It wasn't that he didn't like football growing up, Dallas Goedert said Saturday, it was just that basketball was easier.
Not easier to master, necessarily, but more feasible, at Britton-Hecla High in Britton, South Dakota, which last year included all of 148 students in grades nine through 12.
"When we played football, we were never very good. I think we had 19 guys out from 9 to 12, so the coach would be playing defense," Goedert said during his introductory news conference at the NovaCare Complex, the day after the Eagles made him their first selection of the NFL draft, in the second round, 49th overall.
"It's just a lot harder. You just weren't winning as much. Our offense in high school was pretty basic. Didn't really know what was going on. But when I got to college and I got in the weight room and got with other people that love the sport, I just couldn't give it up, and I love it. It just came.
"I feel like in high school I was a pretty naturally strong guy. I never went to the weight room. We didn't really have a weight program. So, once I got to South Dakota State and we had the weight program every day, we had the conditioning every day, I was just able to develop into my body. I feel like it just came pretty naturally."
One other factor in switching his focus: Though Goedert loved to bring the ball up the court, and could shoot from the perimeter, he was a 6-foot-5 center/forward. His mother, Mary, noted that this was not ideal.
"Trying to decide between if I was going to play college basketball or college football, she kind of mentioned that not a lot of people my size make it to the NBA at the position I'd be at, and she thought I'd have a better chance playing football," Goedert said. "So, I've got to thank her for pushing me over the edge."
Goedert redshirted as a walk-on tight end at South Dakota State, added a lot of weight and muscle, and after catching 164 passes for 2,404 yards over the last two seasons, he ended up attracting representatives from every NFL team to the South Dakota State pro day.
On Saturday, Goedert found himself holding up for the cameras the midnight green No. 88 jersey that most recently belonged to Trey Burton, who threw a certain touchdown pass in the Super Bowl a few months back. Burton is a Chicago Bear now, after signing a four-year, $32 million contract. If you wanted to pencil in Goedert as Burton this season, and veteran free agent signee Richard Rodgers as Brent Celek, that might be a rough approximation of how things shape up right now behind Zach Ertz.
"He's a tremendous player, a tremendous asset and a weapon for us that I think we can utilize with some of the things you saw last year with Trey Burton, and having him on the field as well with Zach," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said after the Birds traded up from 52nd overall in the second round to 49th, one slot ahead of the Cowboys, to grab Goedert. Howie Roseman wouldn't confirm the move was related to Dallas unexpectedly losing Jason Witten to retirement earlier in the day and suddenly being more squarely in the market for a tight end, but that was Goedert's thought, and that of much of the NFL.
"I think they definitely jumped ahead because they thought there was a good chance the Cowboys would take me," said Goedert, whose first name was derived from his father's Cowboys fandom. "I'm honored they did that and traded up to take me and everything. It's just incredible to be here, and it was an incredible night."
It's becoming a familiar story around here, the small-school guy from the Dakotas who didn't start out as a top prospect. Carson Wentz helped guide Goedert to Wentz's agent group, long before it was clear they would become Eagles teammates.
"He sent me a text message and kind of sold them to me on the agency," Goedert said. "Feel like he's a great guy, great football player as well, and I figured if he liked [Rep 1], I thought I'd do good with them as well."
Among Goedert's accomplishments is his mastery of the unicycle, which apparently is kind of a thing in South Dakota.
"I was looking through the J.C. Penney catalog one day, the Christmas catalog, the thick one. I saw a unicycle and I told my mom that I wanted one," Goedert said. "She said, 'Well, your grandpa has a bunch of unicycles, we used to ride them all the time.' So I said, 'Can we go get one? Let's do it.'
"So I learned how. I have three other cousins that know how, too. And we ride in parades or centennials, 125th, Fourth of July parades, in small towns around Britton. It was one of the biggest attractions in the parade, people love seeing it."