INDIANAPOLIS - There is quiet and then there's Jonathan Goff quiet. Getting words out of Goff is about as tough as it was to tackle him at St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., where he averaged 8.5 yards per carry his senior season, or to block him at Vanderbilt, where he was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference second-team selection.
"Jonathan has always been extremely quiet," said his mother, Gwendolyn Tyre, a judge in the Middlesex County Juvenile Court Department. "He's the kind of kid that believes I'm not going to tell you about myself. I'm going to show you what I can do."
That's exactly what the laconic linebacker did at the NFL Scouting Combine, which wrapped up Tuesday. Checking in at a sturdy 6 feet 2 inches and 245 pounds, Goff clocked 4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash, fifth-best among linebackers, finished fourth in the three-cone drill, which tests change of direction, with a time of 6.86, and was third in the 60-yard shuttle in 11.50.
(It should be noted that neither Dan Connor of Penn State nor Southern California's Keith Rivers, widely regarded as the top two linebacker prospects in this year's draft, chose to work out at the combine.)
The 22-year-old Goff, who grew up in Stoneham, also showed better-than-expected range in linebacker drills. Overall, it was an impressive showing. Not in Goff's mind.
"You can always do better. I think I did OK," he said.
According to his position coach at Vanderbilt, Warren Belin, the reviews on Goff were better than that from NFL scouts.
"I think what Jon did was he answered some of the doubters saying he can't be an every-down linebacker," said Belin. "I knew that coaching him the last four years. He is an every-down linebacker, and he proved that by showing flexibility and speed. He still may be a little tight by some people's standards, but I think he proved he's an explosive, athletic linebacker candidate for this draft."
Production isn't an issue for Goff. He led Vanderbilt, which went 5-7 last season, in tackles with 113, ranking fourth in the SEC. He added 6 1/2 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions. Going from Vanderbilt to the NFL should be an easier jump than going from playing the likes of Everett to SEC competition at Vanderbilt.
Goff said all the teams he talked to cited change of direction as a weakness and one team said he looked "deliberate" in his movements. That could be a result of not playing until the eighth grade. His mother, who was the first African-American law clerk on the Georgia Supreme Court, forbade him from playing until then.
In preparation for the combine and to combat that criticism, Goff worked with noted performance coach Tom Shaw to improve his lateral quickness and pliability.
"The thing I think some of the pro scouts look at is at times Jon looks stiff on the open-field stuff," said Belin. "He's not. He's very mobile. I think part of the reputation he got is that he's not as flexible in the hips. He's a high-cut hip guy. That's just his body makeup. That's one of the things that we sat down and said that was one of the areas that you can continue to work on is flexibility and mobility in the open field. He's worked extremely hard in improving that area of his game."
His ability to sink his hips and create leverage could determine what kind of defense Goff fits best in at the NFL level. While he has the requisite size and strength - his 29 repetitions of 225 pounds were second most among linebackers at the combine - to project as an inside linebacker for 3-4 teams like the Patriots, to defeat blocks in the scheme, which linebackers must do, leverage is paramount.
Goff, who started at middle linebacker for Vanderbilt since the sixth game of his redshirt freshman season, has no experience playing in a 3-4 set - the Commodores were a 4-3 team - but said he believed he could make the transition.
At least one scout for an NFC team agreed, saying Goff could play inside in a 3-4 or a 4-3. "He's a versatile guy," said the scout, who said Goff might be better suited for the 3-4 because of his size and straight-line speed.
Goff, who moved to Massachusetts from Atlanta when he was 2 years old - his mother is originally from Chelsea - grew up a Patriots fan. He claimed he didn't remember if he spoke to the team at the combine, and said he'd be happy to play for any NFL team, standard language for any draft prospect this time of year.
With the Patriots harboring an aging linebacker corps and with uncertainty as to whether Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau, the two starting inside linebackers in Super Bowl XLII, will be back, Goff should merit at least a look from the New England brass in the middle rounds, where he is projected.
He certainly has Patriots-like intangibles.
Besides his predilection to brevity, Goff is intelligent. He graduated in December with a degree in mechanical engineering. Belin called him a coach on the field, and Goff reviewed more film than Oscar voters during his time at Vanderbilt.
"Jon Goff is a student of the game, you're talking about a guy that looked at more playing film than I did," said Belin.
Belin said that despite Goff's quiescence, he was voted captain twice.
Belin cautioned that no team should mistake Goff's silence for indolence.
"My four years with him he's opened up to me, but when he first got here he wouldn't say jack," said Belin. "Unless you asked him a question in a meeting you wouldn't have known he was there, but he was taking everything in."
Goff has always been a show-don't-tell type of guy.
"I would say so yes, as far back as I can remember," said Goff, who will have one more chance to impress scouts at his Pro Day at Vanderbilt in Nashville March 21. "I've never been into talking a lot."
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.