Jared Goff, who played and starred at Marin Catholic of Kentfield prior to playing and starring at the University of California, became the 12th former California high school football player to be selected with the first pick in the NFL Draft in 2016. There isn’t one for 2020, but here’s a rundown of those 12 who were called first.
After earning State Small Schools Player of the Year honors at Marin Catholic of Kentfield, quarterback Jared Goff set passing records at the University of California despite the team struggling to get wins (mostly due to porous defenses). Regardless, Goff was selected No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Rams in that 2016 draft, who had moved from St. Louis in the off-season. Goff had been believed to be the Rams’ favorite since they obtained the top pick earlier that April in a trade with the Tennessee Titans (who didn’t think they needed a quarterback).
There was only one other Californian selected in the first round of the 2016 draft — defensive lineman Kenny Clark from Carter of Rialto going at No. 27 to the Green Bay Packers — but it was still a historic day for the state with Goff going first.
Here’s a look at all 12 of the state’s No. 1 NFL draft choices:
2016 Jared Goff (Marin Catholic, Kentfield)
In his senior season, Goff led the Wildcats to the CIF Division III state bowl game where they lost in his final game to Madison of San Diego. Like Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Goff’s dad (Jerry Goff) was a relief pitcher in the major leagues
2005 Alex Smith (Helix, La Mesa) QB 49ers
He’s become a top-flight NFL QB with the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins, but that 2005 draft of course has become legendary for how low Aaron Rodgers (Pleasant Valley of Chico) fell in the first round, eventually landing with Green Bay. It’s unknown if the prep teammate of RB Reggie Bush will ever be able to play again after a serious broken leg injury he suffered toward the end of the 2018 season.
2003 Carson Palmer (Santa Margarita) QB Bengals
Also on the list of the state’s Heisman Trophy winners for what he did at USC, Carson remains the best prep QB we’ve ever seen in person (including Jared Goff). We would still say that after watching the two All-Americans at St. John Bosco (D.J. Uiagalelei) and Mater Dei (Bryce Young) last season.
2002 David Carr (Stockdale, Bakersfield) QB Texans
He’s the older brother of current Oakland Raiders’ QB Derek Carr, but Derek went to Bakersfield Christian. David started for several years for the expansion Texans, but eventually settled into a backup role. He helped coach Bakersfield Christian’s CIF D3-A state title team last season with his other brother, Darren, serving as head coach.
1996 Keyshawn Johnson (Dorsey, L.A.) WR Jets
One of our all-time favorites since we got to know him due to the many trips he made to the Anaheim Hilton in the days when we also were working out of that hotel, Keyshawn enjoyed a solid NFL career and is now well-known as an ESPN and L.A. sports commentator. His son, Keyshawn Jr., later became a standout at Calabasas.
1983 John Elway (Granada Hills) QB Colts
We have a feeling if we had seen Elway in person when he was in high school, he’d still be the best we’ve ever seen. He went on to star in baseball and football at Stanford and is one of the greatest QBs in NFL history.
1977 Ricky Bell (Fremont, L.A.) RB Bucs
He’s the most tragic figure of the NFL’s No. 1 picks. Bell, who starred at USC but didn’t win a Heisman, died at age 29 after a series of medical issues. A movie was once made about his life.
1975 Steve Bartkowski (Buchser, Santa Clara) QB Falcons
Also from Cal, Bartkowski is in fact the last NorCal No. 1 pick in the draft before Goff was selected in that spot in 2016. Buchser High School closed in 1981.
1971 Jim Plunkett (James Lick, San Jose) QB Patriots
A Heisman Trophy winner from Stanford, Plunkett also was known as an outstanding wrestler when he competed for the Comets. He also later was a Super Bowl MVP winner for the Oakland Raiders.
1969 O.J. Simpson (Galileo, San Francisco) RB Bills
Not much needs to be said about O.J. The Heisman Trophy career at USC was followed great career in Buffalo. After that, not so great. He was on the same team at least for one season at USC with longtime Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson. Simpson was 6-foot-2, 207 pounds and on the track ran a leg on a world-record 4×100 relay team. By any testing measurables, that would be hard to believe even today.
1968 Ron Yary (Bellflower) OL Vikings
Along with Ontario Chaffey’s Anthony Munoz, Yary could be the greatest offensive lineman ever from the Golden State. The only offensive lineman from California ever chosen No. 1, Yary went on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career.
1954 Bobby Garrett (South Pasadena) QB Browns
He was an All-American at Stanford and was picked by the Browns after being named MVP in the Hula Bowl. He only played nine games in the NFL, however. One bio said it was because he had a stuttering problem and couldn’t call plays.