San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin celebrates after scoring during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Los Angeles. Mark J. Terrill AP
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin celebrates after scoring during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Los Angeles. Mark J. Terrill AP

49ers with Matt Barrows

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San Francisco 49ers

‘It’s been a wonderful journey for me’: Marquise Goodwin wins 49ers’ top honor

By Matt Barrows

mbarrows@sacbee.com

January 01, 2018 12:25 PM

SANTA CLARA

Marquise Goodwin said Monday that he was symptom-free following a vicious blow to the head a day earlier and that his biggest concern while at a Los Angeles hospital Sunday was finding a nurse who could stream the 49ers-Rams game on her phone.

He eventually got to watch the second half of the 49ers’ 34-13 victory, flew back to the Bay Area with teammates after the game and on Monday was told he had won the 49ers’ top honor, the Len Eshmont Award.

The award, which is voted on by only the players, was established in 1957 and goes to the 49er who best exemplifies the “inspirational and courageous play of Eshmont,” a member of the inaugural 1946 squad.

Goodwin’s endurance, resolve and tenderness were impressive in 2017. He dealt not only with the loss of his infant son, who was stillborn in November, but the passing of his father last month in Texas. He didn’t miss a game and toward the end of the season emerged as the 49ers’ best receiver. He finished with a team-high 962 receiving yards and would have had an excellent shot at the 1,000-yard mark if not for the hit that knocked him out of the game just before halftime.

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“It’s been a long season, but it’s been a wonderful journey for me,” said Goodwin, 27, who was on his way home to Texas on Monday. “Coming from Buffalo where I didn’t quite get to showcase all my talents. … being able to break out and accomplish all of the things I’d always wanted to, it’s truly a blessing.”

In four seasons with the Bills, Goodwin never ascended beyond the role of No. 3 receiver. He had 431 yards in his best year there. With the 49ers, Goodwin, who is signed through next season, began the season as the team’s No. 2 receiver, then had to rise to No. 1 status after Pierre Garcon was lost for the year in Week 8.

“It proved to me that I was capable of achieving some of the things that I did this year,” he said. “I’m ecstatic about what’s to come in the future.”

Goodwin also won the Ed Block Courage Award and the Garry Niver Award, which is voted on by reporters who cover the team. Other honors that were announced during a morning meeting with players:

▪ Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who like Goodwin was a free-agent acquisition in March, won the Bill Walsh Award, which is voted on by coaches. Juszczyk will be the 49ers’ lone Pro Bowl representative later this month.

▪ Center Daniel Kilgore won the Bobb McKittrick Award, which goes to the offensive linemen who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice of the team’s former longtime offensive line coach. Kilgore is scheduled to be a free agent, and his potential re-signing got strong votes of support Monday from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tackle Joe Staley.

▪ The Hazeltine Iron Man Award went to defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who started all 16 games and played more snaps than any other 49ers defensive lineman. Buckner ironically suffered a chest injury Sunday and had to leave the game. He was scheduled for medical tests Monday but the injury did not appear serious.

▪ The Thomas Herrion Memorial Award, which is given to a rookie or first-year player, went to safety Adrian Colbert, a seventh-round pick who began the year as a cornerback. He was pressed into service at free safety and started six games there, the most recent ones while dealing with a broken thumb.

“I like to use Adrian Colbert as a prime example of the draft class as a whole,” Staley, the longest tenured 49er, said when asked about the 2017 rookies. “Not really a whole lot’s expected of a seventh-round pick, but he came in every single day and was the first guy in, the last guy out. That’s cliché, but it really was true for him. I’d get here and he’d already been here for an hour just working on anything he could do.”

The Len Eshmont Award has gone to Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin and Colin Kaepernick in recent years. Kaepernick received his after kneeling during the anthem throughout 2016, defying predictions that said his stance would tear apart the locker room.

Goodwin and safety Eric Reid, meanwhile, continued Kaepernick’s action in 2017. They were joined at times by outside linebacker Eli Harold and receiver Louis Murphy.

Goodwin became the heart and soul of the team this year in part because of his on-field performance but also because of the empathy he gave others and the courage he showed at his lowest moments. Many fans were drawn to him in the summer when cameras caught him giving a warm and sincere pep talk to Austin DeMello, an 11-year-old with brain cancer who visited a team practice in August. DeMello died in October, a month before Goodwin lost his own child.

“It’s all part of the experience,” Goodwin said. “I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go through that, those types of things. I’ve always had to be resilient my whole life. I’ve always had the short end of the stick. I’ve always had traumatic things happen. And I’ve always had to overcome and endure.”

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.