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Golic emerges as versatile lineman

Cory Bernard | Thursday, November 15, 2012

When citing reasons for committing to Notre Dame, most athletes will mention the university’s unique combination of academics and athletics. Others will refer to Notre Dame’s religious atmosphere and sense of community. Although graduate student guard Mike Golic Jr., acknowledges all of these aspects, his decision to play football for the Irish differs from most of his teammates.

His father Mike, who now co-hosts an ESPN show, and uncles Bob and Greg all played for the Irish. Mike Jr. wasn’t certain he would receive the opportunity, but he said he only wanted to play football for one school.

“I mean, obviously, you have to look around, because you never know what’s for certain,” he said. “I mean, it wasn’t a guarantee I was going to get offered here so I had to plan accordingly in case that wasn’t an option. I looked at other schools, I visited other schools, but in my heart of hearts this is where I wanted to be, so it was really a no-brainer. I kind of wanted to follow in the family footsteps and do all that stuff.”

With such a strong family legacy, Golic grew up rooting for the Irish. He said his family annually travelled from their home in Connecticut to South Bend for games well before he became a Division I football recruit.

“I had been coming to Notre Dame at least a game or two every year since I was in the third or fourth grade, so it was a place I felt really comfortable with,” Golic said.

With a national recruiting base, the football team boasts a coast-to-coast roster. Players frequently deal with homesickness while at Notre Dame. However, Golic said his classmates and family helped stave off a longing for home.

“We were a class that had grown so close through recruiting,” Golic said. “I mean, there were guys I had known since beginning or middle of my junior year of high school just from coming to games, coming on visits and everything and being around each other. Also, obviously my parents came out here for all the games, so I didn’t have to deal with the homesickness quite as much. Obviously you still go through it living on your own for the first time, but there was a definite comfort right away, and I owe a lot of that to the guys I came in with.”

Despite feeling comfortable at Notre Dame, Golic said riding the bench early in his career still frustrated him.

“I mean, we all come in here big recruits, guys that were dominant in the high school level and were used to being the man there,” he said. “When that doesn’t go your way here, obviously it’s a new level and it is frustrating, especially over that couple-of-year period. You really have to do a lot of soul searching and dig down really deep to kind of keep pushing through all that.”

When the coaches finally called Golic’s number, he had to replace a classmate. Graduate student center Braxton Cave injured his foot last season, and Golic started the final four games of the season at center. He said the opportunity validated years of preparation. But according to Golic, being a full-time starter from day one this season necessitates a different approach.

“Obviously last year is proof of that preparation,” he said. “You work hard every day and you go through the game plan, watch all the film in practice to be ready when something like that happens when you’re a backup. So, obviously, it’s satisfying to go in there and know that you’re helping the team in the way that you always knew you could.

“However, there is a different sense this year of knowing you’re going to be that guy from the first snap of the game until the end. If all goes well, you’re going to be that guy in there the whole game. You know that going into the week, so you can prepare accordingly with that, so it’s definitely a different feeling.”

The Irish have improved mightily from last season to this season, and the same can be said for Golic. He said if his current improvement continues, he will attempt to fulfill a lifelong dream of donning an NFL jersey.

“That’s kind of up for grabs right now,” Golic said of his future. “Obviously, I want to take the shot at the next level if everything keeps going well this season and work out for pro day and see where things go with that, take the shot there. At this point that’s really the plan.”

Though his football future is uncertain, his effect on locker room morale is not. Golic, the face of Notre Dame’s “Trick Shot Monday” YouTube sensation, said he hopes the weekly game will continue after he leaves.

“A lot of younger guys have gravitated towards it, and I think it’s something that the fans really enjoy and guys really like it and look forward to it every Monday,” he said. “I mean, it’s everyone’s chance for that little 15-minute window to blow off some steam and have some fun. I hope that keeps going on after I’m gone. I mean, we’ll see what happens with it, but regardless it’s had a really good run – definitely a lot more than we expected.”

Though most football fans know his father, a 1984 team captain for Notre Dame and 1985 NFL Draft pick more than him, Golic does play for a 10-0 Irish squad in the hunt for the national championship.

“At this point, yeah that’s something I have on [my father],” Golic said of the undefeated season. “His whole years here [they were] never much above .500 just kind of the way we were, so to have this last year really go so well gives me a little bit of bragging rights on him. He was a heck of a ball player, that’s for sure and everyone obviously still remembers that around here. It’s a well-deserved legacy that he and my uncles left here.”

If the season continues on its current trajectory, Golic will add more than simply a game involving a ping pong ball and a cup to his family’s storied Notre Dame legacy.

 

Contact Cory Bernard at cbernard@nd.edu