BERKELEY Cal freshman Jared Goff has transformed his football video game fantasy into reality.
"I used to always create myself on NCAA Football make myself the Cal quarterback. I was always throwing for 600 yards with eight touchdowns," Goff said last week. "This year, I didn't have to do that. EA Sports did it for me."
In fact, Goff, 18, did it himself, winning the Cal quarterback job from redshirt freshman Zach Kline.
And while it may not be destiny that Goff will be the Bears' first freshman quarterback to start a season opener Cal hosts No. 22 Northwestern on Saturday all roads seemingly led to this moment.
Goff's parents, Jerry and Nancy, attended Cal, with Jerry playing one season of football and three years of baseball. Starting when he was about 8, Jared was part of family outings to Memorial Stadium, attending 20 or so Cal games.
"He's never really had a choice," Jerry Goff said of his son's college destination.
There were other suitors, including Stanford and UCLA, but ultimately Cal had too many elements Goff valued family, academics, familiarity, proximity to his Kentfield home. "It was just perfect," Goff said.
Goff put himself in position to win the quarterback job by graduating early from Marin Catholic High and enrolling at Cal in time for spring ball. But coach Sonny Dykes certainly isn't expecting perfection.
"There's going to be some growing pains with this football team. Not just the quarterback, but everywhere," Dykes said. "We're the second-youngest team in the country. We expect to be successful and expect to win football games."
Accuracy, consistency and minimizing mistakes helped Goff win the starting job. None of that may be more important than his ability to stay composed, because Cal will play three Top-25 opponents in the first month of the season.
Jerry Goff, who was a catcher for six seasons in the major leagues, says the quality of staying cool under pressure didn't come from him.
"He's wired completely differently than I was," Goff said. "He's able to have a short memory and have fun. There were times in my career that weren't fun. If I wasn't playing well, I got concerned: 'Am I going back to Triple A?'
"He's not like that. He came out of the womb differently. He has a calm demeanor, and that goes a long way to what he has been able to accomplish, particularly at the position he plays."
But Jared credits his father for his success.
"I listen to everything he says because he's been through it," Goff said. "Through the struggles, bad days, good days, everything in between."
Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin agrees that Jerry Goff's background can provide his son valuable insight into dealing with the inevitable highs and lows.
"His dad's probably been booed struck out and been booed," Franklin said. "That's an experience you need to know is going to happen. The quarterback gets the best of everything, the worst of everything."
The coolest quarterback Bay Area fans ever watched was Joe Montana, and it's no coincidence Goff wears No. 16. His current favorite player is former Cal star Aaron Rodgers.
Neither is the model for the Cal offense.
"A lot of what we do is styled after Peyton Manning," Franklin said, noting Manning's ability to buy time in the pocket with his feet, sliding to find an open throwing lane. Goff has a good feel for that aspect, Franklin said.
"We do try to emulate Peyton Manning," Goff said. "He's always been one of my favorites as well. But I'm Jared Goff. I'm not Peyton Manning."
Cal fans hope that's enough.