In two games this season, Everett Golson has played almost flawless football.
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
In 2012, Notre Dame climbed to the top of the polls thanks to a historic defensive effort and the play of a young quarterback.
Fast forward two seasons and the Irish may just be on a similar path, thanks in large part to that now veteran leader under center.
Everett Golson burst on the scene in 2012, starting 11 games for the Irish and leading Notre Dame to an appearance in the BCS National Championship opposite Alabama.
While the outcome of that game (42-14) was certainly unfortunate for Notre Dame and its extensive fan base, the team did finish with a 12-1 record and head coach Brian Kelly found out he had a leader under center who he could build around.
The best laid plans ...
Any promise of another championship run was abruptly brought to an end with the news that Golson would not suit up in 2013. Suspended and ultimately not enrolled for the fall semester, Golson could only watch as Kelly and the Irish did their best to salvage the year, finishing a respectable 9-4 overall, including a win over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.
However, the team was never really in the hunt for the national title.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated last year, Golson addressed the issue.
Golson said he "used poor judgment on a test" and violated Notre Dame's honor code.
"It wasn't due to poor grades or anything like that," Golson said. When asked if it was for cheating on a test, Golson responded, "Yeaaahh, something like that."
Taking responsibility for his actions, Golson never thought about leaving Notre Dame.
"My heart is set on going back to Notre Dame, not necessarily to prove anything to anybody -- just doing it for me," he said. "I feel like that's something that I started. I don't want to run away from it and go to a JUCO or go to another school. I am going to face it.
"I've learned a lot through this. I've matured a lot through it."
Talented youngster Malik Zaire might be the future for Notre Dame, but that future is not now.
Kelly made it official in mid-August, although the decision was probably made well before that.
"There was competition up until I made the decision and there will continue to be competition," Kelly said. "This is a merit-based situation. We've got to win. Everett knows that."
Golson echoed that sentiment when the decision was made.
"There's a heightened responsibility on my part," Golson said. "It's my job to get these guys right on the offense and to lead this team. This job is not something solid. If you come out and play bad in Week 1, it's up for grabs. You have to know that going into it, so I've got to do the best I can to prepare."
Golson has taken his second chance and made the most of it. His maturity has manifested in the early stages of 2014, as he has transformed from his 2012 version - a game manager with great athleticism, to a difference maker under center.
The Irish are not the feared defensive unit they were in 2012 with All- American Manti Te'o at the helm, but they are climbing the national polls once again, thanks mostly to Golson this time around.
In two games, Golson has played almost flawless football. He has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 521 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions. He has added another three scores on the ground and has solidified his spot in the Heisman Trophy race with Notre Dame's routs of Rice and Michigan.
He has come full circle in a sense.
Golson didn't finish the Michigan game in 2012 due to poor play. He didn't finish last week's matchup with the Wolverines, either, but that was for a much different reason. He was simply too good.
Motorsports Hall of Famer Bobby Unser once said, "Success is where preparation and opportunity meet."