High School Football

Let's play 2: Myrtle Beach's Golson to try hand at football, basketball at UNC

Steadfast for two-plus years in his plans to play both sports collegiately, Everett Golson never even mentioned the idea of giving up football or basketball.

His love for each sport, he said, defined him as much as the success he enjoyed in them both. It wasn't until earlier this month, when he committed to play both sports at North Carolina, that he hinted at the decision he might ultimately have to make.

"That's the big [debate], whether I'm going to play football or basketball," Golson said. "I've decided to play football and pursue football and use basketball as a secondary sport to help keep me in shape."

Basketball was Golson's first love, but he realizes now that football, his scholarship sport, is his future. Nevertheless, he plans on playing both sports, at least initially, for the Tar Heels.

Golson will try to follow a path blazed by star college quarterbacks like Charlie Ward and Donovan McNabb, who juggled the rigors of being a starting quarterback with the added responsibilities of being a member of their school's basketball team. There haven't been many like them in power leagues like the Atlantic Coast Conference, and those that have taken the risk have seen mixed results.

"With two high-powered sports in football and basketball, it's very difficult," Boston College offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill said. "I think you really have a hard time doing justice to both sports and yourself, because football and basketball have become 12-month jobs if you're going to play at a big-time level.

"I can't think of too many people that have had success doing both. I'm sure it's possible, but it's very, very difficult."

Tranquill has first-hand experience dealing with a quarterback that dabbled in basketball. Depending on who you ask, he either coached one of the biggest athletic busts or one of the most underappreciated athletes in Tar Heels history.

Golson will inevitably draw comparisons to Ronald Curry, who started under center for three seasons until he was benched in favor of freshman Darian Durant as a senior in 2001. Curry graduated as the school's all-time leader in total offense (a record Durant now owns), and was a regular starter at point guard.

Yet, many believe Curry, the national prep player of the year in both sports, was an underachiever that never lived up to the hype. Tranquill, on the other hand, believes Curry, who would eventually play in the NFL as a receiver, never had a chance to develop as a quarterback.

"He didn't get an opportunity to hone his skills as much as he could have," said Tranquill, who was Curry's offensive coordinator. "He was a great athlete. I've never seen a high school highlight tape any better than his, but I think there is a little edge to being able to throw the football. I think maybe not giving football full attention for four years hurt him, and the chance of being a really good quarterback slipped away."

Curry maintained after his college career that he could have played in the NBA had he focused on that sport instead of football. Golson differs in that he understands that football is now his primary sport. If he has any chance of playing professionally, it certainly will be in the NFL and not the NBA.

One of Curry's biggest detriments was following one of the greatest quarterback-basketball stars of the modern era. Florida State's Ward won the Heisman Trophy and the national championship in football, was a collegiate star in basketball and went on to a lengthy career in the NBA. His success created unbelievably high expectations for his clone, Curry.

It's doubtful that much will be expected from Golson on the hardwood - highly rated point guard Kendall Marshall, a Beach Ball Classic alumni and UNC signee, is viewed by many as the answer to the Tar Heels' backcourt woes - so he shouldn't have to worry about meeting high expectations as a dual-sport athlete. It should help that few have found recent success remotely similar to Ward.

McNabb was a star quarterback at Syracuse, but he was a reserve that rarely played in basketball. Others have tried to play both sports in the last decade, but the time demands and complexities of today's college football offenses have made it tougher than ever, coaches and players said.

Still, Golson will have a role model in South Florida's B.J. Daniels.

Forced into the lineup as the team's starting quarterback after an injury to Matt Grothe, Daniels had solid numbers as a redshirt freshman in 2009. A decorated prep hoops standout, Daniels played basketball for the Bulls during the 2008-09 season and would have played this season had he not had shoulder surgery.

Daniels averaged just 2.8 minutes per game, but he plans to return to basketball next season. He figures to remain the team's starting quarterback for first-year coach Skip Holtz.

The toughest part of playing both sports for Daniels was establishing himself as a leader - a position that most quarterbacks are expected to fill - on the football team.

He missed a large portion of the team's offseason workouts early in 2009 because of basketball, so when Grothe went down, Daniels found himself having to earn the respect of those around him in the lineup. That was not the easiest thing to do during the season.

"It's a big deal when the quarterback is not there," he said. "This is the time of the year when guys are working hard in school and working hard in the weight room. It's really great to have your teammates side by side with you as you struggle."

Daniels believes Golson's biggest challenge will be proving his mettle to his new teammates, who may resent him for missing many of the toughest workouts of the year. College football players typically go through mentally and physically demanding workout regimens in the months of January and February leading up to spring practice.

Former Duke point guard and Syracuse quarterback Greg Paulus, who never played the sports simultaneously at the college level, agrees with that assessment. He also believes that Golson faces the challenge of having to essentially "quarterback" two teams - one as an actual signal caller and another as a point guard.

"Obviously I'm biased, but I think those are the two most important positions from the standpoint of an extension of the head coach and being a leader," he said. "Whether that individual is a leader or not, they are put in a leadership position, so for the team to be successful, it's important for the quarterback and point guard to know everything."

Though he now demands the respect of his teammates, Golson does more leading by example than he does with spoken words. Only time will tell if he develops the comfort to step into the huddle and command players that may be several years older than he is.

It also remains to be seen if Golson's physical stature will change. He stands just 6-foot, 175 pounds and could find it difficult to gain the weight needed to survive an ACC football season by playing two sports year round.

The potential challenges are numerous, but nobody is ready to starting doubting Golson yet.

"I think if any kid can do it, he can," Myrtle Beach football coach Mickey Wilson said. "He'll have his work cut out for him no doubt. He understands that. North Carolina has a tradition of kids doing both: Julius Peppers and Ronald Curry. I think that attracted him there, because they've had kids do that and been successful at it.

"One of the reasons he committed early was he wanted to establish himself as the quarterback of the future at North Carolina. I don't think anything will stand in his way."