He was the fan's choice by late-season 2011. He exited a 15-practice session last spring on relatively equal ground with two others, including junior incumbent Tommy Rees, and by early August, it appeared redshirt-freshman quarterback Everett Golson had claimed the mantle as Notre Dame's lead signal-caller for 2012.
Golson's head coach made it official today, announcing the dual-threat would start vs. Navy in Dublin and the reasons behind his choice.
"A lot of practice, lots of film and evaluation," said Kelly. "He won the job. Andrew (Hendrix) did a great job, made great improvement. I'm really pleased with the progress of both those young men. It was a tough decision but Everett clearly won the starting job and he'll be the starter vs. Navy."
As for the possibility that the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Hendrix would be used as a change-of-pace for Golson vs. the Midshipmen, Kelly noted, "Everett's the starter and if things go the way we're planning, he'll play the whole game."
Golson is the third redshirt-freshman to start the opener for Notre Dame since freshmen became eligible in 1972. He was preceded by Demetrius Jones in 2007 vs. Georgia Tech, a game in which Jones lasted just six offensive series under center, and subsequently transferred from the school before Notre Dame played another game.
Prior to the Jones debacle was the sterling, much-anticipated debut by Ron Powlus vs. Northwestern in Soldier Field, 1994. Powlus fired four touchdown passes, completing 18 of 24 throws for 294 yards along the way in a 42-15 blowout win for the then-No. 3 ranked Irish.
Sophomore Tom Clements, who guided the Irish to a national championship in his junior season of 1973, started as a second-year player in 1972, though Clements was ineligible to play as a true freshman in '71 per NCAA rules.
As of Notre Dame's media day on August 16, Golson had purportedly thrown 126 live scrimmage passes with just one interception. (Kelly added he's since tossed two more.) He concluded his high school career with a 44-5 mark as a starter at Myrtle Beach High School (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) while throwing for 151 touchdowns, then the sixth most in national high school history.
Golson's Myrtle Beach squad won Class AAA state championships in his sophomore and senior seasons and finished as state runner-up in his junior year of 2009, a season in which he threw 47 touchdowns vs. three interceptions.
"His poise was really outstanding," said Kelly of the recently concluded camp. "And he's shown great vision down the field.
"If he stays focused, he's not going to be that guy that turns the football over."
Notre Dame committed 29 turnovers last season; 22 of which included its quarterbacks.
Said Golson, who won the 2011 Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year award for the program, "Obviously I'm happy about it. But I want to thank my teammates and really the other quarterbacks. We pushed each other. I wouldn't have reached my potential if it wasn't for Gunner (Kiel), Tommy (Rees), and Andrew helping me out.
"I understand its also time to go to work right now. My main focus is on Navy and its time to go to work."