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IT'S 8 A.M. ON a Saturday in July, and already my weather app is screaming at me to stop what I'm doing right the hell now: "Los Angeles. 95 F." A heat wave is about to suffocate the city, setting all-time highs, and yet I plan to spend the next two hours hiking with a Golden Pyrenees, Quincy, and his owner, Rams quarterback Jared Goff, the first pick of the 2016 NFL draft, who is coming off a Pro Bowl campaign that saw him lead the NFL's highest-scoring team to its first playoff birth since 2004.
Goff, 23, doesn't do stuff like this -- and by "this" I mean interviews, hikes and LA touristy things. Today, though, the low-key but unerringly polite star, who was famously busted on Hard Knocks for not knowing in which direction the sun sets, will attempt all three at the same time. Our destination: the iconic Hollywood sign and the summit of Mount Lee just above it. It's a 3-mile round trip from way down where we are at the southwestern edge of Griffith Park -- plenty of time for a long and sweltering chat.
ESPN: I get to hold Quincy's leash in case we see any pretty ladies who want to talk to Quincy, and by extension, me.
GOFF: Sure, take it. He can be your dog today.
How did you train him?
I sent him away to get trained by a guy named Wolfgang. He's straight from Germany, and he talks and looks exactly like you'd think a Wolfgang would.
[Laughing hard] A German trainer named Wolfgang? So L.A. of you.
I know. I'm slowly transitioning.
We're both NorCal natives. Let's gauge your LA transition: Cocktails or craft beers?
High heels or flip-flops?
Flip-flops. I don't mind heels, though.
Kobe or Curry?
Curry! Come on, that's my favorite team.
You're definitely more NorCal.
Yeah. I grew up a Giants fan, hating the Dodgers. I grew up a Niners fan. There's an in-state rivalry with the Lakers, so I try to keep my support for the Warriors low-key.
(Quincy stops dead in his tracks. I pull on his leash to no avail.)
Come on, bud.
Is he taking a dump?
(Yes, smack-dab in the middle of the trail. It's roughly the size of my head -- true story.)
Whoa, that's a pretty sizable dump.
Yeah, that's a few-dayer.
Look, I may be holding the leash, but you're cleaning that up.
I don't have a bag.
[Shouting to crew members] Anyone have a bag?
You want to pick it up and throw it off the cliff?
Gee, that sounds great, but no.
I actually have to clean that up.
How about we use your shirt? You're in shape; you can go shirtless.
Well, I'm not going shirtless.
The McDonald's bag!
(A crew member has conjured a bag, a souvenir from breakfast. Goff addresses the mess, and we continue our death march.)
If you could take an Uber Pool with any female celebrity, who would you pick?
Jennifer Aniston. She's an all-timer. I'd probably freeze up and just let her talk the whole time.
Who's the coolest celebrity you've met here?
Probably Taylor Swift. I got hooked up backstage at her Rose Bowl concert. I was with my sister, mom and grandma. I'm a big fan.
Your sister sold you out recently: You like cheesy pop music?
She's not wrong. Every once in a while, you gotta put on some Katy Perry or Taylor Swift.
(Something like 30 hours passes.)
Oh, man. Long way to go.
We're not even close. Are you going to make it?
In my defense, I just got back from a Cabo trip, and you know what happens in Cabo. I suspect you're in better shape than I am.
Yeah, hopefully I'm in better shape than a guy coming off a Cabo bender. [Laughs] But I'm thinking twice about this now. Are we even halfway there?
(It's now 100 degrees.)
I need a break. You're killing me, bro.
Actually, hey, I gotta tie my shoes.
(This is a lie. My laces are perfectly tied, so I pivot away from Goff to untie and retie them.)
Almost there. Whenever you're ready.
Yep, just one second.
You all right?
(Seventy months later, we summit the mountain.)
We made it! Oh, wow. This is very cool.
(To our north is Burbank's Walt Disney Studios, marked by a giant Sorcerer's Apprentice hat. To the south: glorious LA, with downtown's high-rises to our left and the Pacific to our right. The Hollywood sign is roughly a football field away below us, just beyond a chain-link fence.)
Would you like to own this city, like Kobe did?
The goal is to win games. You win a title, stuff like that will come. I actually met Kobe at the Taylor Swift concert, just briefly. He's one of the best ever when it comes to that killer instinct. I'm not quite Mamba yet, but I'm on my way and I'd love to sit down and talk to him.
This might be LeBron's city for now. You cool with that?
All my friends are like, "Hey, you need to welcome him to the city." And I'm like, "I think he's OK." [Laughs] He's the best player ever, in my opinion.
I got a little surprise for you.
Do you trust me?
Sure. Where we going?
You just said you trust me.
Oh, come on.
Do you have trust issues, Goff?
[Laughs] Let's go.
(I lead him to the fence, where a park official unlocks a gate and lets us pass. As we scramble down a short but steep decline, I slip and cut up my hands. But moments later ... the Hollywood sign!)
Oh, this is awesome. Can I touch it?
Can we climb the letters?
Come on. It'd be a dope picture.
Let's just sit here for a bit as I bleed from my hands.
Oh, man, you did take a tumble there. And hey, look at my hands -- they look great. OK, I'm done kicking your ass today.
(We plop down on some weeds, the "LL" of the sign to our backs.)
So do you feel like an Angeleno now?
I'm at the Hollywood sign with my dog -- yeah, I'm very, very LA now. [Laughs] Going on my third year, I feel much more at home. As you grow more comfortable with an area, you grow more comfortable on the field.
Now you're a sexy Super Bowl pick. What are your own expectations for this team?
We had a good year, but it's just the beginning. We've got a good core group of guys, and the additions we made this offseason have helped a lot. Personally, having Brandin [Cooks] around has been incredible -- great player, person and teammate, works as hard as anybody and really sets the bar in that receiver room. He, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are absolute dogs -- no other three I'd rather have in the league. And the additions on defense with Marcus [Peters], Aqib [Talib] and Ndamukong [Suh] have been incredible.
Talib, Peters and Suh are perceived as having proverbial baggage. Any concerns?
You read those stories and you have a preconceived notion. Everyone thinks Marcus is some sort of bad guy and bad teammate, but any time I talk to him, I'm like, "This dude's awesome." I think Aqib's been so much more of a veteran and mature leader than people may think. I know they have their pasts, but all three have been nothing but great so far.
The Rams gave up picks to get stars. Do you feel that win-now mentality?
I read that all the time: "They're going all-in now." Do you ever go into a season like, "Yeah, we're not really trying to win it this year"? We're trying to win it this year.
Speaking of stars, there was a report that Odell Beckham Jr. wants to be a Ram.
Was there? I must have missed that. [Smiles] Yeah, it was exciting for a minute. Odell obviously would have been incredible, but I think he's happy as a Giant, and we're happy to have Brandin.
Is it on you to text Odell and be like, "This is Jared. Hi. How are you? Come play with us"?
Uh, hopefully it has more coolness to it. [Laughs] Honestly, after the season we had last year, everyone I meet around the league wants to play here. You can't beat this weather and the stuff we got going on. And having a guy like Sean McVay leading the charge is very attractive to people.
And to think, just a couple of seasons ago they were calling you a bust. What's clicked for you two?
I'm very comfortable with Sean and everything we do offensively now, and I'm starting to take ownership of that. I can go into his office anytime and have a good back-and-forth. I was only in my second year last year, and he was more than willing to listen to my ideas. What makes him so special is his ability to adapt to his players, and we've got some good players.
Who deserves credit for the audibles you've been barking at the line, like "Tupac"?
"Tupac," "Ric Flair," "Elvis," "Obama" -- a lot of them come from Sean. He's a young guy with a very creative mind, and he comes up with names that make sense to us. You hear "Ric Flair," and the way he explains the meaning, you'll never forget it. Being in LA you like to have some fun with it.
If you have a say, what will this year's audibles be?
Ooh. Well, "LeBron" is going to be an audible. I'll try to mix in a "Curry" or "Draymond," "Taylor Swift," "Adam Sandler" or "Happy Gilmore" -- that's a good one. We'll get "Sam" in there. That means let the clock run out.
What does the future look like for Jared Goff in this city?
I love it here. I want to win championships, leave a legacy and, ultimately, be a great teammate, quarterback, player and friend. A long-term goal is being in the Hall of Fame, but winning a Super Bowl is No. 1, and I don't want to wait to win it. That's really the only thing I think about.
A location-appropriate question: any acting in your future?
I've done a few cameos that you may see soon. I'll be in "Ballers." Everything is shot down here, so it was like, "Hey, come down for an hour and shoot it." Being in this city long enough, you may see me on screen a few times.
Could you see yourself raising a family in LA someday?
I need a girlfriend first.
It's tough to meet girls out here.
It's not tough to meet them.
Sure, says the quarterback.
No, I mean, you can meet a bunch of girls out here. It's tough to keep them.
If you figure it out, let me know. What do you think Quincy is thinking right now?
It's 110 degrees up here. He's over it.
Ditto. You're a large man. You're cool with carrying me down, right?
I got you.
Speaking of stars, there was a report that Odell Beckham Jr. wants to be a Ram.