Steve Bartkowski was the last -- and only -- Cal player to be taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft

Steve Bartkowski was the last Cal player taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft, but his experience and that of Jared Goff couldn't be further apart.

Today, in the green room of Auditorium Theater in Chicago, former California quarterback Jared Goff has his family, his youth football coach, his former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and his former head coach, Sonny Dykes. If Goff is taken by the Los Angeles Rams, he will be the second Golden Bear ever taken, first overall.

Back in 1975, when former Cal quarterback Steve Bartkowski was taken first overall, there was no green room.

“It was just me, all backstage by my lonesome,” he laughs.

There was no ESPN. There was no NFL Network. There was hardly any pomp and circumstance. There was Pete Rozelle, an Atlanta Falcons jersey, and Bartkowski, in a borrowed sport coat (he didn’t own one), in the ballroom of the Rockefeller Center Hilton.

Jared Goff? He looks like James Bond, with an $80 haircut and a tailored suit.

“Now, they get all rigged out for the party, and it’s quite a party, too,” says Bartkowski. “The NFL does a great job, with this. Thanks to ESPN, they have a great broadcast partner there, and they’re looking for content, and the NFL provides a lot of it, for him, so it’s a good partnership.”

There were no other picks there, not like the 30-40 that attend the party, now, every year.

“Historically, that’s the way they did it,” said Bartkowski, who was selected by the Atlanta Falcons, and played with them until 1985. “Pete Rozelle had a jersey with my name on it, called my name, we stood behind the podium and he announced me as the first pick in the draft, and, ‘Gentlemen, start your engines,’ from there. The game has changed so much over the last four years.” Bartkowski hasn’t been back since. The Falcons – for whom Bartkowski is a member of the Board of Directors – invited Bartkowski to announce a pick at this year’s draft. In retrospect, he says, he regrets not being able to make it work.

“I just had too much going on, and had to say no,” he says.

Back when Bartkowski was picked, the draft was much different. For one: The lead-up time was nil.

Goff has worked out for more than half of the NFL. Bartkowski never had a workout for the Falcons. His shoulder hurt too much.

Bartkowski had a shoulder that had been poked plenty, but not by NFL team doctors; by shots to relieve pain.

“If the process was the same, I would have probably fallen way down on the draft boards, just from the standpoint of, I played most of my senior year with a separated right shoulder,” Bartkowski said.

Bartkowski hurt that shoulder in the third quarter of a 31-14 win over No. 14 Illinois in the fourth game of the 1974 season. A linebacker came unblocked and hit him in the middle of a handoff, and his right shoulder hit the ground.

“That was my throwing shoulder,” Bartkowski said. “Basically, I had that thing shot up all year long, and didn’t throw a lot of passes in practice. It was one of those deals where, the scrutiny now is so great that somebody would have found that. It took about 15 to 20 yards off of my long throw, too, just from playing hurt and playing through that.”

It wasn’t until 1982 that what would become the NFL Scouting Combine – a wall-to-wall, televised and scrutinized made-for-TV event, now – would come together, with the primary goal of giving all prospects medical evaluations.

That Combine has grown into a three-day made-for-TV event, with not only the medical examinations, but drills and skill evaluations.

Potential NFL draftees are scrutinized down to the inch. Goff’s hand size was a topic of discussion for several weeks – and, to a small degree, still has been, even in the final hours before the Draft.

Without the combine – and with just a 14-game regular season and just two rounds of playoffs before the Super Bowl – the NFL Draft was held in late January, less than a month after the end of the college football season, and two weeks after the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX.

“The things I do recall, was how different the selection system was, back then. ESPN, as we know it today, has recreated the way we look at sports, in all facets of it,” said Bartkowski from his Atlanta home, where he serves on the board of directors of the team that drafted him – the Atlanta Falcons. They make the Draft a month-long production. They do shows about it, and so on and so forth. “There’s a lot more time and effort put into this. My draft was in January, right after the football season, so there wasn’t a lot of buildup. There wasn’t a combine. There wasn’t anything like that. There was just pro workout day, and you tried to do your best there, and if you did and there were enough scouts there, you might get a look.”

Bartkowski brought plenty of accolades to the table, even with a bum shoulder. He led the nation with 2,580 passing yards, was a consensus All-American (two years after being named an All-American on the baseball diamond), and threw for over 300 yards four times – all after hurting that shoulder. He finished 10th in Heisman voting.

Three days before the draft, the Falcons called him.

“The Atlanta Falcons had the third pick in the draft, and they called me and said that they’d made a deal to move up to the No. 1 spot, and they were going to take me,” says Bartkowski. “That, for me, was the culmination of really a lifelong dream. I always wanted to be a ballplayer. Of course, I thought it was going to be the round ball instead of the oblong one. It turned out it was a pretty cool feeling to get that done, and achieve the goal and the objectives I had, and become a pro.”

Like Goff, Bartkowski was a two-sport athlete in high school, but once he got to college, Bartkowksi continued playing, as a first baseman, third baseman and catcher. Then-head coach Mike White allowed it, but on one condition.

“Catcher was my projected [position],” Bartkowski says. “I think that they had some kind of a deal worked out, the football and baseball coaches had a deal worked out where they didn’t want me squatting behind the plate, basically – the football coaches didn’t want me catching, with the wear and tear.”

Bartkowski went on to play 11 years in the NFL, including nine for the Falcons. He finished his career with 24,124 passing yards, two Pro Bowl selections, an Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and a spot in the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor. His final year? Spent with the Los Angeles Rams.

Goff and Bartkowski have never met, but the last No. 1 overall pick to come out of Berkeley is still plenty excited to get some company.

“I’ve never met him, and I don’t know if anyone’s ever really tried very hard to get us together, for whatever reason, but I’m certainly a fan,” Bartkowski said. “I’m excited for him on his big day. I think I can certainly relate to the feelings he must have inside, the feelings of elation, feelings of, ‘Boy, I hope this team that picks me is good,’ because that has a lot to do with success, early on, for sure. You’re always as good as the guys around you. That’s the one thing playing quarterback teaches you. I think should it be L.A., they’ll put a pretty solid group of guys around him. They sure have a running back he can hand it to and take a lot of load off of him, in [Todd] Gurley, for sure.” Top Stories