On Oct. 14, 1999, Jared Goff unwrapped his birthday present from his parents. Inside was a cardinal jersey, with a white No. 16, and a golden San Francisco 49ers plastic helmet. He didn’t even know whose jersey it was. It would be three years until he first played quarterback.
Goff didn’t know, then, what was in store. Now, he prides himself on being able to see the future.
“I want to be able to see things before they happen,” Goff said.
For Goff, the future is now.
“I’ve been thinking about this moment since I started throwing a ball around at five years old,” Goff said, in a piece written for The Players’ Tribune.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1605291-jared-goff-and-joe... On Thursday, one NFL team – by most reports, likely the Los Angeles Rams – will get to unwrap their gift, one that Cal fans have played with for the past three years, where they saw him make the extraordinary into the routine, and the exceptional into an expectation. Should the Rams pick Goff, he would be the second Bears quarterback ever taken first overall in the NFL Draft, and the first since Steve Bartkowski, in 1975.
“When I saw him on tape, I thought he was a good player, and I thought that he was a guy that would be a good player, but I wasn’t blown away, that this is the best quarterback in the country,” said Goff’s former offensive coordinator at Cal, Tony Franklin, who took over in December of 2012, along with new head coach Sonny Dykes, with Goff having already committed in March of 2012.
When Franklin saw Goff take on vaunted Concord (Calif.) De La Salle in the state title game, he changed his tune.
“I came back and told Sonny, I said, ‘I think this kid’s got a chance to be special.’ On film, you don’t see the competitive fire," Franklin said. “They got beat. He got physically beat up. He got knocked around. But, he competed until the last play. He fought as if his life depended on it, just like he did here, his first year, and his second year, and this year. The one thing that you notice, being out here, he’s a tough guy. Most guys flinch. You get hit the way he gets hit? You flinch. I’ve never seen it once.”
Today, Goff stands to be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, four years, one month and 17 days after he committed to California. Between then and now, Goff has set every meaningful single-season and career passing record at Cal (26, to be exact, plus two Pac-12 records, for good measure), thrown for 12,200 yards and taken 84 sacks. He’s also lost 23 games.
“We threw poor Jared to the wolves,” Dykes said, “because at that time, that wasn’t necessarily our strength in our program.”
After being mauled that first year, to the tune of 32 sacks, with a hit by Stanford defender Shayne Skov separating his throwing shoulder in a 63-13 whomping of a Big Game, Goff – ever the perfectionist – would pick three or four elements of his game to improve on, during very break in play – every winter, every spring, every summer -- and work at them until they met his standards. He was always learning, always asking questions.
“In the past, in Jared’s first year as a freshman, he didn’t call anything,” said former Cal offensive lineman Jordan Rigsbee, who himself is hoping to hear his name called this weekend. “He got out there, and all he had time to learn was what he was supposed to do. That’s all you could expect from an 18-year old kid, out there. Last year, now he’s going out there, and he’s calling some things to receivers. He’s doing this, this, and this. This summer, he’s coming up to me, in the locker room, saying, ‘When you guys are doing this on your pass protection, what’s this guy doing? What’s the left tackle doing here?’”
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1462087-behind-the-tds-jar... He’s been the steady hand at the tiller, guiding the program through a bottom-up rebuild, from a 1-11 freshman season, where he became the first ever true freshman to start a season opener for the Bears, to an 8-5 swan song, where he led Cal to its first bowl victory since 2008.
"It doesn't matter what I want you to do," Dykes told the Bears wide receivers this season. "What matters is what Jared wants you to do."
Yes, Goff had quite the corps of receivers this season, with six players either graduating or leaving early for the Draft, but more than 60% of his passing yards came through the air -- in fact, he was ranked as the top quarterback on the deep ball by ProFootballFocus.
“The group of receivers I had, they were second-to-none,” said Goff, even in the midst of draft season, deflecting praise. “They are all so good at different things, and can all bring something to the table. Kenny [Lawler]’s ball range is incredible – his catch radius – and [Daniel] Lasco’s explosiveness and athleticism are really special. They’re going to be really, really successful.”
Franklin would often leave his office at California Memorial Stadium at night, and find the film room light still on. Just as often, he’d get to his office in the morning, and, again, there Goff would be. Studying.
For Cal fans, Goff was the beacon in the night, the shining gold in a sea of inky blue.
“What I wanted to accomplish, when I came here, was to get Cal back to where it was,” said Goff, who, when he committed, counted among his most prized possessions a hat signed by DeSean Jackson. “I think we’ve done that. Going from 1-11 to being one game away from a bowl game last year, and then this year, winning eight games and finishing with a bowl victory is huge. We’re back in the right direction, back to where we want to be.”
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1644855-nfl-draft-preview-... He never complained. He never blamed. He never doubted. With draft projections and Heisman talk swirling about him like so many defensive ends during the season, he said, “I let all of you worry about that. I just want to win games.”
With every hit he took, he dusted himself off, and stood up, side by side with his teammates. It's not how many times you get knocked down, Michael Jordan once said; it's how many times you get back up.
“I took a lot of hits, I took a lot of sacks,” Goff said, “and I was able to get up from every one of them.”
If the NFL Combine is the world’s most highly-publicized job interview outside of the political arena, Goff’s three seasons at Cal are his resumé.
“I’ve always believed, at the end of the day, the most important thing on your resumé is your work experience, and how you performed with your previous employer,” Dykes said. “His resumé is impressive, and I’m not talking about the numbers. I’m just talking about his approach, his work ethic, you know exactly what you're getting with him. You look at him, he doesn’t have any – there hasn’t been any issues, there hasn’t been anything that came up, one time, in his career, that would ever give anybody any reason to think that he is going to be nothing but mature and a person that you can build an organization around.”
Former Cal and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton agreed.
“I’ve seen him play a lot, probably every game, and I don’t think anybody’s better than he is, throwing the football. He’s outstanding," said Morton, himself the No. 5 overall selection in the 1965 NFL Draft. "He could be a franchise quarterback.”
In Good Hands
When asked at the NFL Combine about his hand size – nine inches, from thumb to the tip of the pinkie finger – he didn’t wilt. He first brushed it off.
“I just heard about that yesterday, and I’ve been told I’ve had pretty big hands, my whole life,” Goff said. “I heard I had small hands, apparently, yesterday, and I’ve never had a problem with that. I don’t expect it to be a problem at all.”
When pressed on the subject, and about ball security in inclement weather, he didn’t budge. He laughed.
“I mean, I don’t know, I don’t even know how many fumbles I had in my career,” Goff said. “It was never really addressed as an issue, while I was playing. How many did I have this year?”
The reporter asking the question says that he had 24 for his career. Goff again asks, “How many did I have this year?”
The answer? Four.
“Four? That’s pretty good,” Goff said. “My freshman year, we went 1-11, so it wasn’t going very well. I probably had a bunch, that year.”
In fact, he did: 12, when he was sacked 32 times. As a sophomore, he had eight, when he was sacked 26 times.
“I think I improved on that,” Goff chuckled.
At his Pro Day, on March 18, Goff’s hands measured at 9-1/8 inches.
What was the difference?
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1653179-bttv-jared-goff-s-... “They got me a new measuring tape that’s made for small-handed people, I guess,” he deadpanned.
At the Combine, Goff was asked by one NFL executive, if he were on a bus, going down a mountain, and the bus lost its brakes, where would he want to be?
“Immediately, you all think, ‘I want to be in the back,’ but, ‘In the front,’ would be the correct answer,” Goff said. “As a quarterback, you want to be the guy to take control of it. I was talking to some of the guys who got the same question, and they said, ‘I said the driver’s seat,’ and I said, ‘That’s a good answer.’”
Goff answered, ‘The front.’
“Everybody I’ve asked, they’ve all said, ‘I want to be outside, watching it,’” Goff said.
For the past three years, he’s been in the middle of plenty of wrecks on the field, but he’s never headed for the exit.
“The defense loves him, because he’s tough,” Franklin said. “The offensive line will die for him, because he’s a tough guy. He’s got all the things that you want.”
Goff has been a perfectionist his whole life, from baseball to football.
“I think around his sophomore year [of high school], we knew football would be his future, but he still wanted to play [baseball],” said Goff’s father, Jerry, a former Cal third baseman and Major League catcher. Jerry never pushed Jared, except when the two competed in a game of driveway HORSE, or ping pong. Jared
Jerry taught Jared to swing left-handed. Whose swing did he choose to emulate? Not his dad’s. Jerry – still powerfully-built, as a Burlingame firefighter – is barrel-chested with Popeye forearms. Jared? Not so much. So, he emulated another long-levered lefty: Ken Griffey, Jr.
“Yeah, he got my height and my mom’s metabolism,” Jerry Goff joked.
But, who has the better arm?
“Shoot, in his prime, he’d say himself," Jared said. "I think he probably did. He played catcher, had a really strong arm. I used to play catcher, but I started passing him up when I was probably 18, playing baseball catch with him, in high school. He coached us in baseball, and he was still going. I think that’s where I got most of my arm strength from.”
The Ties That Bind
“The guy knew how to get the best out of everyone around him, especially me,” said Goff’s former roommate, Ray Hudson. “I never understood how much he sacrificed to get to where he is today. The guy was determined to be on top and there’s no stopping him from getting there."
The morning that Goff announced he was leaving a year early for the NFL, Hudson – his work wife, the Johnny Drama to his Vince Chase – texted him.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1478733-the-odd-couple-ray... “He said, ‘Have you changed your mind? You still haven’t thrown me a touchdown yet,’” Goff said.
The two texted the day before the Draft, too. Hudson, Goff said, would make it, too. The two reminisced: It felt like just yesterday that the two were throwing on Witter Rugby Field, in the summer of 2012.
Hudson had intercepted Goff off during a Passing Down seven-on-seven event in Sacramento earlier that summer. Instead of holding a grudge, Goff came to a Cal prospect camp at Witter, knowing that, like himself, Hudson dreamed of playing for the Bears. There was nowhere else either of them wanted to be, and though the only connection the two had was that interception, Goff looked at Hudson and said: "Let's get you that scholarship."
Goff had nothing to prove. He was already committed. Hudson was just a local kid, who, like Goff, loved the blue and gold. With Goff throwing to him, by the end of that day Hudson had his scholarship. A week later, he committed.
They became roommates for two years, hosting the Cal band in their living room when they came home following a win.
When Goff announced his decision, on Dec. 31, 2015, he choked back tears.
“Playing football and attending school at Cal has, by far, been the best experience of my life,” Goff said, “from the lifetime friendships, to the bonds I made along the way.”
On of those was Hudson. And it all started with an interception.
“Thinking about my teammates, and all the fun we’ve had, it’s hard to say goodbye to that,” Goff said.
Another Shade of Blue and Gold
When Jeff Fisher and the Los Angeles brain trust held a secret workout with Goff in the pouring rain in February, Dykes had a “pretty good feeling” that something may have been brewing. The Rams sat at No. 15, behind quarterback-hungry Cleveland, San Francisco, Dallas and Philadelphia. If they wanted Goff, they had to move up.
“Now, being able to make a move, and having a feeling that they may make a move are two totally different things,” Dykes said. “There's a lot of pieces that have to fit together to make a move. It didn't surprise me, what happened, let’s put it that way."
http://www.scout.com/nfl/rams/story/1662943-podcast-talking-jared-goff-w... Just two weeks later, the Rams acquired the top overall pick from the Tennessee Titans for their first-round pick (No. 15), two second-round picks (Nos. 43 and 45) and a third-round pick (No. 76), along with first- and third-round picks next year.
The cost was steep, but, NFL insiders say, the reason for that was because Hue Jackson, new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and Pep Hamilton, his offensive coordinator, were steering towards Goff, instead of North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz.
“When I talked to Fisher, when he was here, I said, ‘It doesn’t seem like the Browns like him,’ and he said, ‘The more negative stuff that’s out there, the more they like him,’” Dykes said.
The only thing former NFL head coach Jon Gruden doesn’t like about Goff is his music selection – Taylor Swift, in particular. In that regard, he isn’t much different from Goff’s teammates.
“There’s a couple times where he’s played some country or some Promiscuous or Taylor Swift, and we literally have to go there and rip his phone, and go, ‘Dude, we’re not listening to that,’” said former Cal receiver Bryce Treggs, another Draft hopeful.
Gruden, who put Goff through his QB Camp on ESPN, said that Goff “has everything I'm looking for in the pocket. He has great feet. He keeps his feet alive at all times. He takes punishment. He'll create new launching spots, he's a very talented pocket passer. I would want him if I were still coaching.”
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1660824-could-rams-take-ja... “I don't think you can sustain greatness without the intangibles,” Gruden said. “I mean, if you don't have the work ethic, the passion for the game, if you don't have leadership, if you don't have toughness, if you don't have intangibles, you can't sustain anything.
There will be pressure. There will be expectations. But he’ll stand there, in the middle of the roar of Los Angeles traffic, resolute and unyielding.
“He’s just calm. He’s very calm,” said Dykes. “That’s his demeanor. That’s his nature. I think our players feed off of that.”
If, as expected, Goff is taken by the Rams, he’ll be ready. For 20 years, the City of Angels has been without football. The city, certainly, will be ready.
“I don't know how you deal with pressure until you go out and prove it,” Gruden said. “Some people feel pressure, some people don't. But I just thought Goff came across as an iceman. A guy that didn't feel any pressure, he applied pressure. Nothing bothered him. I tried to get under his skin, and I'm good at that, I can really irritate people. Not even I could bother Goff. So I don't think that's going to be a problem. I think it will be a benefit staying close to home in a state that he loves, obviously.”
If Goff is indeed the golden boy for the Rams?
“It’ll be pretty awesome,” Dykes said.
“I had a guy tell me once – Chris Hatcher, who won the Harlan Hill Trophy, which is like the Division II Heisman -- and he was coaching at Kentucky when I was there, and he said, ‘If you can imagine being on a two-lane highway, and you’re on the yellow line, cars are going by you, 75 miles an hour, and you’re having to work to find a throwing lane – that’s what it’s like playing quarterback,’” said Franklin. “There’s not a lot of guys that really, truly, can operate in that confine, and not blink, not flinch. When you have that, I don’t think it’s a gift. I think part of is a gift, but I think the second part of it is an inherent toughness, and just the competitive fire of, ‘I’ll scratch your eyes out in order to make this play.’ He’s never flinched once. I’ve never seen him, one time, flinch.”
The first round of the 2016 NFL Draft will take place at Chicago's Auditorium Theater, on Thursday, April 28 at 8 p.m., Eastern, on ESPN, WatchESPN and the NFL Network. Rounds 2-3 will be broadcast on April 29 at 7 p.m., ET, broadcast on ESPN until 8 p.m., and then WatchESPN and ESPN2 afterward, as well as on the NFL Network throughout the night. Rounds 4-7 will be held on Saturday, April 30, at noon, Eastern, and will be broadcast on ESPN, WatchESPN and the NFL Network.