SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Everett Golson wasn't initially slated to go to Notre Dame. Before he even visited South Bend, Golson was committed to Butch Davis and the University of North Carolina.
“That had always kind of been his dream school,” Myrtle Beach High School head football coach Mickey Wilson said. “He grew up a Tar Heels fan and a big basketball Tar Heels fan.”
Two days after national signing day in 2010—while Golson was still a high school junior—the South Carolina native committed to play for the Tar Heels.
Golson said Wednesday he “most likely” would have played basketball for Roy Williams as well. But during the 2010 summer and into the fall, the NCAA began investigating the North Carolina football program for academic misconduct and improper benefits.
“We got in a situation where we felt like there was maybe going to be some trouble there,” Wilson said.
So Wilson and Golson reopened the quarterback’s recruitment during his senior football season. But Notre Dame—in the midst of an 8-5 season in Brian Kelly’s first year in South Bend—didn’t come calling right away. Kelly said Tuesday some coaches in the Myrtle Beach area had contacted the Irish staff about Golson—not the other way around.
“We did not have a personal contact with anybody,” Kelly said. “There was somebody in the school that was looking out for Notre Dame that contacted us, and that's kind of what got us involved there.”
The way Wilson remembers it, a good friend of his who was a prominent member of the booster club in Myrtle Beach had just gone to Notre Dame and watched the Irish lose 37-14 to Stanford.
“When he got back, he called me and said, ‘Look man, Notre Dame—and I don’t mean this bad—Notre Dame needs a quarterback,’” Wilson recalled.
Wilson remembered watching Kelly’s Cincinnati offenses and saw similarities between Kelly’s spread structure and Wilson’s Myrtle Beach attack.
“After we watched some film and did some evaluation, he clearly fit the kind of quarterback that we were looking for our offense,” Kelly agreed.
Soon enough, Golson was on campus for a mid-November visit.
“I think once Everett went on his visit, he was sold,” Wilson said. “I remember him coming back from that weekend trip and he said, ‘Coach I want to go to Notre Dame.’”
Wilson advised taking some time with the decision, especially considering that Myrtle Beach was in the middle of the playoffs.
At the beginning of December, Golson made up his mind. Wilson and Golson called Irish assistant coach Tony Alford—who had handled Golson’s recruitment—and Golson gave his verbal commitment just days before he led Myrtle Beach to the South Carolina Class AAA state championship with three touchdown passes.
“North Carolina wasn’t too happy,” Wilson said with a laugh. “It is what it is.”
“It definitely was [difficult],” Golson said Wednesday. “For me I kind of had to struggle with my first love being basketball and going and focusing on football and things like that. It was definitely hard for me, going away from home, all those types of things, you think about.”
Golson kept thinking about basketball during his freshman season—a redshirt year—at Notre Dame. Kelly said Golson was a “handful” and needed to be “settled down” and “scolded” for playing so much basketball on his own.
“I had hoped to be on the actual team, but I was definitely playing a lot of ball for sure,” Golson said. “I don’t think I really wanted to give it up yet.”
Golson can dunk, says he’s the best basketball player on the football team and allows he still gets “hyped” just talking about basketball. But the most basketball he plays nowadays is on the “Pop-A-Shot.”
Football, naturally, is the primary focus. Wilson, who visited Golson on campus for the Rice game earlier this season, said he has seen Golson grow in his second season as the starter with a greater understanding of the offense.
And, of course, he still has the same big-play ability with his arm. Wilson doesn’t completely buy into Golson being labeled a dual-threat quarterback. He said Golson has always had the ability to extend plays, get outside the pocket, keep his eyes downfield and deliver with his arm.
“People in high school stopped blitzing us because they were scared that he was going to get outside the pocket and make some dynamic plays with his arm, not necessarily his feet,” Wilson said. “So people were just rushing three and dropping eight in coverage a lot toward the end there.”
And, still, Golson would throw. During his national signing day press conference in 2010, Kelly likened Golson to, yes, a point guard in basketball.
“[He’s] always looking for that pass,” Kelly said in 2010. “Not necessarily the next shot, but he's got to keep his head up. What you'll see about Everett he plays the game of football the same way. Eyes always downfield. Always looking to throw the football and make that play.”
Golson has already tossed 13 touchdown passes this season and has carved out a legitimate spot in the Heisman Trophy discussion. On Saturday he’ll face North Carolina and its porous defense looking to vault the Irish to 6-0. Instead of an "N" with an interlocking "C," Golson will have the interlocking "ND" stitched on his uniform.
“[I] just prayed about it and it turned out to be the right choice for me,” Golson said.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.