Zach Goodall is a Ponte Vedra High School alum that has transformed his love of football into a career covering the Florida Gators and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Sports Illustrated. He graduated from PVHS in 2017 and he credits the support he received during those years for helping to allow him to express his creativity and develop his passion as a storyteller.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I'm Zach Goodall, I moved to Ponte Vedra from Pittsburgh when I was seven years old, and I recently relocated to Gainesville in 2019. I'm a class of 2017 graduate from Ponte Vedra High School, the self-proclaimed greatest class in school history (count up our homecoming week spirit awards.)
What led you down your current career path working for Sports Illustrated?
I played football during my first two years at PVHS but, admittedly, stopped before my final two because I knew my future wouldn't involve playing - and whatever that future was, it required better grades.
Okay, maybe that isn't true, because I never got past one semester of college.
But I couldn't fully step away from the game, it had consumed me since I moved to Florida as a young kid. I began to submit stories on a Jacksonville Jaguars fan blog and quickly bonded with journalists in the area who pointed me in the right direction on more than one occasion.
Before I knew it, the Jaguars offered me a preseason credential in 2018 and I was in while operating my own website. A year later, Sports Illustrated called and the rest was history.
What do you enjoy most about covering sports?
Besides the fact that my once-to-twice-a-week work office is a football stadium? The fact that I've grown to understand that athletes are people too, and I can help others understand that through the stories I tell.
Athletes are far too often placed upon a pedestal where they are idolized, but not understood on a personal level. They have ambitions and are driven by causes far removed from the gridiron, court and any other playing field.
Good journalism builds a bridge between the personal and athletic side of sports figures - they are more than just celebrities.
What are some of the challenges that you face?
I mean this sincerely - long hours. I am motivated to be a complete journalist and exhaust each and every resource available to me in order to tell a story, which can be difficult but isn't necessarily backbreaking. It merely leads to working around the clock which can remove free time from my schedule, but I believe it is worth it.
How did your time at Ponte Vedra High help prepare you?
My time at PVHS helped me quite a bit. I had a strong support system within the school that saw my potential and helped me realize it, from administration to teachers and students.
The end of my football career with the Sharks wasn't what I had originally envisioned, but if it did not play out that way, I may never have realized my passion for telling sports stories. I would spend my free time at school - lunch, P.E. class, you name it - researching, writing, and storytelling with my friends in order to improve my craft and the support I received in those settings helped me out tremendously.
What advice would you give to those looking to follow a similar path to yours?
Never, ever, stop digging for the truth. If you believe you've uncovered a story, let nothing stop you from seeing the truth through and telling it. Even if you end up being incorrect, the work you do to gain that knowledge will pay off.
What did you enjoy most about growing up in the North Florida area?
I spent a lot of time in the sun, playing football throughout my childhood and growing to enjoy days at the beach as I grew older.
What do you like to do in your free time?
When time allows - it's hard to come by any openings in a 24/7 work field - I enjoy a round of golf and trying new craft beers. I'm at an absolute beginner level, but I am learning to produce music as well.