Gainesville girl recalls her 2018 meeting with football superstars Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill
Framed by a tousel of bright red hair and with a smattering of faint freckles across her cheeks, 12-year-old Clara Goodman’s eyes were glued to her family’s TV screen Sunday night as the Kansas City Chiefs made history, destroying their 50-year dry spell to take home the Super Bowl LIV champion title.
Clara, one the most adorable Chiefs fans in the team’s history, was ecstatic with the nail-biting win.
“She was cheering so hard when we won, she teared up and said, ‘Mama, we did it!’ Then she gave me a big hug,” Clara’s mom, Amanda Goodman told the Times Monday. “She’s still so happy.” Clara’s excitement about the Kansas City Chiefs victory is not unusual this week in Ozark County, where lots of football fans were cheering on the Chiefs Sunday night, but Clara has one bragging right that makes her stand apart from most other local fans.
She’s done more than watch the Chiefs work their magic on the football field; she’s stood next to some of Kansas City’s greatest players, including Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, and others.
Born a Chiefs fan
Amanda says it isn’t a far stretch to say Clara’s first scream after she was born was a cheer for her favorite team.
“I’ve been a fan for my whole life,” Clara, a fifth grader at Gainesville Ele-mentary School told the Times. “All of it.”
Born to John and Amanda Goodman, who are both Chiefs fans, Clara has grown up religiously watching every football game with her family.
“We were always fans, but when Gus started playing football in the fifth grade, we learned more about it, and then I really started becoming a super fan,” Amanda said, referring to Clara’s now-17-year-old brother, Gus, who played on Ozark Football Association’s Gainesville team. “Now we’re big fans.”
Just like her parents, Clara’s love for the Kansas City Chiefs grew through the years, and she fell in love with the dynamic elements of the sport.
Despite struggling with cystic fibrosis, a lung condition that limits her ability to breathe, Clara said she knew she wanted to be on the field herself one day. When she was in third grade, most of the other girls her age joined the OFA cheer squad, but Clara proudly announced to her parents that she was going to play football.
“She is loving football,” Amanda posted to Facebook following an August 2017 game. “Her favorite is tackling… tackling and getting tackled. She says it’s thrilling!”
Clara played on the team for two years.
David Murphy, a former OFA coach who was active in organizing the Gainesville teams, said he wasn’t Clara’s coach while she played, but he got to see her fierce spirit throughout the time she was on the field.
“Clara was a very smart player and always willing to play any position asked. She is definitely much tougher than she looks and has a genuine passion for the game,” he said. “Beyond all of that, she is just an awesome person to be around. …hilarious, kind and a hard worker – exactly the kind of kid every coach needs on their team.”
“She took a season off last year, but she thinks she wants to play again this year because it’ll be the last time she can at Gainesville,” Amanda said, referring to the OFA league’s age limitations.
Throughout her own football experience, Clara’s love for the Chiefs only became stronger, and she attended her first Kansas City Chiefs home-opener at Arrowhead Stadium three years ago.
“There are so many games that are cold, it’s difficult sometimes with her CF,” Amanda said. “But we’ve tried to hit the warmer games.”
Clara has had different favorite players through the years, but her strongest connection was with Eric Berry, a defensive back who played for the Chiefs from 2010 to 2019.
“Her first time going to a game was when Eric Berry was still there, and she just loved him… because he went through cancer and came back stronger and all,” Amanda said. “With her and her CF, she just felt kind of connected to him. Whenever he left, we were sad. We get attached to them, and then they leave. But she has his jersey… she got it at her first game.”
Meeting the Legends
In 2018, Amanda spotted an advertisement for an event that she knew Clara would love. Tyreek Hill was hosting a charity basketball game at the Mason-Halpin Fieldhouse at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, and the celebrity roster was filled with some of Amanda and Clara’s favorite Kansas City Chiefs stars along with other big-name players.
The event raised money for Hill’s foundation Touchdown 4A’s, an educational grade improvement and scholarship program focused on helping kids in Hill’s home state of Georgia pay for college expenses.
“The VIP tickets were only like $57 a piece, and that meant you got to pick a seat right up front and then you got to meet some of the players after the game,” Amanda said. “So we scooped up some tickets right away.”
The mother-daughter duo road-tripped their way to Kansas City from their Gainesville home and grabbed their up-front seats at the game. They were thrilled to see their favorite players showing off their athletic skills on the basketball court.
“It was amazing. Tyreek was standing right there in front of us, and he’d just jump up straight into the air and do a back flip. His legs are just so powerful,” Amanda said. “And I have pictures of Patrick Mahomes shooting baskets. He was excellent at basketball.”
Amanda and Clara were having a blast when the second quarter ended and the halftime break began.
It was then that Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes came out onto the floor and asked the audience who was ready to play a halftime game. The crowd went wild, and fans all over the gym were literally jumping at the chance to get onto the floor with the superstars.
Clara, decked out in head-to-toe Chiefs fan gear, made the biggest show her tiny frame could manage among the packed crowd.
“It was funny, because we were right there…Clara starts jumping up and down screaming, ‘Me, me, me, me!’ There was a boy over behind us, and he had on just a regular black T-shirt. [Tyreek] pointed our direction and said, ‘Come on out…’ The boy said, ‘Who, me?’ And [Tyreek] said, “No, not you. The little girl in the gear.’ She was all Chief-y dressed. I had to lower her down so she could go out there,” Amanda said.
Clara joined six other participants, all teenage boys at least a foot taller than she was, in the center of the court where Mahomes and Tyreek waited. The football stars explained that each player needed to complete a task, either shooting a lay-up, free-throw or three-point shot within a certain amount of time before the buzzer rang. Clara was tasked with shooting a lay-up.
“Oh, gosh, the goal was so far up,” Clara said. “It was the goal they’d been playing on, and it was tall-tall.”
The buzzer sounded, indicating the start of the game, and Clara gave it her best shot. Despite the incredibly high goal, she didn’t give up. She kept attempting to make the shot.
“Tyreek was right there with her. He kept encouraging her,” Amanda said. “He stood right by her, saying, ‘Keep going, keep going. It’s all right. You got it. You got it,” Amanda said.
“Yeah, and he nicknamed me ‘halftime girl,’” Clara said. “He kept calling me that. Mahomes was really nice too. He gave me a high five, and that was exciting.”
Although she didn’t win the halftime game, Clara was thrilled that she was chosen to participate and got to meet some of her favorite players.
After the game, Clara and Amanda went to another gym where VIP attendees were able to talk with the players, take photos and get autographs. Clara bought a red Chiefs hat and got signatures from the players who were available for autographs: Charcandrick West, Kareem Hunt, Spencer Ware, De’Anthony Thomas and Tyreek Hill.
A true fan treasure
The hat and photos of Clara with some of the Chiefs’ most popular players has won her more bragging rights.
“Everyone in my class was jealous when they saw the pictures,” Clara said. “They think it’s awesome – and I do too.”
And while Clara will remember the Chiefs skillful navigation of Sunday night’s Super Bowl victory for years to come, she says it’s the kindness and encouragement the players showed her during the 2018 charity game that she truly treasures.
“They were all super sweet to her,” Amanda said. “It was an awesome day.”