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In Godsey We Trust’

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Editor’s note: This is the second of a new Observer feature. The “Waking the Echoes” series intends to inform fans about some former players and will feature weekly stories profiling them and their lives since Notre Dame.

There was a knock on the door.

It was Sunday, Sept. 10, 2000, and Notre Dame had just lost an overtime heartbreaker to top-ranked Nebraska. Despite playing the entire game, quarterback Arnaz Battle’s prognosis became clear: he had a broken wrist that would sideline him for the rest of the season.

So it should come as no surprise that there was a knock on Gary Godsey’s door. It was Battle, tight end Jabari Holloway and receivers Joey Getherall and David Givens. Their message was clear: Godsey was now the guy.

With the No. 21 Irish facing Heisman contender Drew Brees and No. 13 Purdue, the Tampa, Fla., native had to get to work quickly.

“I was excited, nervous all in one. I was pretty confident. I had a great freshman year, learning behind Arnaz and [former quarterback] Jarious Jackson. I had a great spring ball,” Godsey said in a phone interview with The Observer. “I knew when it was my opportunity, I would be able to perform. I was pretty confident going into that game, believe it or not. After the first couple snaps, I settled in.”

Following a blocked punt by safety Glenn Earl and a delay of game penalty against Godsey on his first play, the Irish faced a third down from the nine-yard line. Godsey dropped back, took off up the middle and broke a tackle before diving in the end zone to give Notre Dame an early 7-0 lead.

Going into the fourth quarter, Notre Dame held a 20-14 lead – but Brees and the Boilermakers would not go away quietly. With 3:39 left in the game, Brees found receiver Vinny Sutherland on a 22-yard strike to give Purdue the lead.

Led by Godsey, who went 4-for-6 for 38 yards on the final drive, and running back Julius Jones, Notre Dame set up kicker Nick Setta for a potential game-winning field goal. Setta nailed the 38-yard attempt as time expired and the capacity crowd, some of whom were sporting “In Godsey We Trust” shirts, at Notre Dame Stadium celebrated a 23-21 Irish victory.

“I liked that no-huddle passing attack and we drove down the field,” Godsey said. “I remember Nick Setta kicking a field goal and winning the game. I remember some of the fans storming the field.”

Godsey finished the game 14-for-25 for 158 yards and an interception, completing just one more pass than Brees did. With the win, the 6-foot-7 quarterback earned another start against Michigan State that would end up as his last.

A last-minute 27-21 loss to the Spartans pushed then-freshman quarterback Matt LoVecchio into the starter’s role and Godsey back to tight end.

“We had a great group of quarterbacks. We all brought out the best in each other. We all trusted the coaching staff. At the end of the day, it was best for me to move to tight end,” Godsey said.

While Godsey had a successful career as a tight end, that doesn’t stop him from thinking about what could have been if he had stayed behind center.

“I think about that a lot. I try not to second-guess what was going on then and the decision the coaching staff made because you choose the school and you’re happy, you try not to look back. I had a great career as a tight end,” Godsey said. “Who knows what I could have done as a quarterback?”

Godsey started 15 games at tight end in the next two seasons, hauling in 18 passes for 205 yards. But it was one five-yard reception in the 2003 Gator Bowl against NC State that was the most important to his football career. After making the catch, Godsey was hit and tore his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

He had the knee reconstructed and rehabilitated, only to be injured again during training camp the following year. Godsey’s knee injury was just one of four in his family, as two of his brothers and his father also tore their left ACL.

“You take it for granted that you’re out there playing, having fun. You’re young and you don’t ever think you can get injured,” Godsey said. “I would give anything to be able to play my fifth year with all my buddies in the Stadium, running out and enjoying everything that goes along with being a Notre Dame football player.

“I thought I had another year and then go have this wonderful career in the NFL. Things happen for a reason, I guess. For whatever reason, I got injured and that was the end of my career right there.”

After both the NCAA and the NFL denied him more playing time, Godsey appeared in both “The Longest Yard” and a “Madden 06” advertisement as an extra before returning to Notre Dame to finish his graduate degree in psychology.

Godsey now works as a vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle, a publicly traded commercial real estate company that manages portfolios for Fortune 500 companies around the world.

“There are a lot of comparisons and analogies between the commercial real estate world and athletics. There’s a lot of competitiveness,” Godsey said. “We look at winning new accounts, winning new clients as winning a game.”

Godsey, 31, is married to his wife Amber and the couple has one child, Gabrielle, a 20-month old. He resides in Tampa, Fla.

A full transcript of our interview with Gary Godsey will be available Friday morning at ndsmcobserver.com

Contact Matthew DeFranks at [email protected]