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Who is Jared Goff? Dog lover, ‘cheesy pop’ listener, No. 1 NFL draft pick

Jared Goff, left, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, is introduced as the newest member of the Los Angeles Rams during a news conference. Joining him on stage, from left, are his sister, Lauren; his mother, Nancy; and his father, Jerry.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Rams training camp is all-consuming for No. 1 pick Jared Goff, so much so that the rookie quarterback doesn’t always take the time to respond to his mom in a timely manner.

As a result, Nancy Goff has to resort to sneaky texting measures sometimes, if only to check if her son’s thumbs still work.

“If he’s not responding, I send a picture of Leo doing anything,” she said, referring to the family’s golden retriever. “Jared texts back immediately. He’s like, ‘That’s awesome,’ or, ‘Great shot.’ Our last golden, Wilson, was Jared’s best friend, but Leo’s right up there.”

These are the dog days of camp for Goff, 21, who’s up to his chinstrap in learning the offense, adjusting to the NFL, and shouldering the responsibility of turning a relocated franchise into a winner.

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He has hit some bumps in the road. In the exhibition opener against Dallas, he played just two series, absorbing a huge hit while throwing his first pass — it was intercepted — and sustaining a bruised non-throwing shoulder when he was driven into the Coliseum turf. In the second game, against Kansas City, he fumbled on his first two possessions, but came back in the second half to throw the winning touchdown pass. Heading into the third exhibition game at Denver on Saturday, there’s no indication Goff is ready to supplant Case Keenum as the starting quarterback.

Goff’s parents, Jerry and Nancy, and his sister, Lauren, 24, participated in a wide-ranging interview with the Los Angeles Times before the Chiefs game, a conversation that took place in a family member’s RV parked in a Coliseum lot. They laughed about “Hard Knocks,” the HBO training camp series that has shown their son in a different light, gave insights on who he is off the field, and talked about Lauren’s completely divergent career path.

”Hard Knocks,” which airs Tuesdays, is in its third week. In the first episode, Rams coaches discovered that Goff, who attended the University of California, didn’t know if the sun rises in the east or west. When pressed, he said west, and was teased mercilessly about it. He laughed off the ribbing.

“That’s the way Jared is,” said Jerry, a former major-league catcher turned firefighter. “He didn’t take offense to it. But my wife and I were like, ‘Crap, did we not teach him that?’”

Nancy winced, too.

“So many people called and said, ‘Was that made up as a joke for TV?’” she said. “And I was like, ‘Sadly, no.’”

She found some solace in the fact that Peyton Manning didn’t know how to open a can of soup when he was a rookie. The young man who would become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history had never used a can opener.

“These kids are focused on a skill at the expense of many other pieces of knowledge,” she said. “They may be focused so much that they might not know some basic facts.”

Rookies have to grow up fast. Jared didn’t own a suit before the draft; now he has four.

Nancy said ”Hard Knocks” is “capturing who Jared is — super funny, goofy and gentle with people.” She said, though, that language on the show can get a little R-rated for her taste.

“My parents were with me the other day and they said, ‘Honey, if there’s any way you can talk to Jared about the swearing…’” Jared’s mother said. “And my mom said, ‘And maybe talk to the whole team.’”

Not likely. The Goffs are anything but meddlers. They live in Novato, just north of San Francisco, and wouldn’t dream of missing one of his games. They also give their kids space, however, usually choosing to send brief texts in lieu of calling … and only occasionally resorting to sending dog pictures.

“It’s unreal to watch him and see that he completely looks like he belongs here and fits in,” Nancy said. “He’s not that skinny kid anymore that he used to be in high school. He belongs here.

“We’ll send him little texts: ‘How was practice today? How’s it going?’ That kind of stuff.”

Jerry said his son is singularly focused these days.

“He’s a goofy, nice kid that’s now in this big city trying to let people know that he wants to make it right for what [the Rams] did to get him,” he said. “Without saying it, he wants to show the Rams and the city of L.A. that they made the right choice.”

It helps that Lauren was already in Southern California. She graduated from UCLA in 2014 with a degree in international development, and now is a year away from getting her master’s degree at the school in social work.

She has made three extended trips to Africa, including working at a girls’ high school in Kenya, and is interested in rehabilitating victims of human trafficking. Even though Goff is a recognizable last name, and Jared and Lauren have similar fresh-faced good looks, people rarely make the connection.

“In my master’s program, I was on the phone with a client before Jared was with the Rams,” she said. “And the guy was like, ‘Oh, you have the same last name as that quarterback kid.’ I said, ‘Yeah, interesting.’ That’s the only person who recognized it, and he was a big college football fan.”

Nancy and Lauren had tears streaming down their faces when Jared ran onto the Coliseum field for the first time, before the Cowboys game.

“I don’t think I’ve gotten really emotional until then,” Lauren said. “It was bizarre. That was my first NFL game, and at Cal it was like he was a local guy so it didn’t really feel so out of this world. When he stepped on the field, I was thinking, ‘This is so weird. That’s Jared out on the field.’”

She laughed about the second “Hard Knocks” episode, when Goff was asked which Justin he preferred, Justin Timberlake or Justin Bieber. After giving it some thought he said Bieber, but only because he was closer in age to that singer.

Lauren clarified the issue.

“He totally likes Justin Bieber,” she confided. “He unashamedly likes pop music, and I do too.”

In fact, Lauren sent Jared a text last week recommending her new favorite song: “Back It Up” by Pitbull.

“It’s kind of cheesy pop,” she said. “But I’m like, ‘It’s a good one. You might appreciate it.’ He said he’d check it out.”

Some might flinch at revealing a family member’s penchant for “cheesy pop” music. Not the Goffs.

“Jared is who he is,” Nancy said. “He doesn’t apologize for that.”

But forgive his teammates if they dog him for it.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer


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