FORT WAYNE – Everett Golson knew the hard questions were coming – well, at least of one variety.
While Notre Dame instructed players to avoid comment on the school’s open investigation of potential academic fraud, Golson sat at a crowded table off to the side of the Loftus Sports Complex during Tuesday’s media day, quietly explaining how he overcame character issues.
You really see who you are and who your true friends are through adversity, Golson said. Everybody on the outside is going to talk. We can only control what we can.
While coach Brian Kelly said there was no clarity regarding the four players suspected of misconduct, he said Golson’s more mature approach confirmed the team’s confidence that he is past his own youthful indiscretions.
Golson spent about an hour in front of reporters, being reminded constantly of the fact that he missed the entire season last year.
The senior quarterback said getting into trouble academically taught him some valuable lessons.
I got a second chance, Golson said. I’ve been hit with everything. You have more of an appreciation for the university.
According to Kelly, there were a number of other mistakes along the way.
I could give you a list, Kelly said. He was spotty in attendance. He was at times late. He wasn’t doing the things leaders do.
Golson, bothered that the suspension and other clashes were how some people defined him as a player and also worried that teammates would think him unreliable, addressed his actions while away.
Now he’s first to everything, Kelly said. He’s that guy out in front, not the guy behind. That comes with knowing what good leadership looks like, and he’s paid attention to it.
A year ago, Golson was waiting for his opportunity to arise again. He’s come back having grown up.
A deluge of media treated Golson as the star of Tuesday’s interview sessions.
Cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who can be a character, was a notable absence, while offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, battling prostate cancer, was a notable inclusion.
I feel much, much better, Denbrock said. I want to be careful about how much I say I’m doing because I don’t want my wife or doctor to hunt me down. Getting stronger.
Kelly used the afternoon to unravel more of his vision for the year, one he referred to as a unique blend with a lot of freshmen seeing the field.
We’ll play faster on offense, faster on defense, he said. Our preseason camp has been excellent. We’ve really come together as a group.
Even with the investigation of Russell, receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore and defensive end Ishaq Williams, the Irish are still talking big.
The College Football Playoff is the carrot that motivates them.
Expectations haven’t changed, Kelly said. They can’t change. We don’t have a conference championship to play for, so we only have one goal, and that is to be one of those four teams to get in.
With Golson acting as the right type of presence, his current road – and Notre Dame’s – just might lead to such prosperity. Knowing everything in my past, Golson said, it could kind of work out in the end.