CHARLOTTE - Nick Goings called the eight years he spent playing with Carolina his lifelong dream come true. But after leaving the league, Goings didn't struggle to find his post-retirement passions.
Today, the former Panthers running back is raising his 11-year-old daughter Nixon-Kai with his wife Memi, living on the North Carolina coastline, and helping take care of thoroughbred horses through Swifty Farms, which has been in his family for more than 50 years.
The NFL lifestyle ran at a different pace than his current life. Goings' days are filled with time on Wrightsville Beach when he isn't traveling for his daughter's cheer competitions or heading back to the farm in Seymour, Indiana.
And there's a sense of satisfaction he'll speak with when discussing his years in the league and post-football lifestyle.
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"It was a lot of fun," Goings said of playing in the NFL. "It wasn't really work; it was just something I really enjoyed doing."
Goings was with the Panthers for his entire professional playing career from 2001-08, and he was on the team for the 2003 season's Super Bowl run. He had his best year in 2004, putting up 1,215 all-purpose yards - 821 rushing and 394 receiving.
Goings went on to share his love of football and the Panthers with Nixon-Kai, who plays Madden video games with him and has a collection of jerseys, including her father's own No. 37. They'll make the drive up to Charlotte a couple of times a year to catch games.
He's gone from running back to cheer dad in post-football life, supporting his daughter's competitive cheer squad and hoping to lead by example thanks to the skill set he learned from his career as a professional athlete.
"I love it," Goings said. "Being an athlete myself and seeing how much she likes it... It's really cool. Last year, we went down to Disney for championships, and they got a bid to go down again this year. So we just have a lot of fun with it, and I am definitely embracing the cheer dad role."
He also travels biweekly to the family farm in Indiana, which he helps operate alongside his sister, Tiffany Johnson. During their busy season, they'll host anywhere from 150 to 200 horses, bred on the farm and raced.
"Growing up, we always went to the farm and had a lot of fun visiting," he said. "Since then, we lost my grandma a few years ago, and my sister and I took over the reins. I kind of knew (over) the last few years or so that it would become a responsibility at some point, so I had a little bit of a heads-up. But it's really a blessing, and it's a lot of fun to work with my sister."
Goings likes that he can split his time between the rural areas and the coast, a passion he and his wife have shared since before they married in Hawaii. He said his day-to-day is often spent tubing, waterskiing, or relaxing on the beach with his family.
"Before we lived here, we would travel out (to Hawaii) a lot, got a taste of the water and everything," Goings said. "We really enjoy that."
Goings is originally from Columbus, Ohio, and went to college at Ohio State and Pittsburgh. His wife is a Kannapolis native, and they found their perfect spot in the Carolinas, where he spent his playing career.
Goings found his NFL dream with the Panthers and has stayed around the Carolinas to raise his family, enjoy life after the league, and remain active. And his appreciation for the state where he found his professional opportunity continues to grow.
"I love it, from the mountains all the way to the coast; it's just an awesome state to live in," Goings said.