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Column: As Jared Goff goes through growing pains his family endures a ‘surreal’ experience

Rams quarterback Jared Goff looks to pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter of a game at the Coliseum on Aug. 20.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Even though she’s the mother of a No. 1 overall draft pick, Nancy Goff is unassuming and agreeable. She didn’t want to say no Saturday to “Hard Knocks,” but she ultimately decided she didn’t want to wear a microphone for the HBO docu-drama while she watched the Rams play Kansas City in an exhibition game.

“I told them, ‘Have you seen those gymnastics parents at the Olympics? It’s not the best sight,’” she said. “I can get a little animated.”

That was a prudent choice considering Jared Goff’s first two possessions ended with fumbles Saturday. On his second snap, he started to roll left, tripped over the foot of guard Cody Wichmann, and lost the ball when he hit the ground. The second fumble rolled out of bounds, when Goff was chased down for a seven-yard loss on third down.

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His night got better. Early in the fourth quarter, he directed a five-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Brown — not pinpoint, but good enough — as the Rams seized a 21-20 lead they would not relinquish.

The game marked the second rough beginning for Goff, who once again came off the bench to replace capable starter Case Keenum. A week earlier, on his first career pass, Goff was hit hard by Dallas as he threw, and his wobbly pass was plucked out of the sky by a Cowboys defender.

Goff’s parents, Jerry and Nancy, sat for an interview with The Times before the Chiefs-Rams game, giving their perspective on the head-spinning experience of the past few months. The chat took place in a family member’s RV, parked in a far corner of a Coliseum parking lot. A group of about 15 family and friends made the trip down from Northern California for the game.

There were some Goff highlights in the game, too, including his first career touchdown pass, a 10-yard toss in the fourth quarter. Sprinkled throughout the Coliseum were fans wearing his No. 16 jersey.

“It’s surreal,” Jerry said of seeing fans with GOFF across their shoulders. “I can’t even explain it. You saw No. 16 jerseys at Cal, but not with the name. When you see your name walking down the street, I’m still getting used to that for sure. It’s an honor.”

Sam Farmer, Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry break down the performance of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley in the Rams’ 21-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in an exhibition game on Aug. 20.

The opener against the Cowboys, which drew more than 80,000 people, was particularly emotional for the family of the former California quarterback.

“Last week was crazy and amazing all at the same time because you’re watching your kid really realize a dream,” Nancy said. “College is one thing, and it’s exciting and great. But to be here last week and see him out there, both my daughter and I had tears coming down our faces.”

Then came the brutal hit from Cowboys linebacker Derek Akunne, who buried his helmet in Goff’s ribs from the right side, driving him into the ground. Even though Goff came back in for another series — threading an impressive pass to Pharoh Cooper that the rookie dropped — he logged only two possessions and finished the night with a sore non-throwing shoulder from the Akunne hit. From the stands, Goff’s parents could see their son wasn’t quite right after that collision.

“Even with him getting nicked up last week, we knew something wasn’t exactly right, just with the way he walked or the way he got up,” said Jerry, a former major league catcher. “To his toughness, he went in and played that next series… I know he just didn’t want to go out after getting drilled and throwing a pick.”

If this process goes the way the Rams trust it will, this will simply be some lift-off turbulence for a quarterback who hasn’t played under center since his freshman year in high school, and who never had to call a play in the huddle in Cal’s wide-open, no-huddle offense. The Rams have consistently said they have no timetable for starting Goff, even though the last five quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall started their rookie openers — Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston.

For Goff, 21, these are the definition of growing pains. No one is going to compare Goff with a five-time NFL most valuable player, but Peyton Manning had a league-leading 28 interceptions as a rookie.

If anything, the last two games have been a reminder that the step up from college to the pros is closer to a quantum leap — and this is the preseason, when the second- and third-stringers get most of the snaps, and the defensive fronts are uncomplicated when compared with those of the regular season.

As for the Goffs, they tend to stay off the Internet and focus on the positives with their son.

“When Jared was first at Cal, we were very interested in what people thought of him,” Jerry said. “We thought that was the bar. But now you can’t, because there’s so much negativity. That’s fine. Everybody’s got their opinion and they’re entitled to it. In terms of reading a story, then reading the comments underneath it, that’s not something that we do.”

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesFarmer


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