Golson growing into a leader for Notre Dame
By Mark Lazerus Sun-Times Media October 28, 2012 11:28PM
Oklahoma defensive back Gabe Lynn (9) tackles Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (5) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. Notre Dame won 30-13. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Updated: November 30, 2012 6:26AM
NORMAN, Okla. — Maybe if if were still September, Everett Golson couldn’t have handled 86,000 rabid, color-coordinated fans rattling Memorial Stadium to its foundation.
Maybe he wouldn’t have been able to step into a huddle in a tied game in the fourth quarter with a season of stunning promise on the line, look his teammates in the eyes and fill them with confidence. Maybe he wouldn’t have been able to step up in the pocket and deliver a perfect strike to a streaking Chris Brown in stride for a game-changing 50-yard pass.
“I can admit that,” said Golson, Notre Dame’s redshirt freshman quarterback, moments after he led his team to an emphatic 30-13 victory over No. 8 Oklahoma, a win which cemented the Irish as national title contenders, and leapfrogged them over Oregon and up to No. 3 in the BCS standings. “Maybe six or seven weeks ago, I didn’t feel the guys were with me. Now I really feel this is a team.”
He’s certainly made believers of his teammates.
“I do see him as more of a leader,” receiver T.J. Jones said. “He’s learning how to run out offense and every position. He’s learning to tell people what to do, and be the quarterback of this team.”
The evolution of Everett Golson has been a painstaking and unpredictable process, played out under one of the most glaring spotlights in all of college football. There was Tommy Rees running the two-minute drill against Purdue, there was the ghastly effort against Michigan, there were the four fumbles against Stanford. But there also was the calm debut against Navy, the poise at Michigan State, and the efficiency against Miami.
But if Golson becomes the quarterback Brian Kelly believes he’ll be, with three more full years of eligibility left, Norman will be where they place the historical marker, the site where it all began, where Golson grew up before our very eyes. That’s where he protected the football, where he parried every Oklahoma thrust, where he bounced back from every setback, where he used his legs to break off big gains, used his arm to convert key third downs, and used his toughness to return immediately from having the wind knocked out of him by a punishing hit by Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson on a run.
The numbers were modest. The result was anything but.
“Everett learns by actions,” Kelly said of the big hit he took. “I said, ‘I think you’ll stay front side from now on and you won’t bend that back into the safety that we’re not blocking.’ He said, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’”
These are the conversations Kelly and Golson are constantly having.
They talk incessantly. While Golson was on the ground trying to catch his breath, Kelly was in his ear. When Kyle Brindza was lining up for a crucial fourth-quarter field goal, Kelly was looking Golson in the eyes. On Sunday mornings, after practices, over lunch, on the bus ride to the airport — seemingly everywhere — the coach and the quarterback are always talking, always working, always improving.
Kelly talks endlessly about “the process” when discussing how his team has come so far in his third year. Golson is a process, too, a work in progress, a tantalizing yet maddening talent, capable of pushing Notre Dame over the top, or undermining the whole thing.
But Saturday night, in the most hostile of environments, Golson took a huge step forward. The process isn’t finished, not by a long shot. But now it appears safe to say that it’s only getting started.
“I’m not the type of guy to be a little iffy under pressure,” Golson said, a comment that belied his recent past but underlined his promising progress. “So my whole goal was to lead this team and show them that we could do this.”
He did just that. And he also showed a glimpse of just what he could become.