Could Everett Golson’s return lead the Fighting Irish back to glory?
Quarterback Everett Golson passes against the Southern California Trojans during the first half of a 2012 game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Golson returns as the signal-caller for Notre Dame in 2014 (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports).
(C+P) — The last time Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson took the field: January 7, 2013 against Alabama in the National Championship. After missing all of last season because of poor academic judgment, Golson will return this season as the Irish starting quarterback to open the season Saturday against Rice.
It has been about 600 days since Golson has taken a meaningful snap in a game, but coach Brian Kelly believes he has matured and is ready to lead the Irish this season. If Notre Dame has dreams of make it back to the big game, it will have to navigate a way through one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Before Notre Dame opened preseason camp, a reporter asked coach Kelly about Golson, prefacing his question by saying Golson “led” Notre Dame to the BCS championship game in 2012.
Kelly responded to the reporter: “I would argue that Everett rode the bus to the championship.”
Kelly was not simply going to just hand Golson the starting job when he was reinstated. Kelly wanted to make sure that Golson had to earn the job and prove that he is going to be a leader this upcoming season. Golson and sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire have been battling it out since last spring to earn the right to be named the Irish starting quarterback. Golson eventually beat out Zaire to reclaim the job.
It has been a long journey for Golson to come back and be the improved player and leader the team needs to ultimately be successful. During his time away, Golson went out to San Diego and worked with quarterback guru David Whitfield, who has worked with former Heisman trophy winners Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. During his time with Whitfield, Golson drastically improved his footwork and accuracy. Irish strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo also provided Golson with a workout and meal plan.
Golson came back this spring at 200 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than the season before. By sticking to the workout plan and putting the right type of food in his body, Golson was able to put on the lean muscle necessary for him to be an elite player, as well as show the coaching staff he was continuing to work hard while on academic suspension.
The 2014 season could be a season of redemption for Golson, proving to people that he has overcome his off-the-field issues and developed more into a leader.
“It really hit home for me when I got back,” Golson said. “You kind of see the clean sweep: The guys that were here in 2012 weren’t here in 2013, 2014. So it was important for us to establish that leadership. There was no more sitting around and waiting to see who else was going to step up. I had to be that guy.”
Golson’s defensive teammates have witnessed him taking more command on the field and being vocal. Defensive back Matthias Farley has noticed the transformation from 2012 to now, telling players where to line up and what the signals are.
“Since he’s been back, there’s been no question who the leader of the offense is,” Farley said. “I don’t think anybody on the team, any of the coaches, would question that. He’s definitely become more vocal, which is important, especially as a quarterback. Previously, he was the young guy.”
Now the biggest question is can Golson translate all his hard work and dedication into wins this season. The Irish play five teams ranked in the AP preseason top 25, including a trip to the No. 1 ranked and defending national champions Florida State. The road back to glory will not be easy and the Irish will certainly need Golson to be at his best — and smartest — to achieve their goals this season.