Former Notre Dame QB Carlyle Holiday has walked in Everett Golson's shoes

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

During the second quarter of USC's dismantling of Notre Dame last Saturday, Irish senior quarterback Everett Golson was given the news that it was time for a change, that redshirt freshman Malik Zaire was being given the keys to the offense for the long, uphill ride home in what became a 49-14 loss.

Nearly 80,000 people, most of them Trojan faithful, but a fair amount of them Irish fans, were in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that afternoon. One knew exactly what Golson was feeling.

Eleven years ago, former Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday got the hook, replaced by then-freshman Brady Quinn, who, ironically, was also in attendance for last Saturday's game in LA. So yes, if there was anyone who knew what Golson was feeling last Saturday, it was Holiday.

"It’s difficult. You always want to be in there, and when you’re pulled you’re always going to feel like it’s your fault that you were pulled and you kind of don’t see the big picture of it, where maybe the coach is pulling you to kind of actually let you take a step back and get a little breather, especially if you know the game is out of reach," Holiday said.

"That’s his way of wanting you to reflect and take a look and maybe see things on the field that you’re not seeing at that moment, but it is difficult, because you always want to be in there and you want to make up for your mistakes and in college football, every time you’re taken out, there’s so many great players who are behind you. Even though you’re teammates, there’s that fear that, 'Hey, am I going to lose my position? Am I going to get the opportunity to get back in there and prove myself again?'"

The chance for Holiday to prove himself came again, but it was at wide receiver. He finished the 2003 season at that spot while also remaining Quinn's backup. The next season Holiday was a full-time receiver, good enough that he spent three seasons in the NFL at that position, first with Arizona before moving on to Green Bay. And yes, there's still a dose of "what-if" concerning quarterback. Granted, he knows he had special physical gifts to make the transition, but he also wonders if he had stayed at QB.

"I feel good that I was able to take advantage of those situations so I do reflect it that way, and I'm always reflecting if I could have continued to play quarterback for as long as I could have. The older I've gotten the more I've learned hey, maybe I should have looked at film this way or maybe I should have done things this way or there would be moments where I was like, hey, this is what coach was talking about seven years ago.

"It’s crazy. The thing that really, really jumped out to me is that once I got to the NFL, the guys there that I was around — I was around Kurt Warner and Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers — getting how they understood plays and watched film, you're seeing that as a receiver and you're like, that’s easy. I wish I had an understanding of that when I was playing. I think I could have kept playing quarterback probably."

One thing that would have helped? A better fit offensively for Holiday. Somewhat of a square peg skill-wise in Willingham's round-hole West coast offense, Holiday has noticed the proliferation of the spread. There were doses of it when Holiday played, but it wasn't as widespread as it is today. And yep, he would have loved to have tried his hand at running it.

"Absolutely," he said. "I always think that. As I look back at it now, the things I think I could have been able to do. Of course I would have had to learn everything and do those kind of things but I look at some of the offenses they’re running today with the pistol and the spread and just getting the ball out of your hands quickly and you making all these decisions at the line of scrimmage, it’s just something that’s exciting to watch nowadays, and I can only imagine how much fun I would have had if it was around when I was around."

Holiday's NFL career included 10 games, nine receptions and 126 yards. One of those nine receptions, however, was noteworthy. His 21-yard catch for the Packers in a 2006 game against Detroit moved Favre past Dan Marino as the NFL's all-time completions leader.

The 33-year-old for the last two years has lived with his girlfriend in San Francisco, where he's a recruiter for McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm.

"When I first moved out to California I really hated it but now I don't think I could ever leave California just because of the weather," the San Antonio native said. "I don’t know if I could ever go back to a city where I have to restart my car and wait 10 minutes before I could leave. I love San Francisco."

Holiday comes back to South Bend each summer, where he works at Irish coach Brian Kelly's fantasy camp. Watching his alma mater last week, he was impressed with the way Zaire responded in a tough environment, and he gushed about Golson's early-season play, before a rash of turnovers began.

"I’ll just say from personal experience, it can be tough to kind of get that all back and at times it may take taking a game off or being injured and seeing the field from somebody else playing," Holiday said. "That game off can give you some time to reflect and kind of going back to your fundamentals and what got you to where you were."

Former Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday knows what current Irish QB Everett Golson is going through. (SBT File Photo/JOE RAYMOND)