No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick Jared Goff remembered for leadership, poise

BERKELEY -- Jared Goff's former teammates dish on what it meant to see him picked No. 1 overall, and their fondest memories of Goff over the last three years.

BERKELEY -- Jared Goff is the perfect mix of the laudable and the lovable, the loquacious and the laconic, the daring and the dorky, aw-shucks and awesome. It's fitting that the day on which Goff went No. 1 overall to the Los Angeles Rams, was National Superhero Day. Goff has been both the Boy Wonder and Batman.

One theme keeps coming up with his teammates and coaches, when they describe the No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick: Forged in the fire.

Senior quarterback Zach Kline -- who lost the 2013 quarterback battle to Goff -- relates how strength coach Damon Harrington tells the players that the sharpest swords must be heated in a furnace, and hammered until their edge is keen. Goff has been in that fire, and he's emerged tougher, sharper. After the eruption in the dining room of the Simpson Center followed Goff's selection, and well into the middle of the first round, Oregon's DeForrest Buckner is selected No. 7 overall by the San Francisco 49ers, Kline said, "Like old times."

Buckner will face Goff - and his Los Angeles Rams on Monday, Sept. 12, the first Monday Night Football of the NFL season, and will again be right on Goff's heels, as he was on a waterlogged October night in 2013, Goff's 1-11 rookie season. Goff fumbled on two of Cal's first three drives, with Buckner sacking him and stripping him once.

"I felt like I was swimming," Goff said.

He was pulled for Kline.

"It was definitely hard," Kline said. "I felt for Jared, because those were rough conditions. That was the most rain Eugene ever saw. But, honestly, you grow from that. Every time Jared has that get brought up, that fuels the fire."

Over the last last three seasons, Goff has seen opportunities where others see setbacks.

“The Rams are getting a heck of a player, and somebody who’s been through a lot," said head coach Sonny Dykes, who hitched his wagon to Goff for the first three years of his tenure in Berkeley. "It was emotional for me, sitting there watching him, thinking about everything he's gone through, everything we've been through together. It's tough. You're around these players, these young men, for three years, and you spend so much time with them, and sometimes you're around them more than you are your family, and when something good happens to them, you get to celebrate. You feel like you have 150 kids, and it's great to see something special happen to him. I'm looking forward to seeing some of those other players getting the call, as well." The losses, the hits, the 84 sacks, Goff was pushed to the breaking point, but he never shattered.

"Those are the moments that you cling on to, that make you work harder," Kline said. "In the end game, it teaches you, more than it's a detriment."

"We threw poor Jared to the wolves that first year," Dykes said.

That Oregon game was one of two that Goff counts as the worst of his life. The other was his five-interception game against Utah, this past season.

"The good thing was, I think, in some ways, certainly the Utah game was good for him," said Dykes. "He had played so well up to that point, that it was almost like everybody expected him to play perfect. Quarterbacks just don't play perfect, and it doesn't matter if you're Peyton Manning. It doesn't matter if you're Drew Brees -- you're not going to play perfect every week," Dykes said following the Draft. "It was a little bit of a burden lifted off his shoulders, in some way, because he got to hit the reset button, and he got to be human again."

Before the Draft, defensive back Cameron Walker tweeted about how meaningful it would be, for members of that 1-11 2013 team to finally be rewarded.

"I just had a flashback," Walker told BearTerritory. "Everything that we've been through since then, everything from meeting Jared at the spring game, my senior year of high school, to the shenanigans at Clark Kerr to the 1-11 season, to Ted [Agu] to the season after that, to this season, it's the icing on the cake. For us, it's good seeing people from our class doing that, because it lets us know we can do the same thing -- maybe not go No. 1 overall, but be in a similar position."

While some pundits counted Goff's 23 losses as a major demerit, former NFL running back and Concord (Calif.) De La Salle coach Maurice Jones-Drew counted that as experience under fire.

"You’re going to have to deal with some type of adversity throughout the course of your career," Jones-Drew said. "He’s done that. He’s handled that."

Goff's will has been iron. He's taken licks and kept on ticking. He's voraciously consumed every bit of film he can find on Manning, on Brees, and on Aaron Rodgers.

“In and out of the film room, I know he’d come in late at night to watch film, get better, learn the defense, and just consistently being a leader and working hard," said redshirt sophomore quarterback Chase Forrest. "That was the big thing that I saw. Being poised and letting the game come to him, I’ve tried to take that from him, as well.”

As much as an inspiration as he's been, as tough as he's had it, Goff has stayed the same, off the field. 

To his teammates and friends, Goff has never stopped being human. "Ray, am I allowed to talk about the Clark Kerr shenanigans?" Walker asks Ray Hudson, after the post-Draft din in the Simpson Center cafeteria has abated. Hudson, with a wave, grants permission.

"The pumpkin, the Christmas lights," Walker begins, before Hudson butts in with the thrust of the story: "We almost got kicked out of Clark Kerr."

"For doing stupid things," Walker said, picking up the narrative. "You can only get written up for a certain amount of times in a certain time period, and they (Goff and Hudson) were on their last strike, and they'd get written up for stupid things, like having Christmas lights up in their dorm. One time, they put a candle in a pumpkin for Halloween, for decoration. They got in trouble for that."

Some rogue decorating seems pretty low-key. Finding two full-sized Vespas in the room, though, isn't.

"They parked the scooters, the mopeds in the room," Walker said. "Their room, you didn't have to go up any stairs or anything. Their room had open space outside, so they could just drive it into their room -- Ray, Jared, and Matt Anderson and Carson O'Connell."

And then, there's the dancing.

"He tried," Walker said. "I'm going to stop my mouth. He got better. He got better."

"It's funny," said Forrest, Goff's understudy last season. "It's Jared. We all know how Jared is ... Jared Goof, as we sometimes call him. I can't pinpoint it. It's just his personality."

To see Goff on the big screen, without his trademark sandals or Patagonia hat was a bit of a shock to Hudson and those who know Goff best.

“If he ever reads this, man, that suit," Hudson said. "That suit he wore, mad respect for that. That was the biggest change I’ve ever seen. No Patagonia hat, he was killing it.”

"That Giorgio Armani suit? Yeah," Forrest added. "We were curious to see what he was going to wear. I knew, prior, that he was going to go all-out, which, we're thankful he did. We didn't know what he was going to wear, but it was awesome. One of our buddies in the city helped him pick it out, because he works for Giorgio Armani. I saw previews of it all. We were all like, 'OK, Jared, finally stepping it up.' He posted all about it on twitter -- the shaving, the haircut -- it was a good fit. It looked good." Hudson and Goff forged a deep and profound friendship, starting at a prospect camp where Goff helped Hudson earn his scholarship offer, in the summer of 2012.

“I didn’t know what to do, how to be," Hudson said. "I was a nervous wreck. He came over, grabbed me, and said, ‘Let’s just play ball. Let’s just throw the ball around and see what happens.’ Every ball was right there. It was a cool day. It was a lot of work, for both of us. We never knew what we were getting into, but after that, it all paid off.”

What they were getting into was a friendship that would come to define them both. Later, when Cal upset UCLA for homecoming, the two cemented plans to be roommates their freshman year. They lived together -- the perfect work-wife-work-husband relationship -- for two years. The 10 minutes at the start of the draft seemed even longer.

“After the longest 10 minutes of my life," Hudson smiled. "I can’t imagine how long it was for him, but what happened, it was unbelievable. It’s that feeling of relief that all his hard work paid off, and it’s huge to see. They got a great guy ... Honestly, every day, he was day-in and day-out, working. There was all these people trying to get a hold of him, always people trying to get him to sign this, sign that, and h always stayed focused on the main goal, and that was to be as ready as possible, not for the combine, not for this day, but for when he comes in to L.A. and starts working.”

For Kline, who once competed with Goff for the starting job, there's never been any ill will. 

"I couldn’t be prouder or more happy. It’s absolutely amazing," Kline said. “I knew as soon as we were competing. I knew that he was a great player ... He’s a guy that you want to play for. We were listening to him, this whole week, leading up to draft day, something that asked, ‘Why should you draft Jared?’ He said, ‘I’m a leader. I’ve got quick feet.’ When you say, ‘I’m a leader,’ it’s like, yeah, there are few people who understand how hard it is to come in, as a freshman, and lead a team of guys that are older than you. He’s done it before, and he can go into the Rams and do it again.”

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