Oct. 19, 2012
By Mark Frego
The name Golic has long carried a hefty weight around football circles in America. Brothers Bob and Mike captained the University of Notre Dame teams as seniors in the 1970s and 1980s before each enjoyed long careers in the National Football League. Both former defensive linemen now host well-known sports talk radio shows.
Due in large part to the brothers' stellar play during their time at Notre Dame, the name Golic is held in especially high esteem in South Bend, Ind. So when the time came for Mike Golic, Jr., to choose an institution of higher learning to continue his academic and athletic career, the Irish faithful clamored for his services. After all, another Golic on the gridiron was certainly a welcomed prospect. Luckily for Irish fans, Mike Jr., was instantly drawn to his family's beloved school.
"Being on campus felt right from the beginning," Golic Jr. says. "The people, the atmosphere, and the religious aspect of Notre Dame are what really drew me here."
A highly-touted offensive lineman out of Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, Conn., Golic Jr., committed to Notre Dame during a broadcast of Mike and Mike in the Morning, the popular national show on ESPN Radio that his father co-hosts with Mike Greenberg.
While Mike Jr. arrived on campus with a bit more fanfare than most his fellow freshmen he also came to Notre Dame bearing the outsized expectations of filling some very large shoes. His dad and uncle were not merely serviceable players; Bob was a two-time All-American at Notre Dame and made three Pro Bowls with the Cleveland Browns, and Mike Sr. was talented enough to spend nine successful years in the NFL. Some unfairly expected Mike Jr., to equal those impressive feats. Early on, he brushed off the constant comparisons between him, his father and uncle.
"When I first came to Notre Dame, I was more focused on forging my own way and making a name for myself," Golic Jr. says. "I wanted to leave my own legacy."
While Golic Jr. had no problem flourishing off the field as a freshman and sophomore, finding his way onto the field was a bit more difficult. He did not see any game action in his first year and played sparingly in just three games as a sophomore.
"Obviously coming in here you want to play right away," Golic Jr. says. "Having to sit for as long as I did was disappointing but made me realize that I had to buckle down and work a little harder, do a little extra."
Golic Jr. looked early and often to his parents, especially his father, to guide him through some frustrating times. He realized that instead of insisting on differentiating himself from his father, he would be much better served to try to emulate him and heed his advice.
"As I've grown older, I've come to learn that all I've really wanted to do the entire time is be as much like my dad as I could," Golic Jr. said. "He's been a role model of mine since I was a kid. He's showed me what it means to be a man, to be responsible on and off the field."
When asked who he looked up to, Golic Jr. cites his father and mother, Chris, a Saint Mary's graduate, without hesitation.
"They both have played such a huge role in my life," Golic Jr. says. "They have shown me how to treat everyone with kindness and respect. You never know what people have going on in their lives. Everyone is fighting a tough battle."
Golic Jr. began to see meaningful playing time during his junior season, when he saw action in 12 games as a reserve offensive lineman. He played primarily on special teams as a senior before starting the final four games at center in place of injured starter Braxston Cave. Golic Jr. graduated from Notre Dame in May 2012, but was granted a fifth season of eligibility because he did not play as a freshman. This season, he has started every game at right guard.
"Not playing a whole lot my first two years made me really appreciate the opportunity I have now of playing every game," Golic Jr. says.
As a starter and fifth-year senior, Golic Jr. is expected to set an example for the younger players. Couple his experience with his outgoing personality, and you have one of the core leaders of this year's Irish team.
"I always try to be a role model for the younger guys," Golic Jr. says. "I try to come in everyday and reflect the high standards that we have here at Notre Dame so the young guys know this is how we do business."
Four years ago, as a "young guy" himself, Golic Jr. was struck by the intense leadership of the seniors. He patterns much of his leadership tactics from one former Irish linebacker in particular.
"Maurice Crum Jr., a four-year starter and two-time captain, was one guy I really looked up to when I was a freshman," Golic Jr. says. "You could see everyday how much it mattered to him. He was one of the best leaders I have ever been around."
Amidst what is guaranteed to be his last year of college football, Golic Jr, has tried to emulate Crum's constant intensity.
"I try to give everyone a sense of urgency," Golic Jr. says. "For myself and the other seniors, we only have one more shot at this. The way we come to work everyday has to reflect that."
Make no mistake about it, Golic Jr. is all business on the field; off of it, however, he is one of the team's social catalysts. He organized numerous cookouts throughout summer practices and routinely gathers his teammates for movie watches.
"I want to have fun with the guys when it's appropriate to have fun," Golic Jr. says. "We have a lot of big personalities on this team and a lot of really great guys."
Golic Jr. also is one of the founders of a new team tradition, Trick Shot Monday. Every Monday during game week, a group of players attempt to shoot a ping-pong ball into a small Gatorade cup. The shot, though, must be out-of-the-ordinary and have a high degree of difficulty.Videos of Trick Shot Monday are posted on Notre Dame's YouTube site every week and viewed by thousands and thousands of fans.
Another founding father of Trick Shot Monday is Golic Jr.'s brother, Jake, a senior tight end. The Golics are one of four pairs of brothers on the team and share an especially close bond.
"We've been fortunate to have played with each other in high school and college," Golic Jr. says. "We've shared a bedroom since we were little kids and I live with him this year. He's been one of my best friends for the longest time. When things are really bad and I'm not sure who to go to, I know I have Jake as a security blanket."
Golic Jr. also is very close with fellow lineman and graduate senior Braxston Cave, his roommate during camp as a freshman, and the rest of the graduate seniors, including Danny McCarthy, John Goodman, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Jamoris Slaughter.
While Golic Jr. is certainly a commanding presence in the locker room, he has also left an indelible mark on campus as a whole through numerous service projects. During the week leading up to the Michigan game, Golic Jr. was one of 22 college football players from across the country named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, one of the sport's premier service honors. He has given his time to countless causes throughout his time at Notre Dame, but one is especially near and dear to his heart.
"The one that's definitely at the top of my list is the fundraiser for St. Baldrick's Foundation, the Bald and the Beautiful," Golic Jr. said. "I've worked on it for the last four years."
The Bald and the Beautiful has raised more than $160,000 over the past four years for childhood cancer research. Participants shave their heads in solidarity with kids who are battling the life-threatening illness.
"It's just so rewarding," Golic Jr. says. "Every day for them is such a struggle; you know these kids and their families are hurting so bad. To be able to meet and interact with them and put a smile on their faces is a really fulfilling experience."
Golic Jr. laments the fact that he will not be able to participate in the event this year as he will be training for the NFL Draft in April 2013. He hopes, however, to continue his playing career, but has his sights set on another occupation if football doesn't pan out.
"Playing at the next level would be a tremendous opportunity," Golic Jr. says. "But if that doesn't work out, I majored in Film, Television and Theater, and would like to get into sports broadcasting. I really love to talk and think I'm pretty good at it."
But even Golic Jr. struggles to find the right words when asked to look back on his time at Notre Dame.
"Notre Dame has given me an incredible amount of perspective on the things I deem important in my life and the things that are worth fighting for," Golic Jr. says. "I've been privileged to have gone to school with an incredible group of people, some of the best in the world. They're friends I hope I have for the rest of my life. I really can't put into words what a special place this is. You have to be here to understand it."
And so upon the completion of this season, another full link will be added in the chain that connects football-playing Golics and Notre Dame. Yes, it will connect Mike Jr. with his father and uncle, but the link will be unique nevertheless. And to Mike Golic Jr., that's having the best of both worlds.