SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly offered this advice to young Irish quarterback Everett Golson on how to handle all the responsibilities and hype of the demanding position: Listen to Robert Griffin III.
As he accepted the Heisman Trophy last year, the Baylor star thanked everyone who helped him turn into the player he became and called the experience “unbelievably believable” because of all the hard work it took to accomplish what he did.
“What I talked about was that playing the quarterback position at Notre Dame is more than just what you do on the field,” Kelly said.
“Add I used Robert Griffin as a great example as an ambassador of college football, and I said, ‘Listen, all you have to do is take a look at his Heisman acceptance speech and how he was able to articulate his experience and how it was more than just playing the game.’ And so that was kind of the genesis of the conversation.”
Golson has matured quickly since he came to Notre Dame. After running the scout team as a freshman last year when the transition to college was at times overwhelming, he picked it up in the classroom, the meeting room and on the field. He put together a strong spring game and won a quarterback derby, beating out his final competitor Andrew Hendrix to be the starter.
Did listening to the Heisman speech from RGIII help?
“I really liked it. It was a good speech,” Golson said.
Golson, who is a Myrtle Beach native, helped direct Notre Dame to a 50-10 victory over Navy last week in Dublin, Ireland in his first college game. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t need to run with the ball and made only one glaring error, an interception when he tried to force a pass.
He really gets the spotlight this Saturday, running out onto Notre Dame Stadium for the first time as a starter when the Irish play Purdue.
“It’s going to be tremendous, man. Going to be real crazy,” Golson said. “Playing in Dublin I guess my nerves were a little bit low because you didn’t really know anybody in Dublin, at least I didn’t. Playing in front of 81,000 fans that you actually know, the nerves are still going to be there, but I’m going to stay calm. … Me having that mellow spirit I don’t think I’ll get too nervous about it.”
Golson acknowledged that all the hoopla surrounding the quarterback at Notre Dame is something he’s not quite used to just yet.
“I really try to stay out of it. I know it’s kind of hard to do,” he said.
Kelly was pleased with how Golson managed the offense and the game, and how he communicated with his teammates and the coaching staff.
“This is a process for Everett. This will be a continuation week to week of growing as a quarterback,” Kelly said. “I guess what I like the most in the big picture sense was his comfortable place out on the field.
“He did not seem overwhelmed at any time. He was extremely communicative when he got to the sideline. He could tell me what was going on. Those are all big picture, good things, after game one.”
Golson may be the starter but he won’t look too far out before Saturday’s game. Not with competition from Hendrix and Tommy Rees, who returns this week from a one-game suspension.
“I know my job is not certain right now. What I’m saying is I still have my foot on the gas pedal,” he said.
“I’m glad I got that first game out of the way. Now for me it’s more of really settling down and trying to lead this team and be the quarterback for Notre Dame.”