SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Everett Golson arrived fashionably late for his first preseason media session Wednesday, looking wide-eyed at the scrum of reporters waiting to speak to him.
"I don't know, it's crazy," Golson said of how to handle the attention. "I don't really know. I guess this could be like a little pressure, I guess. You just gotta go through it and just deal with it."
The situation has taken a considerable turn for the 19-year-old in one short year. Just trying to get his grips on life as a college student in 2011, Golson has gone from Notre Dame's No. 4 quarterback option last season to the probable front-runner to take the first snap Sept. 1 against Navy.
The circumstances — and the backdrop of Dublin, Ireland — have not been lost on the sophomore.
"Honestly I had dreams about it, seeing visions of it — just me being out there, the crowd and everything," Golson said. "But I think that's what motivates me to keep going, keep driving and learn as much as I can."
A breakout spring game and the ensuing arrest and one-game suspension of incumbent starter Tommy Rees have put the spotlight on Golson, who completed 11 of 15 passes in April's Blue-Gold game for 120 yards and two touchdowns, adding 25 yards on the ground.
Golson said he has tried to avoid the recent attention that has come his way from the media, classmates and friends back home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., attributing last season's redshirt year as a reason he can stay grounded.
"Sitting out definitely helped me," Golson said. "I came in ready to play, ready to compete for the starting spot. And it kind of was like, 'Wait a minute …'
"It made me step back a little bit and realize, Maybe I have to mature a little more. Show the guys that I was a leader. That I could be the leader of that team. I can honestly admit that last year I wasn't really ready for that. But I think that's what going through the scout team procedure was. [It] just kind of humbled me and really humbled me so I could get back to what I know how to do."
Coach Brian Kelly said that Golson and Andrew Hendrix have split most of the reps through five practices, though Golson has run with the first team during tempo drills in the two sessions open to the media and took the first snap of live action Wednesday.
Golson completed 2 of 6 passes on one drive, which ended with defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore picking off a screen. On the next drive he went 4 of 7, fumbling a snap after drawing the wrath of Kelly before the play.
Kelly said after the spring game that Golson had trouble getting plays in on time, something the signal caller feels he has improved upon in the nearly four months since.
"I think it's moreso me just slowing down and calming down and relaxing, and don't try to be too antsy but also work at a quick pace," he said.
Hendrix went 4 of 6 during live action and was the victim of a pair of drops.
The third-year sophomore, who saw reserve action behind Rees late last season, said keeping the focus inward rather than outward has made for a healthy competition.
"I really just focus on myself — that's the only way you can focus on it," Hendrix said. "Just focus on your play every single play. When everyone else is going it's getting your reads behind them. I think you just gotta keep your own head down, keep chopping wood and at the end of the day coach Kelly is gonna make the decision, what's best for the football team. I can only control what I do and that's all I focus on."
With 24 practices over the next 24 days standing between now and the season opener, Kelly is keeping his options open at the position.
"I've played two quarterbacks before and had great success with that," the third-year Irish coach said. "We'll know if we get to game time that both of them have to play. Obviously they both have ability to be starters, so I can't say that I wouldn't be comfortable. I'd prefer one quarterback. But at least I've got some experience in balancing two if we would ever have to do that."