SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When Malik Zaire enrolled at Notre Dame in January 2013, the plan at the time was for Everett Golson to be the team’s starter for the next three seasons.
Golson was coming off a season in which he started 11 games for the 12-1 Irish, and coach Brian Kelly had designs on expanding the South Carolina native’s role in the offense going forward. If all went according to plan, Zaire wouldn’t compete for a starting role until 2016.
Not much went according to plan for Golson after the 2012 season, though. He was booted from the university in May of 2013 after cheating on a test, then started the 2014 season strong only to see it combust thanks in part to his 22 turnovers.
All of a sudden, Zaire was given a window. He replaced Golson in a blowout loss against USC, then started the Music City Bowl and interchanged with Golson in an upset over LSU. He would’ve had a chance to win a job this month, but Golson left for Florida State over the summer.
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It didn’t happen how Zaire planned it, but he’s finally Notre Dame’s unquestioned starter.
“Never. I'm not a quitter,” Zaire said when asked if he ever considered transferring. “I feel like if I'm good, I'm just gonna make the best of whatever situation I'm in and stick through it. Because at the end of the day it's not gonna last forever.”
Kelly admitted he and his coaches lost Zaire a little bit during his redshirt year of 2013, and the Kettering, Ohio, native said earlier in his career he struggled with not getting many practice (and gameday) reps that season. But Zaire said he felt he always was in a good environment, which helped prevent thoughts of transferring from entering his mind.
“Being around great offensive guys and being around great teammates, I think they really kept me in it and they kept my spirits high,” Zaire said. “I knew what I wanted to do here and I still got some time, and I'm glad I (have) this opportunity."