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Golson matures into vocal leader in second year

Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, April 18, 2013

From one spring to the next, the spotlight has gotten brighter and progressively lonelier for junior quarterback Everett Golson. From redshirt to starter, Golson endured change after change on his way to the BCS National Championship Game.

But he refuses to change one thing.

“I don’t mess with [Twitter]. That is not me,” Golson said with a chuckle. “[…] I’m just to myself. I guess life has changed for me a little bit, but with those changes comes responsibility. So no I understand the responsibility of being the starting quarterback.”

Golson came into the 2012 Blue-Gold Game as the underdog competing for the title of Notre Dame quarterback. Seven months later, he led an undefeated No. 1 Notre Dame to a national championship berth after throwing for 217 yards against USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“Going back to last spring, I wasn’t established at all. I was the new kid on the block, trying to get into the rotation and just make something happen,” Golson said. “Everything that we’ve been through has helped me build a bond with my teammates and helped me step up and establish that role as a leader.”

Guiding Golson in his first year was offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, also in his first year at the helm of the offense. Now in year two, Martin said Golson made steady improvements throughout his game, from footwork to precision passing. But the biggest change came as a matter of circumstance and timing.

“Not having a four-man QB race [is] probably the best thing for Everett,” Martin said.  “He can progress with a little more comfort. When everybody knows it’s a four-man quarterback race, it’s on everybody’s mind.

“[…] He’s a different kid. Time off does everybody good.”

Golson enters the Blue-Gold game as the legitimate starter, a far cry from last year where he sat as far back as third or fourth behind Andrew Hendrix and incumbent starter Tommy Rees. And though Golson started 11 of Notre Dame’s 13 games last season, Irish coach Brian Kelly said before spring practice that he expected a competition of sorts again this spring with the addition of Gunner Kiel into the mix.

But Kiel has left the football program and will transfer to Cincinnati, making the spring a competition of one. Just because the job is his to lose, Golson said he refuses to idle in complacency.

“I have to understand there is always a competition,” Golson said. “I think I am one of the biggest critics of myself. There’s many times when I just go back to watch a lot of last year’s film.”

One of Golson’s most encouraging moments came parallel with his first collegiate loss, a 42-14 drubbing by Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7. When nothing went right for the Irish, there was still the resilience of their young quarterback, who threw for 270 yards and a touchdown on 21-for-36 passing.

Since the title game, Golson has talked, walked and worked his way into a leadership role on an offense that lost five starting seniors, including tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Theo Riddick.

“[Golson] takes charge of the offense,” senior right tackle Christian Lombard said. “He’s kind of that guy that keeps it lax, but when something needs to be said he’s going to be that guy to say it. So he’s stepped into that leadership role and I think he’s done a good job.”

It’s only been one year, but 2,405 yards, 12 touchdowns and one missing crystal ball later, Golson sees himself as a leader by example in a world of heightened expectation.

“I just try to be a better player every day,” Golson said. “Don’t necessarily pick one thing. I try to emphasize having leadership of this team and because I am that leader, everything else trickles down.  You always lead from the front and you just want to be the best that you can be.”

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu