Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly met with reinstated quarterback Everett Golson last week at the signal caller’s home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and said he saw a different man than the one who left the program nearly seven months ago due to a violation of the university’s honor code.
Everett Golson completed 58.8 percent of his passes and tossed 12 touchdowns and six interceptions while rushing for an additional six scores in 2012.
“He’s physically more mature, over 200 pounds. He looked great, quite frankly. Great physical condition,” said Kelly, who added that the two have traded voicemails since the university announced Golson’s reinstatement Friday. “I think I saw a young man that understands what he’s coming back to. He even said, ‘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.
“A couple of 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 different about the expectations that are on him. He’s got to come back and get back into academics and the community. He’s got to come back and earn the [starting quarterback] job back.”
Golson hopes to meet with the team in New York during the lead-up to the Pinstripe Bowl, although he is not permitted to practice with the team there. Kelly stated his satisfaction with the university “[seeing] that he’s deserving of another opportunity” and joked that he’s not sure the program has an open scholarship for him.
As for earning his coach’s trust, Golson has approached the situation the right way since his suspension became public during Memorial Day weekend, Kelly said.
“I think trust is always about you add to it and sometimes you draw from that bank of trust over a period of time,” Kelly said. “I think it’s a situation he’s gone through, he’s done everything we’ve asked of him, I think he’s added a little to the bank of trust over this time. … I think that if there’s anything we’ll have to do for him [it’s that] there’s going to be a lot of noise surrounding Everett Golson. I think there will 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.”
Kelly was hardly the only member of the program excited about Friday’s news. Senior TJ Jones will have graduated by the time Golson runs out of the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium in 2014, but the wide receiver voiced his pleasure with the reinstatement.
“I’m ecstatic for him,” said Jones, who added that the pair has talked periodically since the suspension in May. “Everett and I had a close relationship and I was his host when he was getting recruited and we built a relationship on and off the field when he was here. It’s just good for me to hear because I know it’s something that he wanted.”
Senior quarterback Tommy Rees, who regained his starting role after the university suspended Golson, said they have stayed in touch during the past months as well.
“[I] obviously feel good for him, but that’s pretty much all I’m going to say about the situation,” Rees said. “I’m happy for him and for the university and moving forward we’re just focused on the bowl game. … I’m really happy for him getting back in here and I’m sure he’ll do well.”
As far as looking ahead to 2014, the current freshman class has not yet played with Golson, but is looking forward to him rejoining the offense moving forward.
“It would definitely be exciting,” said wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., who has received glowing reviews from teammates and coaches recently. “I don’t really have much to say because I haven’t played with him or anything like that but it would definitely be an exciting experience to play with him.”
“I’ve never met the kid, but I’ve heard great things about him. I can’t wait to play with him,” said running back Tarean Folston of a potential Golson-Folston backfield.
“I saw a few games with him last year and he did pretty good.”
Ultimately, Kelly said, Golson will be judged on how he handles the opportunity to return to Notre Dame.
“I think it really just depends on his actions,” he said. “I think he’s set up to lead by the way he handled the situation. I think he’s got a lot of respect from his teammates and he took full accountability and responsibility for his actions. He didn’t point a finger when it came to this matter. He took it head on and now it will be strictly his actions. He’ll be judged by how he acts.”