History repeats itself
Golson's growth parallels 2003 title run, Heisman winner Manziel
Published: Friday, January 4, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 4, 2013 12:01
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Chuck Martin has seen the story unfold before.
It’s the tale of a first-year starting quarterback thriving under the pressure of a championship pursuit. In 2003, when the current Irish offensive coordinator served as Brian Kelly’s defensive coordinator at Grand Valley State University, freshman quarterback Cullen Finnerty led the Lakers to a Division II national championship.
Fast forward to 2012. It’s Kelly and Martin’s third year with Notre Dame, and it’s Everett Golson behind center for the 12-0 Irish.
“I would say [Finnerty in 2003] was very similar to this year as far as a young guy growing up on the job, and by the time we got to the national championship game [Golson] was a lot different player than he was when he ran out in Dublin, Ireland, against Navy,” Martin said. “[It is] very similar in terms of watching a young player grow up and really become a player right in front of your eyes. So very similar to that situation.”
Luckily for the Irish, Golson hardly resembles the signal-caller Kelly anointed as the starter in August.
“I'd say just for him, our schedule, first-ever college game in Dublin, Ireland, first-ever home game against Purdue, road game primetime Michigan State, night game at Notre Dame against Michigan, on the road at Oklahoma, on the road at USC, coming off the bench, doing all the things that he's been through, he's about as battle-tested [as anyone],” Martin said. “Take any other quarterback this year and try to figure out if they've gone through as much as Everett Golson.
“To me, it's not even close. Not even close.”
Golson’s experience is not the only feather in his cap as he prepares for the nation’s second-ranked scoring defense in the Crimson Tide. With his mobility, Golson’s style rivals that of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who ruined Alabama’s hopes for a perfect season on Nov. 10. In the 29-24 Aggie victory, Manziel completed 24-of-31 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns while adding 92 rushing yards in the upset.
“[Golson] is a very good athlete,” Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. “He's got the ability to run the ball. He's got extremely great arm talent. He scrambles to throw, but is a ‘willing runner’ we call it. So he will run if he has to, but he scrambles to throw the ball and find people open.
“But there are a lot of similarities between [Golson and Manziel]. Both of them are youthful, and sometimes youth is a good thing. He doesn't have a very long memory. He forgets it and he's right back to the next play and will make another big play.”
If the Irish are going to complete an undefeated season and claim their first national title since 1988, Golson will need the poise he has displayed throughout the 2012 slate. Those surrounding the Notre Dame program have little doubt Golson will come through Monday night.
“He’s been prepared well, he’s had a great month of preparation and I think he will do just fine,” senior tight end Tyler Eifert said. “He’s gotten a lot better. Anytime you’re a young quarterback and you get some more time and start, you’re going to get better and get more experience.
“I think he’s taken the coaching better from the coaches and understanding what their looking for in the offense and that’s really helped him.”
For Kelly and Martin, the plan with their young quarterback has come to fruition, just as it did nearly a decade ago with Finnerty at Grand Valley.
“The thing for us with Everett is our confidence never wavered in anything he was going to become,” Martin said. “We were just pushing the envelope to how quickly we could get him to the level we knew he could play.
“It was just a process, and we knew we were going to stick with it. I don't know that he knew we were always going to stick with it, but there was never any doubt in our mind of what he was going to become for us.”
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