The last time I saw Everett Golson, he had played the worst game of his entire football career. Shielded from the media, Golson came out of the Notre Dame locker room and stopped to talk with me. He had thrown two interceptions and got the quick hook in the second quarter from Brian Kelly in Notre Dame's 13-6 win over Michigan.
He had every reason to be down in the dumps and could have just kept on walking by. But that's not Everett Golson. He stopped and gave all the right answers and a quiet confidence that he's going to keep getting better. When the camera was off, I spoke with Golson for a couple of more minutes. I know him well enough that he could have took a moment to vent about not playing well or shake his head in disgust. There was none of that. He wasn't discouraged at all and was anxious to have a full two weeks to prepare for his next opponent. He enjoyed hearing about Myrtle Beach High's win over Conway the night before and more than anything happy to see a familiar face. Trust me, if it were up to him, he'd shy away from all the attention that he's getting in the press, but he knows that it comes with the territory.
Golson played eight games since that Michigan game and he did get better. He thrived in tough environments like Oklahoma and Southern California and might not have had flashy numbers, but he had the best stat of all - 12 wins and a spot in the BCS National Championship game.
I've witnessed more than one moment like after the Michigan game in the six years that I've covered Everett Golson that shows the intangibles which has put him on the biggest stage in college football in Miami. It has been fun to watch the country see the well rounded side of Golson who uses music as a creative outlet and has handled the bright spotlight of being a quarterback at one of the biggest brands in all of sports in stride.
When he threw for 47 touchdowns and just three picks in his junior season at Myrtle Beach, he told Mark Haggard that he was hoping to have no interceptions in his senior year. More than anything else, Everett Golson is a highly motivated individual. It doesn't matter what happens in the title game, one thing's for sure - Golson will be right to work in the offseason figuring out how he can be even better. Before leaving for Miami, he said that if the Irish wins it all in his redshirt freshman season, he'll get greedy and want to get another championship. That's how he is wired. Usually, that kind of mindset goes hand in hand with a huge ego, but not with Golson. He won WPDE's Zoneman Trophy in 2008 and 2009 and was the overwhelming favorite to win it all in his senior season. He suffered an injury against Byrnes early in the season and missed the majority of the regular season. With Zoneman ballots collected after week 11, it would be awkward to vote on a player who played about 10 quarters. Golson withdrew his name from consideration and asked for coaches to vote for one of his teammates for the award. At the Zone Banquet, I asked Golson to present the Trophy to the winner. This was my attempt of throwing him into the fire. Knowing that he would have been perfectly fine to have the spotlight off of him, I wanted to give him this task with the hopes that it would prepare him for what was to come in his college career. Standing on a stage in a room of 200 in a televised event is a daunting task for anyone, yet alone a high school senior. Talking off the top of his head, Golson spoke about what the award meant to him and how honored he was to be part of the legacy of the trophy and then announced that current University of South Carolina running back Shon Carson was the winner. Talking to Kirk Herbstreit and the rest of the national media is a whole lot bigger than the WPDE Zone Banquet, but I left that night knowing that Golson was going to be just fine in dealing with all the attention of being quarterback at Notre Dame.
I read a great article in USA Today about how young Golson will react on a big stage. The focal point of the article was the 2010 Class 3A championship that saw Myrtle Beach beat South Pointe in Everett's final high school game. I was on the sidelines and saw first hand the adversity Golson faced. Jadeveon Clowney, of South Carolina and future #1 NFL pick fame, threw #5 like a rag doll on the very first play of the game. Myrtle Beach had a blocked punt for a safety and it looked like the Seahawks were overmatched (sounds a lot like the Notre Dame/Alabama talk). Trailing 23-14 at the end of three quarters, Golson threw two TD passes in the fourth quarter in a 27-23 title victory. He didn't have the best game of his career, but he figured out a way to win when it mattered the most.
There's going to be about 25 million sets of eyeballs watching Everett Golson try and handle the toughest challenge of his career. He's the starting quarterback at Notre Dame and now a household name in all of America. If he plays great, that will be magnified even more. But that isn't going to change who he is at his core. He has the talent and resume to have a massive ego, but instead is the polar opposite. When a superstar comes home for Christmas and says his favorite gift was a candy cane from his Grandma, that's the definition of humble.
I have no idea what is going to happen between the Fighting Irish and the Crimson Tide. There will be a lot of people with butterflies as they hope that Golson can deliver in the biggest game of his life. Golson is human - he'll have those butterflies, but he'll settle into the flow of the game and do what he does on the big stage.
Today is Everett Golson Day in Myrtle Beach, as proclaimed by Mayor John Rhodes. It doesn't matter what happens later tonight on the field. The Grand Strand already knows that Everett Golson is a winner.