SOUTH BEND | Everett Golson never met Cliff Brown or Tony Rice, but they get a big assist in helping the redshirt freshman quarterback climb onto the national stage long vacated by Notre Dame.
Golson, who is black, will lead his unbeaten and top-ranked Irish into the Jan. 7 BCS championship game with No. 2 Alabama in Miami.
"I've always had that determination and the will to win," Golson said. "That's what's carried me this far and I hope it carries me even further."
Notre Dame will arrive in Miami as an underdog, but no one associated with the program lacks faith in its young, exciting QB. He's been that good, that steady, since the Oct. 20 game with BYU.
The Irish faithful, those old-timers who knew the Four Horsemen on a first-name basis, can attest to the trailblazing efforts of the late Cliff Brown, the first African-American quarterback to start at ND during the civil rights movement in 1971.
There was only one black player on ND's 1966 championship team — Alan Page — so Brown knew the struggle he faced with small-minded fans.
Everett Golson has now become the focal point, offensively, in a storybook season pitting two programs with a combined 21 national titles.
Tony Rice started at quarterback for Notre Dame's 1988 national champions, proving that ability, not color, should determine who plays.
He broke down a wall that enabled Golson to bump junior starter Tommy Rees.
Alabama, loaded with NFL draft picks, is almost impossible to run on but its passing defense remains suspect against run-and-gun QBs like Golson.
We were told that by several in the know during Monday's BCS Media Day at Notre Dame.
"At 6-foot and 185 pounds, there's really nothing he can't do," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Chuck Martin said of Golson. "He can make every throw in the book."
Coach Brian Kelly, his staff and about a dozen selected players met with media on Monday. Rees was not available and considering the questioning he would've faced, it was probably a good idea.
"My hat goes off to Tommy," Golson said. "Him going through what he did at the beginning of the year (one-game suspension), he was still there for me. Telling me what he sees and what I can get better at, has helped me out a lot."
Golson remains humble and guarded in his comments, aware of the fishbowl existence he must endure.
"It's a little surreal for me right now. I never really slow down to think about it because I'm young. It's all a growing process for me," he said.
Golson's rise to prominence was far from smooth, having been pulled late in the Sept. 8 Purdue game and watching Rees direct a last-minute winning drive.
He hit another major speed bump Sept. 22 against Michigan when Rees replaced him midway in the second quarter and led the Irish to a 13-6 win.
"It's made me better," Golson said. "This is the definition of a growing process: coming in inexperienced and going through those trials and adversity that had to be dealt with.
"That's what makes great players great. You have to be tried. It's how you come out of it."
Doesn't sound like a young kid, does he?
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org