By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
At the start of his freshman year of high school in his hometown of Framingham, Mass., Joe Goff was somewhat reluctant to play football even with the encouragement of his brother Donny, preferring hockey and sometimes going so far as to hide from football practice sessions.
But Goff soon realized his size was an asset in the sport, and since arriving at Episcopal as a sophomore he has gone from strength to strength. Having committed to the U.S. Naval Academy, the defensive tackle earned an individual accolade as he was selected for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.
Now in its fifth year, the game brings together around 90 of the best high school football players, who play in an East vs. West format at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., on January 3 in a nationally televised game. Players are selected not just for their prowess on the football field, but also for their academic achievements and leadership qualities.
Goff will be joined at the game by Maroon head coach Panos Voulgaris, who will coach the East’s running backs and said his lineman deserves the recognition.
“Joe, since the day he’s arrived here, has never taken a day off,” Voulgaris said at the ceremony to present Goff with an honorary jersey. “Every single day since the day he arrived here at Episcopal, he has never missed a practice. He has started every single football game and he sets a great example for all those that are on his team, younger students that play football and his classmates.”
Goff was surprised when Voulgaris told him earlier this year that he had been selected, with the Marine Corps having partnered with a third-party recruiting company to select players while also accepting nominations from players and coaches.
“I know a lot of people always talk about being an All-American, and at first I didn’t really know what it was, but I started playing football and realized what it was, and when Coach told me about it I was like, ‘Wow, I’m an All-American,’” Goff said in an interview. “It’s a crazy feeling. While my work feels like it’s paid off, it’s also pushing me to work harder and see what other goals and accomplishments I can achieve if I keep working as hard as I have and keeping up the work.”
The lineman said he is most excited to match up against players from across the country, especially as it will be his last football game before college.
“The aspect I’m looking forward to is definitely testing my skills against some of the best in the country and seeing where I match up, training with them and seeing where I can improve my game and help them improve their game and seeing the brotherhood that comes out of it,” Goff said. “That’s one of my favorite aspects of football, having the sense of brotherhood that comes as a team.”
Off the field, Goff is an honor roll student and participated in a spring break community service trip to the Dominican Republic, something he said would not have been possible without Episcopal.
“[The trip] was something I was interested in because I’ve always wanted to travel and help out in foreign places,” Goff said. “We got down there, and it was probably the best trip I’ve ever taken, helping out the kids. We actually built a youth center out of plastic bottles and cement; it helps not break down from earthquakes. I was interested in going to help out and being able to go to a foreign country and expand my horizons.”
A wide range of colleges recruited Goff. But after also considering the U.S. Air Force Academy and West Point among others, he chose Navy for the culture and the opportunity to serve.
“The Naval Academy has such a great aspect not just in the school but in the football team,” he said. “The coaches really talk about the strength of having to work for the Navy and also to play Navy football, and I really feel like I have some attributes they can use. I’m just really excited to serve my country and play some good football, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most in college.”
After graduating, Goff will be required to serve a minimum of five years as either an ensign in the U.S. Navy or a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, depending on his preference. He relishes that opportunity, and the chance to get an education that will help him beyond the football field.
“When football’s over, if I have an education that doesn’t really help me out, it’s not really beneficial,” Goff said. “But going to the Naval Academy, I’ll have a job coming out of college and being in the Navy, I’ll have the great work ethic, and if I want to continue with it I can continue with it or I can use my degree for something else.”
It promises to be quite the end to Goff’s high school football career, with these opportunities being something of a surprise to him.
“This sport is way more than a game to me, it’s a life-changer,” he said. “The game of football has presented me with many opportunities, including this great honor.”