Alex Boone, having Goodwin to his left is "huge." Staley says "nothing fazes him" and Iupati just calls it "freakin' awesome." But the lineman with the highest praise for the center is his successor as the Bobb McKittrick Award winner -- Davis.**
"Goody's always there for advice," said still 23-year-old, three-year NFL veteran Davis. "He's a good leader. He's our guy on the line, in hostile situations he's running the show. And off the field I know I can call him."
In fact, Davis called the man he describes as a good role model just last week to ask what to expect leading up to the Super Bowl, and Goodwin took the call and gave his best appraisal of what Davis first experienced at Media Day Tuesday.
But it's what Goodwin is saying on the field that has the 49ers competing in their sixth franchise Super Bowl. Boone and Staley each said he never has problems getting the call out, even in the loudest environments.
"He's the air traffic controller during the snow storm," said offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Goodwin is the perfect player to execute the complex offense installed by Roman and head coach Jim Harbaugh. He's calm, collected, plenty capable of getting out the play-calls, and he has never committed a personal foul.
"I've always been laid back," said Goodwin, proud of his spotless record. "The thinker of the situation as opposed to the fighter."
Goodwin joined the 49ers at the right time. He signed his three-year, $10.9 million contract eight months after Jim Harbaugh was hired and one month before the team won its first of 13 regular season games last year.
With only one change in the line between years -- the addition of Alex Boone to Goodwin's right -- the 49ers offensive front was one of the team strengths in 2012. John Madden recognized the group as the NFL's best with the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award Wednesday morning.
[NEW: 49ers O-line wins Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award]
Offensive line coach Mike Solari's squad was one of only three NFL teams that started the same five lineman in all 16 regular season games, and Goodwin calls the consistency huge.
"It's tough with guys switching out," said Goodwin. "With it being the same guys, you get to know what the other guy is thinking, what to look for, how the other guys will block certain plays and things like that. I think it's something that's big for this offensive line and for this team -- that we all stay healthy."
Staying healthy has been pivotal for Goodwin's career, too. There was a time in his life when he was fragile; the only full season of high school football he completed was his freshman year. And, yet, he hasn't missed an NFL game since he assumed starting responsibilities four years ago.
"Fortunately, I've been able to do it for this long," Goodwin said, "and I still feel like I'm playing pretty well."
He'll have to play better than pretty well against a daunting Ravens defensive front Sunday if he wants to share that Super Bowl feeling with the rest of his 2012 49ers teammates.
*David Akers did not attempt a field goal in the Eagles' Super Bowl XXXIX loss to the Patriots in 2005 and Randy Moss caught a six-yard touchdown pass in the Patriots' Super Bowl XLII loss to the Giants in 2008.
**The Bobb McKittrick Award is given annually to the offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by Coach McKittrick during his 21 years of service with the 49ers, and was given to Goodwin in 2011 and Davis in 2012.