His first thought, when the Bears called to draft him in the second round Friday night, was that he was going to share a locker room with one of his idols.
Eddie Goldman’s second one should have been this: he’ll have to find a new number to wear.
The Florida State nose tackle donned No. 90 in college to honor the Bears’ Jeremiah Ratliff, whom he tried to emulate during his 27 starts the last two seasons. He even picked the brains of former pros he met during pre-draft workouts, wondering what Ratliff was like.
At FSU, he raided the Seminoles’ film archive just to watch tape of Ratliff.
“I just liked how physical he was, and his quickness and his grit and stuff like that,” Goldman said.
The jersey number, then, is a casualty of their new connection.
Ratliff wears No. 90 for the Bears — which means Goldman likely will not.
“I just look forward to learning a lot from him and playing alongside him,” the 6-4, 336-pounder said.
Goldman is “a true, low, strong nose tackle,” GM Ryan Pace said, and figures to stay there despite playing end as a sophomore.
“I think his best position is nose tackle,” Pace said. “I really think he’s natural at that.”
Pace said Ratliff — who he expects to return to Halas Hall after missing voluntary workout practices this past week — “has some flexibility to move around” between nose tackle and defensive end.
Chosen with the No. 39 pick, Goldman was the Bears’ second-straight defensive tackle drafted in the second round; they took Ego Ferguson last season.
“Honestly, I think I can play anywhere on the line in the NFL,” Goldman said. “I’ve played all positions and I feel comfortable at all of them, so it really doesn’t matter.”
Goldman said he didn’t have “heavy” contact with the Bears, who did not invite him to Halas Hall during draft preparations.
Goldman was a boxer as a boy and didn’t start playing football until eighth grade. By 11th grade, he knew he had the nasty streak for football. The five-star recruit out of Washington, D.C.,’s Friendship Collegiate Academy played in 10 games for the Seminoles as a freshman.
He recorded 19 tackles and two sacks as a sophomore, helping FSU lead the nation in scoring defense and win a national championship.
His 35 tackles and team-leading four sacks last season propelled him to third-team All-America status. He decided to leave school early rather than take the risks of injury as a senior.
“All aspects of my game can use improvement,” he said. “But pass-rush is something that scouts knocked me for. But I think I can pass-rush with the best of them. We’ll just have to wait and see, because I’m going to prove everybody wrong.”
Except for one man, who believes in him already.
Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, who announced the Bears’ picks Friday at “Selection Square,” said before reading Goldman’s name that he liked the pick.
That thrilled Goldman, who has an affinity for football history stoked by his father, who used to cut up film of players to show his son.
“I can go on and on about guys I watched back in the day,” he said.
Goldman’s list of influences starts with Ratliff, but includes defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Kevin Williams and, on film, even “Mean” Joe Greene and Lee Roy Selmon.
Butkus is special, though.
“He was one of my dad’s favorite players, because my dad likes those gritty type of guys,” he said. “But to hear him saying that — ‘And I like this’ — it’s so subtle and so small, but coming from him, it kinda made my heart jump a little bit.
“Because, I mean, he’s NFL royalty right there.”