The former St. John's Prep football standout has firmly cemented himself in the middle of the Commodores' defense over the past three seasons, and the payoff has come in the form of numerous preseason accolades.
The two-year Vanderbilt captain was named preseason First Team All-Southeastern Conference, as well as appearing on the Bronko Nagurski and Bednarik Award watch lists. The Nagurski and Bednarik Awards - named after former defensive greats Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik - are given yearly to college football's best defensive player. Goff is also expected to be in consideration for the Butkus Award, named after one of the game's all-time great linebackers, Dick Butkus, which is awarded to college football's best linebacker.
Such high praise from the so-called college football experts would give some people inflated egos, but not Goff.
The 21-year-old mechanical engineering major is a lunch-pail player, the type who never expects anything to be given to him.
"It's definitely an honor to be recognized like that. It feels good that they think of me as that kind of player," Goff said. "But at the same time, you still have to perform on Saturdays. You can be on a certain watch list or named a preseason all-conference player, but that doesn't mean they're giving you stats. You still have to earn it."
From the moment Goff stepped onto the Nashville, Tenn., campus in 2003 as a redshirt player, he has worked hard to not only find his spot on the field, but also make his mark on the SEC and all of college football.
Goff quickly found out that game day performance is based on preparation more than anything.
"Jonathan is a hard working student of the game as far as football is concerned," Vanderbilt linebacker coach Warren Belin said. "He studies a lot of film. He's always in looking at our opponents, trying to find ways to get better as an individual and to help us win."
Early playing time is often a selling point for big-time college recruits. But no matter how much Goff wanted to be on the field as a true freshman, in hindsight he's glad he got the opportunity to break the ice with a year spent behind the scenes as a redshirt.