Zaviar Gooden’s speed made him one of a kind among linebackers available in the 2013 NFL draft.
With the Tennessee Titans, who came to contract terms with him on Wednesday, it makes him one of two.
Gooden, a three-year starter, at Missouri, was the fastest linebacker at this year’s scouting combine when he was timed in 4.47 seconds for the 40-yard dash. That was part of the reason the Titans drafted him in the third round, much like a year earlier when they also selected the fastest linebacker, Zach Brown, in the second round.
“You can’t teach speed and you can’t tackle no one if you can’t get to the play,” Gooden said on draft day. “I think [the 40 time] helped out a ton and I think it opened some eyes to some teams. I think it helped me out quite a bit.”
Gooden is the fifth of the eight players drafted by the Titans in April to come to terms. Those who have yet to sign are first-round pick Chance Warmack, second-round choice Justin Hunter and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, also a third-round pick who went 27 spots ahead of Gooden, who said he has run the 40 in as fast as 4.34 seconds.
Gooden was a safety when he started at the University of Missouri but moved to linebacker following a redshirt season. After one season as a backup, he became a starter.
He remained a member of the first-team defense for three seasons as his weight increased from 215 to 230 pounds. He added five more pounds since the end of last season.
“I have great footwork for a linebacker and I can run and cover like a [defensive back],” he said. “Tight ends and running backs are not a problem so I feel like I am an every-down guy. When it’s third down, you are not going to be taking me off the field and subbing in a nickel guy. I can do it all.”
When it comes to his speed, though, he is not alone with his current team. In 2012, Brown was clocked at 4.44 seconds at the combine and 4.37 at his pro day.
“Obviously, we are both real fast for the position,” Gooden said. “He used to be a track guy and I used to run track back in high school as well. I can see where the similarities and why people are comparing us. At the end of the day, he is Zach Brown and I am Zaviar Gooden.”
And now Zaviar Gooden has an NFL contract.