In “The 12 Days of Christmas,” the chorus harmonizes “Five golden rings” in a slow and dramatic fashion before resuming the rest of the fast-paced countdown of the song. (It’s also an excuse to sing in your most high-pitched, off-key voice, but maybe that’s just my family…)
Notre Dame has its own pair of fives “Fives” to pay tribute to, which is why today’s entry is…
…The golden No. 5s
Namely, Manti Te’o and Everett Golson.
There’s nothing to say about Te’o that hasn’t already been said. He’s the most prolific Notre Dame football player in 20 years and has been the face of the 2012 season. Without deifying the young man, he has never been anything but the polite, inspiring, old soul with the media that’s portrayed in the hundreds of articles and handful of documentaries on the linebacker. He truly seems to be the real deal. No one can fake humility that long and that well.
Besides his seven interceptions – the most by an FBS linebacker since 2001 and the second most of any player this season – Te’o's numbers weren’t all that staggering. He was 59th in the nation in tackles (103) and 64th in passes defended (11).
But his play goes beyond his numbers. He is a spiritual leader, something not measured in tackles for a loss or forced fumbles. When Notre Dame brings its recruits to town, they talk to Te’o.
“I tell them, ‘Hey, when you’re a champion at other schools, you’re a champion,” Te’o said he tells recruits. “When you’re a champion at Notre Dame, you become a legend.’”
During the Oklahoma game, Te’o even pulled his offensive numerical counterpart aside for a halftime pep talk.
“We’re going to get through this together,” Te’o told Golson, who was battling the flu at the time. Golson went on to lead Notre Dame to a 30-13 win over the Sooners.
After an electrifying performance in the Blue/Gold scrimmage game in April, Kelly called Golson’s play style a “heart attack.” And while Golson’s rawness was exposed a few times this year – most notably against Michigan and Purdue – the young quarterback has grown under the microscope of a fan base that is hard to impress.
He has only thrown two interceptions since the Miami game on Oct. 6. In that same stretch, he’s thrown eight touchdowns and dashed in for three more.
He isn’t perfect, but he’s the missing piece in the Brian Kelly spread offense.
While the Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick ground game have alleviated a lot of pressure and Tyler Eifert presents a Stretch Armstrong of a target, Golson’s performance against Oklahoma cemented himself as the quarterback Notre Dame can rely on down the stretch.
Think of all those times Golson has thrown on the run this year. His scrambling, cross-field bomb to John Goodman against Michigan State comes to mind, one of a few dozen times that’s happened this year.
For all of Tommy Rees’s talents, Notre Dame wouldn’t be 12-0 with him under center.
Previously on “12 Days of Notre Dame…”