Middle linebacker Jonathan Goff is the first Commodore the Giants have chosen since Markham made them regret giving him an opportunity. But everything Goff showed them at their recently completed rookie minicamp assured general manager Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin that the team hasn’t made a mistake similar to taking Markham, who was cut during his first training camp in 2001.
Nevertheless, the reserved Goff isn’t a typical NFL rookie.
He graduated from Vanderbilt recently with an engineering degree. When he wasn’t studying and playing football, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Goff spent some of his time at the Nashville university leading campus ministry retreats. And the part-time singer once traveled to Europe with a men’s honors chorus.
Goff’s mom, Gwendolyn Tyre, was the first African-American law clerk for the Georgia Supreme Court and is currently a juvenile court judge in Goff’s native Massachusetts.
Giants fans need not worry, though. Goff is not a Patriots fan and he is as brawny as he is brainy.
He doesn’t talk much, but Goff’s production at Vanderbilt speaks volumes about the type of player the Giants drafted. A two-time team captain and a three-year starter, Goff recorded a team-leading 113 tackles in 2007 for Vanderbilt’s defense, which ranked 16th nationally among Division I-A teams.
“He’s a very, very fine football player,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said before the draft. “He does everything. He is good in his pass drops. He is good against the run. He’s the kind of guy who just goes out and makes plays for you.”
Goff is expected to contribute as a rookie on special teams, and should also add depth at linebacker. He could become Antonio Pierce’s primary backup at middle linebacker because Chase Blackburn can also play outside linebacker, where the Giants need depth now that weakside starter Kawika Mitchell signed with Buffalo and strongside starter/reserve Reggie Torbor signed with Miami.
“I like to think that I’m a smart player and I want to try to learn as much as I can, and contribute anywhere that I can,” Goff said. “I’m just very fortunate to have this opportunity.”
Goff made the most of his opportunity when he arrived at Vanderbilt, where he was a starter at middle linebacker by the end of his red-shirt freshman season. He had been a quarterback, tailback, receiver, safety and outside linebacker at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass., but Goff made middle linebacker his permanent position in 2004. Reese and Coughlin expect him to remain in the middle, even though he has shown some speed and athleticism.
“We think he is a middle linebacker,” Reese said. “(He is) very productive, very smart. He can play on all of the special teams. That is a common theme with us – (you’ve) got to play on all of the special teams. (He’s) a young kid to bring into the fold, start developing some as a backup middle linebacker. He is smart. All of the things that we like about football players, (we got in Goff and fourth-rounder Bryan Kehl). So those were two good picks for us, to give us some depth at linebacker and create some competition at some of those positions as well.”