SOUTH BEND – Everett Golson took a moment Monday to reflect on how he got back to where he was.
The Notre Dame quarterback was wearing his gold helmet again for the first time since the Blue-Gold spring game last April because an academic misstep cost him this past season.
I want to say surreal in a sense, Golson said after the Irish’s first spring practice.
They were his first public comments since returning to the university in January.
I felt accomplished for a split moment, that I went through what I went through and now I’m back and moving forward now and still continuing the process of trying to grind and be better, he said.
Golson led Notre Dame to the BCS championship game after the 2012 season. He threw for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions and ran for 298 yards with six touchdowns while starting 11 of 12 games in his only season playing for the Irish.
But his career was put on hold when he was suspended for the fall semester in May for what he called poor academic judgment in a release at the time and later explained in an interview with Sports Illustrated that he cheated.
Golson spent part of his banishment working with renowned quarterback coach George Whitefield Jr. in San Diego, and while he said some programs tried to reach him through third parties, he never considered leaving Notre Dame or playing at a junior college while waiting to return to the Irish.
I know I messed up, Golson said. So for me, I had to come back and complete what I had started.
Golson started his return on a good note.
The 6-foot, 200-pounder, who is listed on the roster as a senior but has redshirt junior status, worked with the first-team offense during the portion of practice open to the media.
And he didn’t lose any of the arm strength that helped him win the starting job two seasons ago.
Everett looked awesome, cornerback Matthias Farley said. In one-on-ones, he was throwing the ball so hard. You were like, Wow, he’s throwing the ball hard.’ He looked really good. He looked smooth.
Tight end Ben Koyak said Golson returned as a better leader. He’s a much more confident guy, said Koyak, who along with receiver Chris Brown is the only player at spring camp to catch a pass from Golson in a game since receiver DaVaris Daniels is suspended for the semester because of an academic misstep.
Coach Brian Kelly said Golson didn’t look like a quarterback that missed a season as the quarterback had had the offense running with outstanding tempo.
And while Kelly said Golson will have to earn the starting job over sophomore Malik Zaire, the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster until the arrival of freshman DeShone Kizer this summer, the coach spoke Monday like it was Golson’s job to lose.
We all live in the same world when it comes to the Notre Dame quarterback, and we are going to heap a lot on this kid’s shoulders and he knows that and that is why he came back to Notre Dame because he wants that opportunity, Kelly said. But clearly he is going to be the guy that drives this for us.