Joe Goff knew from a young age that he wanted to play sports in college, but he also knew that this dream would not come without sacrifice. He didn’t know how he would reach his goal, but he always knew that he would do whatever was necessary to find success.
Growing up, Goff was uninterested in football, as hockey was his main focus. But after his first varsity play with Framingham High School in Framingham, Massachusetts his freshman year, Goff shifted his attention to football and other coaches took notice.
Episcopal High School, a boarding school in Alexandria, VA, recruited Goff his freshman year. Still unsure of his preference between football and hockey though, he decided against leaving Framingham.
“It was tough,” Goff said. “I could’ve gone after my freshman year at Framingham, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do so I just blew it off.”
The Flyers finished the 2012-13 school year with a 5-6 record, which prompted Goff to look elsewhere for the 2013-14 year. He reached out to Episcopal coach, Panos Voulgaris, a Massachusetts native himself, with the intent of enrolling there for his junior year.
“With getting recruited and the higher education possibilities from boarding school, you become more competitive,” said Goff. “Down south is just a better place for football with better exposure.”
When Goff left Framingham behind, he had to leave hockey behind as well, as Episcopal does not offer the sport. However, he knew football could lead to significantly more exposure.
“I knew that football would give me more opportunities compared to hockey, considering hockey is really hard to get recruited for,” said Goff. “With football, if I wanted to I could choose to play in college.”
At Episcopal, Goff grew hungry for success, where he found the boarding school setting to be a better place to develop as an athlete.
“There’s a much higher potential to be successful because everyone knows that being in that area, we want to be good at football,” said Goff. “At Framingham, we obviously all wanted to be good at football but there are just a lot of distractions of being at a public school. Being at boarding school, a lot of the kids are dedicated to becoming great in the sport they play.”
He played at Episcopal for three seasons. The Maroons had a winning record each of those three years.
Goff was enamored with the support his community showed — an unconditional support that was foreign to him at Framingham.
“We have a huge rivalry game against Woodberry Forest School every year,” Goff said. “It was crazy just running out there to see the whole stadium packed; I’ve never seen it like that before. When you make a big play, you feel the whole community behind you supporting you.”
In an environment like Episcopal’s, success is contagious.
The defensive tackle’s athleticism, talent, size and mindset made him attractive to colleges, as he received 14 Division I offers.
“It’s important to take hold of this edge I have and use my abilities, go to a great school and play [Division I] football at the same time.”
Although he was recruited by some of the most reputable football programs in the country, such as UNC, Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt, Goff’s discipline and academic focus led him to Navy.
“I visited the Naval Academy last summer and absolutely fell in love with it because everyone there is trying to be successful and that’s what really grabbed me,” said Goff. “The whole discipline thing and brotherhood aspect really attracted me to Navy.”
In his college decision, Goff looked for coaches who put positive pressure on the players but also are supportive and helpful if need be. He found that in Navy, as the coaches understand the obligations of attending an academy.
“The coaches are all great guys and they understand that at Navy, we’re officers before we’re football players and we’re students before football players.”
Goff is not the only member of his family who attended an academy. His older brother Donny graduated from Army this spring.
Although Goff’s commitment to Navy continued the military path for the Goff brothers, it did spark some sibling rivalry.
At first Donny questioned why his brother would go to the rival academy. But ultimately, Donny understood because Navy is an up-and-coming program.
Donny, who is one of the most influential figures in his life, catalyzed Goff’s football career.
Although Goff’s college decision was his own to make, he was aware of the success surrounding Donny upon graduating from Army.
One of the biggest draws to Navy and the other military academies is an automatic job upon graduation. Enrollment at the Naval Academy is a nine-year commitment, which includes five years of service in either the Navy or Marines. This proved to be a crucial factor in Goff’s decision.
“There’s the whole aspect of after college where if I’m good enough for the NFL, that would be a great option,” said Goff. “If football doesn’t work out, I have an automatic job coming out of college, which is unheard of.”
Success as a college athlete is not an easy achievement, but Goff understands that he must work hard to reach his goals.
“I’m the type of player who’s willing to push through the everyday struggles and not get down on myself,” said Goff. “I can just try my best every single practice and give it 110 percent. That’s all a coach can ask for.”
“Playing time is something every college athlete worries about, but I’ll work for it and not just walk in like I deserve playing time but learn their defense and work every practice to show the coaches that I have what it takes to play and stand out,” said Goff.
Not only will Goff start playing with a new team in the fall, but he will also be playing a new position. Though he was a defensive tackle in high school, Goff was recruited as a defensive end at Navy, where the Midshipmen run a three-man front.
“Learning a new position is going to be my biggest weakness… I just need to improve my technique overall,” said Goff. “As soon as I learn it, I just will go all out on every play to stand out and get playing time.”
Goff, who is 6’5” and 266 lbs, has the long-frame defensive end body type. He looks to other DEs, such as Joey Bosa of the San Diego Chargers, who have similar body types and learns their game.
“I’ve watched numerous videos on Bosa because he’s a nasty player overall,” Goff said. “I just watch what he does and see what I can do to play like him and be more explosive like him.”
Having made many sacrifices to get to Navy, Goff will continue to put his athletic, academic and military obligations above everything else for the next nine years. The members of the academy create a strong bond because of the challenges they endure together.
“It’s the best feeling in the world just knowing the person to your left and the person to your right are gonna go all out for you even when they’re struggling,” said Goff. “When you’re on the line, you wanna win the game and so do they, so you go all out for your brothers and that’s the coolest thing ever.”