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POPE: ND’s Everett Golson has opportunity to lead in return

Discover BCS National Championship - Notre Dame v Alabama

Discover BCS National Championship - Notre Dame v Alabama

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Updated: January 19, 2014 12:06PM



Notre Dame has one football game left in 2103.

And while the Pinstripe Bowl will serve in part as a swan song for the seniors, the lead up to the game gives the Irish a jump on 2014.

Coach Brian Kelly and his staff get a little more time with some of the returning players during practices. A little more time to evaluate the strides the younger players have made. And a little more time to teach.

Those are just some of the benefits of qualifying for a bowl.

Everett Golson isn’t one of those players practicing. But the quarterback is back in the fold. A spokesperson announced Friday that Golson had been readmitted to the university.

Most college football fans are familiar with the story by now. Golson played a major role in helping the Irish reach the 2012 BCS national title game. He was suspended for the fall semester in May for what he said was “poor academic judgment.”

Any time you lose a starter, it’s going to hurt a team. It goes double when it’s the starting quarterback.

His return will obviously help. It’s like gaining a top-notch recruit. Only one with an understanding of the offense and what football at this level is all about.

Does his return put Notre Dame automatically back in the national title mix? Time will tell. There are some other decisions, like whether defensive end Stephon Tuitt decides to stay or go pro, that will have an impact on that question.

But it does give the Irish a leg up offensively.

“I’m pleased that the university saw that he’s deserving of another opportunity,” Kelly told reporters Saturday. “We’re excited that that has been extended to him.

“… We’re certainly excited that he’s got an opportunity to continue his education and play football here. I thought it was great news and we were hoping for that.”

Kelly met with Golson last week. He saw a person who had matured. In more ways than one.

“He’s physically more mature, probably over 200 pounds. He looked great, quite frankly. Great physical condition, and I think mentally is really where I saw a young man that understands what he’s coming back to,” Kelly said. “He even said, ‘I know that there’s going to be a lot of people out there that are looking at me and not all of them are going to want to see me succeed.’

“He knows what he’s coming into. I think a couple years ago when we were there, he was packing his bags as a freshman, and now he’s coming back as somebody that’s going to have to lead. The conversations were a little bit different about the expectations that are on him. He’s got to come back, he’s got to assimilate, he’s got to get back into academics and the community, and he’s got to get back to earning the job back.”

How Golson continues to handle the mental aspect of the return will be worth watching.

It will also be important to see if he can assume one of those leadership roles.

Golson was on the leadership path during spring practice. He received praise from the coaches and teammates for his growth in that department.

It’s a role a player has to earn. And Kelly believes Golson is on the right track.

“I think he’s set up to lead by the way he handled the situation,” Kelly said. “I think he’s gotten a lot of respect from his teammates in the way that he handled himself, took full accountability and responsibility for his actions, didn’t point a finger. He was a thumb-pointer when it came to this matter. He took it head-on.

“I think now it’ll be strictly his actions. I think he’ll be judged by how he acts. If he’s truly the guy that we think he’s going to be, I think he’ll earn that respect by his actions.”

And so the next chapter for Golson begins. His return is not only good news for the football program. But more importantly, for Golson himself.

“I think if there’s anything that we’ll have to do for him, there’s going to be a lot of noise surrounding Everett Golson,” Kelly said. “There’s going to be as many people looking for him to not succeed as there will be to succeed. Unfortunately, not everybody likes a good story, so there will be some cynics out there.

“I think we’re going to have to support him, but I think he’s prepared to handle all those things. And we’ll be there to support him.”



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