At the beginning of the 2012 season, not many people truly believed the Irish would be playing for the National Championship. The evolution of the Fighting Irish over the course of the year can be tied to the development of Notre Dame Quarterback Everett Golson.
“If I was to look back on the season, I would say this is the definition of a growing process,” said Golson.
The players have watched their teammate grow and improve over the past few months, in what Braxton Cave calls a classic “boy to man’ transition.
“He did it so quickly,” said teammate Theo Riddick, “He grew on the scene and that was the most significant thing.”
Even Irish legend Tony Rice admires the rookie quarterback’s progress, “You are supposed to have everything taken care before the season but to go along the season and still improve? That is a great feat.”
Everett Golson’s maturation throughout this year seemed to come in baby steps, and like a baby’s first steps they were sometimes wobbly, and sometimes found him falling down.
“If you think of it just from an Everett Golson standpoint, there had to have been, at times, questions about, ‘Does Coach Kelly want me to be the guy here? Is this my job or Tommy Rees' job?’ Even though we told him it was his, those actions probably weren't clear enough for him,” said Kelly.
Despite dealing with adversity, Golson says at the end of the day, a trial like the one he had this year is exactly what makes great players great. That type of greatness showed in flashes to fans, and shone through in moments like the fourth quarter of the game against Oklahoma.
From the Okalhoma game Golson remembers Irish defensive star Manti Te’o coming up to him at halftime, when it was unclear that the Irish could get the win, “I was pretty sick but having Manti come up to me and telling me that we were going to get through this together.”
The Irish pulled out victory after victory, but doubts about the team still lingered into November when Golson was yanked from the Pitt game only to come back in the second half and lead the Irish to their most dramatic win of the year.
It was in those moments that Golson says it is important to keep going, “Wherever you are at you just got to keep pushing. I think that really just reemphasized that I have to keep doing that.”
Now the Irish offense truly belongs to Everett. The inexperienced kid who began the year has become the man to lead Notre Dame into the national championship game.