Hank Goff was a standout high school football player, and it led him to a Division I program at South Dakota State, where he started as a freshman at defensive end in 2005. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long—after persistent shenanigans and neglected academics, Hank flunked out in 2006.
Soon after, Goff enlisted in the Marine Corps, and in April of 2008, his regiment deployed to Afghanistan, where they would remain for almost a year. Hank’s regiment, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, was hit hard, losing 20 soldiers with another 160 wounded. When the regiment returned home, the number lost to suicide would come to exceed the number killed in Afghanistan.
As written by Reid Forgrave in his Fox Sports article, “as [Hank] sat in the living room of his grandfather’s beach house in Rhode Island that summer night back in 2011, it wasn’t the killed-in-actions that made him toss back one glass of white wine after another. It was the killed-after-actions.”
The trauma of war took its toll on Hank, who turned to excessive drinking and partying upon his return. It didn’t take long for him to recognize that he needed a way out, and that way out was football. Hank enrolled at Concordia-St. Paul in Minnesota, returning to school and to the game he loved.
In his piece with CBS, Mike Max quoted the Concordia football coach, who had said, “[Hank] needed football as much as football needed him.” Hank’s experience as a Marine, his leadership, and his work ethic were invaluable to his teammates. In 2015 Hank won the Disney Sports Spirit Award, an award given annually to college football’s most inspirational figure. Hank inspired so many in the football community and beyond with his own story and his selflessness in helping other veterans in similar situations. Hank was able to harness his love for football in a time when he needed it most, and in this way, Hank recognizes football as a salvation:
“We were all kind of the same,” Goff says, “I just found something to get out of it.” He looks at the 50-yard line and smiles. “I had this. Football. I had a goal.” ( qtd. in: Forgrave, Fox Sports News)