QB Everett Golson feels comfort, not regret, at Notre Dame Pro Day

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — There’s a part of Everett Golson that never left Notre Dame.

Of course, the more publicized reality — the one plastered across ESPN and newspapers throughout last summer and fall — involved the 6-foot, 200-pound quarterback’s graduate transfer to Florida State, out of the festering quarterback duel with then-rising junior Malik Zaire and into the seismic void vacated by FSU Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

But at times last season, a year in which he started the first seven games for the Seminoles before losing his job to Sean Maguire, his attention drifted north — to old friends and a familiar field. He huddled in front of a television in Tallahassee, Fla., and it all came rushing back.

“I watched some of their games and was calling out plays,” Golson said Thursday. “ ‘This is what they’re running. This is what they’re thinking.’ I felt like I was kind of here from a distance.”

On Thursday, Golson’s presence was far more palpable. Notre Dame’s starting quarterback in 2012 and 2014 participated in the Irish’s annual Pro Day alongside 16 former teammates. He wore a gray Under Armour shirt with the Notre Dame monogram and a black No. 5 printed across his chest. Suddenly, he was back — thanks largely to Brian Kelly.

“Once all the dust settled, coach Kelly reached out to me,” Golson said of the opportunity to participate in ND's Pro Day. “I talked to him, and he said, ‘Really, do you want to come back?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, for sure.’

"That’s how it ended up happening. I appreciate my relationship with coach Kelly, for him even allowing me to come back after everything.

“I will say this: I could see how some coaches would probably feel some type of animosity towards the player, but I can honestly say that he hasn’t felt any of that. I come back and I’m sitting in the training room and he’s talking to me just like I’ve been here. He’s backing me up, and it’s just cool. I appreciate him extending that offer.”

Golson accepted Kelly’s offer for a number of reasons, the most logical being that Florida State had zero wide receivers eligible to participate at their own Pro Day, which took place on Tuesday. But his motivation also hinged on the teammates he left behind.

“I wanted to be back with those guys one last time,” he said. “It’s kind of a big moment when you really think about it. You’ve got guys out here who will probably never be in the same spot together again, you know what I’m saying? For me, that was very important — getting out here, throwing to guys I’ve been comfortable with.”

On Thursday, Golson looked plenty comfortable. In the moments leading up to his 40-yard-dash, as NFL scouts, Irish alums and assorted media members bustled along the surrounding track, he jogged up and down the side of Meyo Field — head bobbing with each passing step.

“Three minutes left,” a scout announced.

“Yes sir!” Golson responded. “Yes sir! Yes sir!”

Golson’s 40-yard dash didn’t dazzle, as the battle-tested quarterback clocked in at 4.82 seconds. His passes occasionally sprayed high and wide, and one football slipped out of his hand as he backpedaled and cocked to throw.

It was an imperfect performance, but a welcome one, nonetheless.

“You know, Everett’s my guy,” defensive tackle Sheldon Day said. “Just seeing how he looks with a ball in his hand and almost all of his balls being completed, it was good seeing him back out here.”

Strangely enough, one pass never landed. Golson reared back and unleashed a deep post to streaking speedster Will Fuller. The football lodged in the net hung atop the Loftus Center’s rafters as the crowd shared a collective laugh.

“That (throw) was good as gold,” Golson later said with a chuckle.

Golson’s seemingly fledgling draft stock didn’t enjoy a sudden spike on Thursday.

But after it was over, he still managed a grin.

“I feel good, man. Mentally, I feel great,” Golson said, engulfed by a flock of media. “One thing I can say — I want all y’all to get this, too — God’s good, man. For me, everything I’ve been through, I’ve grown stronger in my faith.”

Everett Golson was very candid today. Lots of good info. Story coming.

— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) March 31, 2016

Throughout the past five years, that faith has been regularly tested. After helping to lead Notre Dame to the national championship game in 2012, Golson was suspended for the 2013 season because of academic misconduct.

He left 5,850 passing yards and 41 touchdown passes behind in transferring to Florida State, only to serve as a spectator for nearly half of his final season. He didn’t travel with the Seminoles to the Peach Bowl for reasons he declined to name on Thursday.

In February, he failed to receive an invitation to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

He has been through a lot, but Golson doesn’t regret any of it — specifically the transfer.

“I’ve never seen anybody like (Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher), with the recall that he has,” Golson said. “We’re sitting in the film room, and he may call something out from 2006 and tell you exactly what the play is, exactly what down it was. It’s like, ‘Yo, how does that happen?’

“Being around a great mind like that and learning a different perspective on football, it’ll only make you better. My knowledge of the game increased so much.”

Whether that improvement, combined with his physical attributes, is enough to land Golson on an NFL roster is yet to be determined. He said that he has spoken with “a few teams” and hopes to work out with many more. But Golson’s future ultimately lies outside the quarterback’s control.

What he could control, on Thursday, was where he attended Pro Day. Golson opted for the team he watched on television from Tallahassee, for a grand finale that few could have foreseen.

“It (feels) more like that long lost brother coming home,” Golson said. “It’s not like I’m some brand new guy. (My former teammates) talk to me just as if I was at workouts yesterday. It’s been good, man.”


Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame's Everett Golson throws during a drill during Notre Dame's NFL football Pro Day in South Bend, Ind., Thursday, March 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)