Friday, December 13, 2002
Fulfilling a dream
By Marc Connolly
As far as inside information goes, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit have nothing on John and Barbara Godsey this week. The pride-filled couple will be hitting two of the weekend's biggest college games -- Georgia Tech at N.C. State on Thursday night, and Notre Dame at Michigan State this Saturday. The Godseys undoubtedly know details about two of the starting quarterbacks that would make even the folks at GameDay Spartan-green with envy.
Like this ultra-important nugget:
"My mom told me the first pair of underwear I had was Notre Dame underwear."
Straight from the mouth of Gary Godsey, who is now the starting signal-caller in South Bend. Ah, football families. You've got to love 'em. As American as Chevy Blazers, Ben & Jerry's and sports movies? Speaking of that, has somebody cued the Rudy music yet?
Easy now, says George, Joe and Barbara's other starting quarterback darling, who stars at Georgia Tech. This wasn't a blue-collar family living in rural Indiana. Here the Godsey boys were down in the heart of Gator country in Tampa, schooled by a father who played for Paul "Bear" Bryant at 'Bama, and their youngest son loved that Irish Catholic school in the Midwest. George won't reveal his undergarment past -- he looks like an Aquaman Underoos type of guy -- but he made fun of his Irish-loving brother for years before getting misty-eyed seeing him carry out a life-long dream playing for the Golden Domers.
"He had Notre Dame pillowcases," said George, fresh off a 10-of-19 passing performance for 166 yards and three TDs in a 40-13 victory over Navy. "Over the years, it kind of got annoying with all of the Notre Dame paraphernalia in the household."
Maybe that's why their backyard brawls as kids were particularly heated.
|Notre Dame quarterback Gary Godsey led the Irish to a dramatic 23-21 win on Saturday.|
"My older brother Greg (who played for Air Force) would be the all-time quarterback, and it would be Gary vs. George out there, and my mom and dad would go out on the lawn and watch," said George, a junior who backed up Joe Hamilton the past two years. "It turned out to be a little bit more physical as time went on, between Gary and I."
That's when the story takes a different turn, depending on which brother you believe.
"It was usually on Sundays after the (NFL) games were over," says Gary, two years younger than George, and the baby of a family of five kids. "I'd always hand it to him."
With Gary on perma-grow, eventually to an intimidating 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, George would have no reason to feel like a Smurf for getting whooped by his little bro. But the G-Tech QB would soon rather admit he's a Seminole admirer.
"I think there's always been domination by the older brother," said George. "It's just like my older brothers dominated me through the years, I would dominate Gary through the years, and Gary didn't really have anyone to dominate being the youngest."
Whatever you believe, no one can doubt the domination the Fighting Irish have shown thus far in 2000. Over-hyped, over-marketed and over-respected (those losses never seemed to matter to you pollsters) for nearly a decade, Notre Dame finally finds itself in the role of upstarts. Yes, that's what you call a rag-tag, no-name bunch that has surged to a 2-1 record against a schedule that had some hairsprays predicting an Oh-for-September start.
And who better to lead that ship than a too-tall, former tight end recruit who worshiped Rocket Ismail and Tony Rice as a kid?
After storming the Irish downfield to set up a last-second field goal to knock off No. 12 Purdue, 23-21, in his first start, the hopes and dreams of the country-wide Irish faithful rest on the right arm of Gary Godsey. With a broken wrist, Arnaz Battle isn't coming back any time soon.
"I know it's my job," said Gary, whose postgame receiving line included a phone call from George just to remind him who threw for more yards on Saturday. "Coach (Bob) Davie told me it's my job, that's it's my team, and that I should take advantage of it. He said, 'It's the opportunity I've been telling you about.'"
It's an opportunity that came about in the oddest of ways. For starters, Davie sat in the Godsey house a few winters ago and told Gary point-blank that he wanted him as a tight end, and that he wasn't interested in him as a quarterback. He said this even though the boy he was looking at was a Prep All-America as a senior after splitting duties at quarterback and tight end his junior year.
But when potential recruit C.J. Leak stunned those in South Bend by going to Wake Forest -- a basketball school! -- his willing tight end recruit got an opening.
Though the equipment manager handed him a No. 80 jersey for ND's freshman camp and two-a-days, Godsey was looked at as a backup quarterback going into his freshman season. And even a sudden switch back to tight end was shorter than a Florida State losing streak.
"I was moved to tight end for the first two games, but then our third quarterback was dismissed, so I was a quarterback again, so I really only played tight end for two weeks."
That's why the man who now bears No. 14 is baffled when everyone still keeps calling him a tight end-turned quarterback. In fact, he thinks his pass-catching skills have always helped him understand the role of a quarterback better. Same with his days at -- no kidding -- center when he was a sophomore on the Tampa Jesuit varsity squad.
That type of versatility helped mature his football smarts that will be tested heavily against Michigan State on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET) in a game that Davie and offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers are expected to open up the otherwise tightly-sealed playbook on display against Purdue.
"The coaches have more confidence in me after the first week," said Godsey. "Mostly, we're going to have to do a lot offensively because they do a lot defensively. We'll have to counter all day long."
That may mean added freedom to audible, which seems to be a must with the always-boisterous Spartan crazies.
George Godsey comparing his QB style to Gary's:
"Gary's such a physical presence on the field -- he's 6-7, and weighs a good 20 or 30 pounds more than me. He's got a tremendous arm. I think he can stand flat-footed from the 50-yard line and throw it through the goal post with ease.
I rely much more on my timing and my mind, knowing where each receiver is going to be, and being really precise on my throws as far as 1-2-3, throw the ball. I think Gary and I have a few differences, but really we're typical drop-back quarterbacks, hanging in there with a lot of character, taking the hit, and as long as it's a completion, we're happy."
"We have got to have more latitude in what we are doing. We have got to do some things differently to allow us to have a chance to run the football," said Davie. "We have got to be a little more open with some
things. We have got to give him an opportunity to do some different things."
"He's a quick study," said Rogers. "The other thing we're dealing with this week, I'm sure, is crowd noise. That's going to be a factor. The checks and things like that, we're going to keep to a minimum. The important thing is for him to stay focused, keep his eye on the target and block everything else out."
Godsey says that has been easy -- so much so that he was actually surprised at the speed of play out there and what his emotional level was like in his first start.
"I thought it would have been a lot faster, but that's probably because I prepared for the worst," said Godsey. "I was also pretty calm when I got out there."
He gives credit to his brother for helping him set his mind during game preps.
"He had mentioned to me (that he'd be starting) early in the week, and I told him that now was when he needed to start preparing, at the beginning of the week, and not a couple hours before gametime," said George. "He took those words, and used them to the best of his ability. He really studied some film, and he knew what was going on."
He won't be in the sacred confines of Notre Dame Stadium with the forgiving gaze of Touchdown Jesus staring down on him this weekend, but he will have his the eyes of parents and a nervous brother watching from Atlanta. Though George once hoped he'd become his leading receiver as a Yellow Jacket, he wouldn't have it any other way for the guy he supposedly showed who was king in bottle-cap football not too long ago.
"I wanted him to come to Georgia Tech more than anyone else, and I think my older brother, who lives in Atlanta, wanted him to come to Georgia Tech, too," said George, before admitting his present-day feelings. "He has always wanted to play quarterback at Notre Dame, and his dreams have come true, and I'm happy for him."
Marc Connolly is a senior writer for BCSfootball.com
wanted him to come to Georgia Tech more than
anyone else ... He has always wanted to play
quarterback at Notre Dame, and his dreams have
come true, and I'm happy for
||— George Godsey