SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Everett Golson dropped back, saw Will Fuller streaking downfield and fired an arching strike toward the speedy wide receiver.
It’s a pass on which the pair connected plenty in the past. But on Thursday, Golson threw the ball so high it got stuck in one of the nets dangling from the roof of the Loftus Center, Notre Dame football’s indoor practice facility.
“Man,” Golson smiled. “That was good as gold.”
This was the nature of Golson’s return to Notre Dame after a six-month graduate transfer stint at Florida State. It didn’t come with a BCS Championship berth or the kind of high expectations that the Myrtle Beach, S.C. native failed to meet in a blizzard of turnovers two years ago. There weren’t any fans furiously typing posts on message boards or Twitter furiously awaiting Golson return to replace Tommy Rees or clamoring for Malik Zaire to replace him. It was Golson, 16 of his former teammates and representatives from 31 NFL teams as the ex-Irish quarterback took his one shot at proving he’s worthy of a place at football’s highest level.
Golson didn’t get an invitation to the NFL Combine, but he did get an offer from Brian Kelly to come back to Notre Dame to work out and participate in pro day. With Florida State not having any draft-eligible receivers and Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle doing Notre Dame’s pro day, Golson trekked back to northern Indiana about two weeks ago.
“I appreciate my relationship with Coach Kelly, for him to even allow me to come back after everything,” Golson, who announced his intention to transfer from Notre Dame last May, said. “I could see how some coaches would probably feel some type of animosity toward the player or whatever, but I can honestly say that he hasn’t felt any of that. I come back right now, I’m sitting in the training room, he’s talking to me just like I’m here, dapping me up, and it’s just cool. So I do appreciate him for extending that offer as well.”
Golson added that he’s felt in his return that it’s “as if I’m part of the family, still.”
Golson had nothing but good things to say about Notre Dame and everyone around here, from quarterback DeShone Kizer (“he’s grown up for real”) and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford (“really good dude”), though he also said he doesn’t regret leaving for Tallahassee last summer.
The move away from Notre Dame turned out to be for the best for everyone involved. Had Golson still been in South Bend, does Kizer emerge as an all-around threat who instantly gained the trust of his teammates with that 39-yard bomb to Fuller at Virginia?
And Golson was effusive in his praise of Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who he said gave him a fresh perspective on being a quarterback. While Golson declined to publicly comment on the reasons behind missing the Seminoles’ Peach Bowl defeat to Houston (ESPN reported it was due to a death in the family), the tone of his comments over his time at Florida State was positive.
“I loved my time down there,” Golson said. “I loved my time here as well. Like I said, no regrets, man. No ill will.”
Golson — who never met with media members who cover Florida State last season — was affable and engaging during the 30 or so minutes he spent with the media on Thursday, which was a noticeable change from his generally reserved demeanor with the press during his time at Notre Dame.
Maybe that change in public personality is due to the uphill battle Golson is fighting to get on an NFL roster, let alone be drafted. CBS Sports rates Golson as the 34th-best quarterback prospect in this year’s NFL Draft class, right between little-known quarterbacks from Georgia State (Nick Arbuckle) and Southern Utah (Ammon Olsen).
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Golson ran a 4.82 40-yard dash at pro day, which probably quashed any notion he could make an NFL roster at a position other than quarterback (for comparison, Carlisle, a slot receiver, ran a 4.46 40; linebacker Jarrett Grace was clocked at 4.75 seconds in the 40).
Golson believes he’ll make it in the NFL as a quarterback. That’s what he intended to prove by returning to Notre Dame.
But he also said getting back on campus with his ex-Irish crew was just as important an experience.
“Sometimes we see things too narrow in a sense, ‘We gotta make it. We gotta make it. We gotta make it.’ And we don’t see the bigger picture,” Golson said. “To me it’s just seeing the bigger picture, getting around these guys again, these coaches, getting around the staff. It’s been real good.”