California quarterback Jared Goff is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
His decision Thursday was not unexpected and comes two days after he capped his stellar career by throwing six touchdown passes in a bowl victory against Air Force.
"This decision was not an easy one by any means,'' Goff said. "I feel ready to take the next step in my football career and am excited about what my future holds.''
Goff is widely considered to be one of the top two quarterbacks eligible for the draft and is projected as a high first-round pick. He is the first Cal quarterback to leave early for the NFL since Aaron Rodgers following the 2004 season.
Goff is Cal's career leader in just about every significant statistic for quarterbacks. He broke Marcus Mariota's Pac-12 season record for touchdown passes by throwing his 43rd in the 55-36 win over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Goff, whose family was on hand for the campus news conference, has strong bloodlines to Cal. His parents attended the school and he grew up in nearby Marin County. Goff has been a lifelong Bears fan, going to games at Memorial Stadium. His father, Jerry, is a former major league catcher.
Since enrolling early at Cal in January 2013, Goff has been on a path to the NFL. He became the only true freshman in school history to start the season opener. He holds school records for yards passing (12,200), completions (977) and touchdown passes (96). He improved every season and finished this past year with career highs of 4,719 yards passing, 43 touchdown passes, 64.5 percent completion rate and a 161.3 passer rating.
While Goff excelled from the outset in Dykes' passer-friendly "Bear Raid'' offense, it took longer for the wins to follow, with Cal needing to find the offensive line and defense to support him.
Cal won just one game Goff's freshman season, struggling mightily in the transition from Jeff Tedford's pro-style system to Dykes' spread attack. The Bears improved to 5-7 last season before finishing 8-5 this year.
Goff and his team, however, had a tough time against top competition, with Cal losing all 12 games he played against Stanford, Oregon, Southern California and UCLA. Goff also threw five interceptions in a loss at Utah in October.
Those performances and questions about his adjustment to the pro game will be scrutinized before the draft. But Goff has shown a strong, accurate arm and taken more responsibility of the offense this season, changing plays and protections at the line.
His departure leaves a gaping hole at quarterback. Backup Chase Forest threw just 18 passes as a redshirt freshman this season and is the leading contender to become the starter.