The seeds for Notre Dame's 2012 quarterback roulette developed back in camp, when the two roomed together.
"Oh man, there'd be a couple late-night discussions," Rees recalled. "He'd ask me what I thought he needed to improve on, don't hold anything back. I told him the truth some ti--" he paused, laughing, "I told him the truth all the time. Sometimes it wasn't what he wanted to hear, but any way I could help him. I've had a lot of fun working with him."
Of where he and the undefeated Irish would be without Rees, Golson said: "Definitely not in this position. Definitely not in this position. So I want to definitely thank him for that."
Rees' relief efforts in two of Notre Dame's first four games led to victories, and he sealed the deal against Stanford after Golson's fourth-quarter concussion, which kept the redshirt freshman out the next week against BYU.
Golson became more adept at shaking off the cobwebs along the way, taking control of the offense in the majority of the Irish's final five games, when he completed better than 59 percent of his passes for 1,167 yards, added 224 rushing yards, scored 10 total touchdowns and turned it over just twice.
Golson all but closed the door on any potential controversy after emerging from a back-and-forth with Rees in the Nov. 3 squeaker against Pitt to lead a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback and score the winning touchdown in triple overtime.
"I think it speaks volumes to our coaching staff and Everett's character," said Rees, who also started the first series Oct. 6 against Miami after Golson was late for a meeting. "We count on two different guys, but Everett's growth throughout the season's been great, and it's been fun to watch him grow as a person and as a player."
A year ago, Golson was named the offensive scout team player of the year. Fast-forward to the team banquet Friday, when he was named the offensive newcomer of the year for the nation's No. 1 squad — a rise Golson said was made possible by never slowing down to think about it all.
"My biggest development I think is just trying to develop into a leader," he said. "Being that I am the quarterback of this team, the leadership has to come from my point of view. So I think me trying to develop into a leader, I think under that, that goes with doing the right things off the field and on the field, getting there and watching film. So I think on a bigger scale just me trying to be a leader."
And with that comes more responsibility, something the 19-year-old is taking on as he prepares his team for a Jan. 7 date with the defending national champions.
"I don't think so," Golson said when asked if he'll rely on Rees to prepare for Alabama. "I think by now I kind of progressed to the point where I can see things for myself, and that just came with game experience and Tommy helping along the way of me getting to this point that I'm at now."