Matty Goodlow’s voice sounds hoarse.
Out of breath? A cold?
This has always been how the Pinnacle High (Phoenix) running back speaks, just above a whisper, forcing words out just loud enough to hear in close proximity.
It has led to a life of being bullied. It also has led to his incredible drive to show that he doesn’t need to speak loudly to be heard on the football field.
“I have always felt that Matty had a voice, and it’s just a matter of him knowing how to use it to get through this life,” said Jo Ann Goodlow, Matty’s mom.
There is a remarkable story behind the voice.
Born 13 weeks premature and weighing 3 pounds, 10 ounces, Goodlow had complications breathing. At 3 1/2 months, his airway was 95 percent closed and he had a tracheotomy tube put in his throat to help him breathe. It was the first of many surgeries before he was 4 to remove scar tissue that was closing up the airway.
“We were going in every so many months to remove scar tissue,” Jo Ann said. “More scar tissue would form. The goal was to open the airway so it wouldn’t close.”
Four years later, he underwent tracheal reconstructive surgery and he no longer needed the tube. But it left his vocal cords paralyzed. He still had a compromised airway that could have prevented him from playing sports, Jo Ann said.
“But it increased his drive to be different,” Jo Ann said.
He became a first degree black belt in Shotokan karate through the Arizona Family Karate Academy when he was 13.
He grew to 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, and, last football season, was about to burst onto the high school scene at Pinnacle, after he ran for 62 yards and two touchdowns in a 59-33 opening win over Gilbert Perry. He had three touchdowns, including a 57-yarder on a catch-and-run the next week against Phoenix Mountain Pointe, before his season suddenly ended.
He tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee. After reconstructive surgery, that drive he was born with has put him ahead of schedule in his rehab. He is set to open the season in August in Pinnacle’s backfield.
“I think Matt has such a strong ability to overcome things due to the example his mom sets,” Pinnacle coach Dana Zupke said. “She is a very strong, independent woman who balances tough love with understanding. She has raised him right.”
‘I got bullied a lot’
Jo Ann taught him to never feel defeated, to know he has a voice, to understand there are no easy roads to success and that his passion will lead him to anywhere he wants to be.
And when he spoke, be proud.
He was teased about his voice growing up.
“Going through elementary school and middle school, I got bullied a lot,” Goodlow said. “But after going through my freshman year, everything changed.”
Football gave him a place of acceptance, because, he said, “Actions speak louder than words.”
But he had to fight through each breath, knowing he doesn’t have the same capacity as others to take in air.
“I always get winded,” he said. “I just get used to not breathing.”
It’s gotten easier as he has gotten older to deal with the snide remarks about his voice.
“Coming here, I told my teammates (about how his vocal chords became paralyzed), and everyone stands up for me,” he said. “They ask me about it, and I tell them this is the loudest I can go. Everyone understands. They always think I’m sick at first.”
He said he gotten used to having a soft voice, as he and his mom have searched for a breakthrough medical procedure that would give him his voice.
They visited another doctor on Tuesday.
“We got the bad news that there is nothing they can do about his voice,” Jo Ann said. “He was told, ‘You can choose a voice or an airway.”’
He’s not going to move on in his life dejected. He knows he has opportunities for a free college education in football. Washington and UCLA have shown interest in him after he played in 7-on-7 passing tournaments in June with his Pinnacle teammates.
A powerful voice
Goodlow plans to not only play football but also join the two-time defending state championship basketball team, after being medically cleared seven months after his knee surgery.
He has one offer so far from South Dakota State.
All through this, his mom has been his rock.
“My mom says, ‘Don’t worry about what anybody says,”’ Goodlow said. “She says ‘you do you’. If they don’t accept you for that, then you really don’t need them in your life.”
She has been his protector and his motivator.
“Kids can be so cruel, because they don’t understand what someone is going through,” Jo Ann said. “I have always told Matty to ignore them, because they simply didn’t understand. What’s really sad is that the bullying has never really stopped. There are still a few here and there that still try to get to him, but I tell him, sometimes you just have to overlook the way people think.
“I have always told Matty that he has a voice, and that when he finally realizes how powerful his voice is, he will understand God’s purpose for him. I truly believe that sports is his platform. I hope that Matty can inspire someone who may think that because they had a tracheotomy, that there is no hope of ever participating in athletics. There is life after a tracheotomy.”