Jan. 22, 2009

By Lara Boyko
Special to NCAA.com

With the demands of practicing and playing schedules and all the homework that college professors can hand out, it’s easy to understand why student-athletes can be selfish. After all, they don’t have a lot of time to do much more than eat, sleep and breathe school and their sport.

Yet for all of the rightfully selfish student-athletes, there are also those other student-athletes, like 6-foot-3 senior center Shawn Goff at Mississippi, that find time to not only get it done on the playing field, but also in the classroom and community.

“When Shawn Goff speaks, it’s kind of like EF Hutton where everybody listens,” said Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner. “She is an incredible young woman and the best word I can use to describe her is ‘selfless.’ So many players at this level are selfish and she is the complete opposite. She would probably give you anything she had and anything to help someone in need. Her feelings and thoughts run very deep.”

These deep feelings and thoughts are not just something that came with the maturity of entering her senior year, but instead during her freshman year at Ole Miss.

“When I was a freshman, we had a senior on our team who was head of the community service of the team, so I thought taking over that responsibility would help me grow, mature and give back to the community and be an example to younger people in the community,” said Goff.

“I got more involved because it was more about what I saw coming back. From the emotions to seeing how it was such a positive effect in the community where we were helping individuals. It’s really hard to find the time for these activities because our practice time conflicts with a lot of the meeting times and if it is not practice then it is school.”

From previous events such as trips to the Gulf Coast to help an elderly couple repair their home damaged by Hurricane Katrina, to donating a day’s per diem to a the Salvation Army to help tornado victims and recent events such as the Reading with the Rebels (a hospice outreach program), Operation Christmas Child (a shoe drive for Kenya), assisting with the Lafayette County Christmas Store and adopting a family for Christmas, Goff has played an instrumental role this season in spearheading the majority of the Rebels’ community service efforts.

“One of the most recent ones that I thought was pretty cool was a shoe drive for kids,” said Goff. “One of the guys on our track team is from Kenya so SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee) decided to do a shoe drive for Kenya. I thought it was important because the kids needed shoes. It didn’t matter what kind they were. We had so many lying around, so I thought we shouldn’t let them go to waste and the kids in Kenya could use them to walk to school or play in.

“I literally made everyone round up their shoes from home and bring them in. The women’s basketball team alone donated about 30 pairs of shoes.”

Goff may be in a giving spirit off the court when she is on the court it is a different story. Goff ranks first on the team and fifth in the conference with 14.1 points per game and second in the conference with 2.4 blocked shots per game. In addition, Goff needs 11 more blocked shots to become the school’s all-time leader in blocks.

“She is absolutely incredible on the defensive end of the floor where she is aggressive and while it has kept her on the bench at times, we are proud of her accomplishments,” said Ladner. “I think her volleyball training in her early years have really helped her to become a great shot blocker. Her timing is there and her ability to get to the ball quickly is very good.”

Hopefully one of the younger players on the Ole Miss team will carry on Goff’s interests in community service activities, but living up to the standard Goff has set may be more challenging than finding the time to do the activities themselves.

“I’m not sure you can replace her,” said Ladner. “Truly you don’t normally get this combination of a selfless young woman who would do anything for anybody and anything for team and yet has this ability. She is a quick athletic post that has carried us a long way, in particular this year. I don’t think you replace these kinds of people but hope that others learn from her and that what she has given to this program will be carried over and everyone becomes a better person because of her.”