Everett Golson has authored one of the Grand Strand’s top 10 stories of 2012, but the final chapter of this drama won’t be completed until Jan. 7, 2013.
That’s when Golson leads Notre Dame into the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The former Myrtle Beach High School star, who turns 20 on Jan. 2, has led the Fighting Irish to a 12-0 season and No. 1 national ranking as a redshirt freshman quarterback.
“It’s a little surreal for me right now,” Golson said. “I never really slowed down to think about it just because I’m young. It’s all a growing process for me. Right now I’m just keeping my head down still trying to learn everything I can learn and preparing the best that I can prepare.”
Though Golson is poised to become the latest Notre Dame quarterback to win a national title, joining the likes of Joe Montana, Tony Rice and Johnny Lujack, his road to the championship was rife with potholes.
He was pulled by Irish coach Brian Kelly for either ineffectiveness or injury four times early in the season, but has persevered and improved as the season has progressed.
“I think it’s just determination,” said Golson, who was honored Wednesday by the city of Myrtle Beach during a presentation at the Beach Ball Classic. “That’s kind of been in me since my childhood. I’ve just always had that determination and that will to win. I think that’s what’s carried me this far and I hope it carries me more.”
At Myrtle Beach High, Golson was 45-5 as a starting quarterback. He threw for 11,717 yards and 151 touchdowns with 26 interceptions, won two Class AAA state titles and played in a third title game.
His exploits as a freshman aren’t unprecedented. He led the Seahawks to a state basketball championship as a freshman starting point guard.
Some on the Grand Strand saw his success at Notre Dame coming.
“When he left here it was something we expected to kind of happen, we just weren’t sure how long it would take to get in the starting role,” Myrtle Beach High football coach Mickey Wilson said. “We all felt it was something that was going to happen and something he would thrive in. Fortunately it’s happened early and he’s done real well with it.”
Others saw it coming, as well. Rice, Notre Dame’s MVP of the National Championship Fiesta Bowl in 1988 and also a South Carolina native, said as much on a radio show in the offseason – before Golson was named the season-opening starter.
“His athletic ability – he has it all,” Rice said. “I say he’s better than me. He’s going to be better than Tony Rice. He’s going to make himself his own name. Tony Rice will be gone when he’s finished at Notre Dame.”
Notre Dame began the season ranked outside the top 25, and Golson was one of four players vying for the starting quarterback job.
The school announced on Aug. 1 that 2011 starter Tommy Rees was suspended for the season-opener because of his guilty plea in July to misdemeanor resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor stemming from his arrest at an off-campus party in May.
That eliminated him from the battle, at least on opening day.
Golson was in contention with Andrew Hendrix, who split time with Rees in 2012 as a more mobile quarterback, and Gunner Kiel, a true freshman from Columbus, Ind., a prolific high school passer who many considered the top quarterback in the class of 2012.
Rees seemed to have a chance to get the starting job back, considering he was 12-4 as a starter with 3,977 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, and was the only quarterback on the roster who had ever started.
Golson redshirted his true freshman year, when he spent the season as the scout team quarterback in practices.
He was replaced by Rees in four games this year, yet managed to keep his starting job and continue improving.
Golson completing 166 of 282 passes for 2,135 yards for a 58.9 completion percentage and 194.1 yards per game, and he’s thrown 11 touchdowns compared to five interceptions.
He has also rushed for 305 yards and five touchdowns on 89 carries for a 3.4-yard average per run. Golson’s improvement is reflected in his statistics. He has thrown for at least 200 yards in each of his last four games and multiple touchdowns in three of those.
_ Sept. 1: 50-10 vs. Navy – The Irish began the season in Dublin, Ireland, with a trouncing of Navy, as Golson completed 12 of 18 passes for a touchdown and interception in his first collegiate action.
_ Sept. 8: 20-17 vs. Purdue – Though Golson ran for a touchdown and threw for a touchdown and completed 21 of 31 passes for 289 yards, he was sacked five times and replaced late in the game by Rees, who led a last-minute drive for a game-winning field goal. Golson was shaken up on a hit before being replaced, but Kelly made it clear he intended to play Rees late regardless for his ability to run the two-minute offense.
_ Sept. 15: 20-3 at Michigan State – Golson was 14 of 32 for 178 yards and both passed and ran for a touchdown as Notre Dame defeated the 10th-ranked Spartans for their first win over a top-10 team in seven years.
_ Sept. 22: 13-6 vs. Michigan – Golson was just 3 of 8 with two interceptions before being replaced by Rees midway through the second quarter, and Rees closed out the defensive game.
_ Oct. 6: 41-3 vs. Miami (Fla.) in Chicago – Golson was an efficient 17 of 22 and also gained 51 yards on six carries in the blowout.
_ Oct. 13: 20-13 (OT) vs. Stanford – Golson completed 12 of 24 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown and also gained 67 yards on 15 carries. But he was knocked from the game with a slight concussion during the Irish’s drive for a game-tying field goal with 20 seconds to play. Rees completed the drive and threw a TD in overtime, and Stanford was stopped at the goal line on fourth down to end the game.
_ Oct. 20: 17-14 vs. BYU – Golson didn’t play because of the concussion and Rees completed 7 of 16 passes for 117 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
_ Oct. 27: 30-13 at Oklahoma – Golson scored a touchdown rushing and gained 66 yards on 11 carries, and completed 13 of 25 passes for 177 yards to lead the Irish to victory as a two-touchdown road underdog.
_ Nov. 3: 29-26 (3OT) vs. Pittsburgh – Golson was again replaced by Rees because of ineffectiveness, but this time he came back to lead the Irish to a 14-point comeback. He threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, tied the game with a two-point conversion run with 2:11 to play, and won the game with a 1-yard run in overtime.
_ Nov. 10: 21-6 at Boston College – Golson ran for a touchdown and threw for two more while completing 16 of 24 passes for 200 yards.
_ Nov. 17: 38-0 vs. Wake Forest – Golson threw for a season-high 346 yards and three touchdowns while completing 30 of 40 passes with an interception.
_ Nov. 24: 22-13 at Southern Cal – The undefeated regular season was completed as Golson played turnover-free while completing 15 of 26 passes for 217 yards and gained 49 yards on nine carries, and the Irish defense had another impressive goal-line stand.
“Getting pulled in the Purdue game, having a bad game in the Michigan game, that’s all adversity I got hit with but it made me better in the end,” Golson said.
By the time the Irish play the championship game, they will have gone 42 days between games. Golson and his teammates have been trying to make the best use of the time.
“We’re taking it as a chance to get our bodies back,” Golson said. “For me I’m also still preparing. I’ve never really taken a day off, I’m still preparing and trying to be the best player I can be.”
Now Notre Dame, its large and influential fan base, and all of Golson’s supporters on the Grand Strand await the national championship game.
“We’re excited and trying to hold ourselves down until Jan. 7,” said Golson’s father, Wayne.