RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer
Everett Golson came oh-so close to beating Florida State with Notre Dame last year.
Now, he has another chance for victory at Doak Campbell Stadium — only this time, he’ll be playing for the home team.
Golson is transferring to Florida State, where he will have the chance to replace Jameis Winston as the Seminoles’ starting quarterback.
Florida State said Tuesday that Golson had signed a grant-in-aid, ending his search for a new school less than two weeks after he announced he was leaving the Fighting Irish.
Golson graduated from Notre Dame on Sunday and will be immediately eligible to play under NCAA graduate transfer rules that many college sports leaders are looking to change.
He also immediately becomes the most accomplished quarterback on Florida State’s roster, with Winston gone to the NFL as the first pick in the draft.
“The support I’ve received there (Notre Dame) over the past four years has helped strengthen my integrity, wisdom and character,” Golson told Fox Sports.
He picked Florida State after also visiting Florida and Georgia last week.
“I would like to thank all of the coaches who spent time speaking with me these past few weeks and considered adding me to their football programs,” Golson said. “To coach Jimbo Fisher, the Florida State football team, staff, alumni and fans, thank you for allowing me to become part of the Seminoles family. I can’t wait to get started.”
Sean Maguire, a junior who led Florida State to a win in his only start as Winston’s backup last season, finished spring practice as the team’s No. 1 quarterback and Fisher said last week nothing would be guaranteed to Golson if he decided to join the Seminoles.
“After meeting with Everett, I came away very impressed,” Fisher said in a statement. “He’s an extremely intelligent and personable young man.”
Golson helped Notre Dame reach the BCS championship game as a redshirt freshman and first-year starter in 2012. He missed the 2013 season because of an academic violation, but returned to Notre Dame last year and threw for 3,445 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also committed 22 turnovers — two more than Winston.
The highs and lows of Golson’s season were on display in Tallahassee, Florida, last October when Florida State and Notre Dame met in a matchup of undefeated teams.
Golson passed 313 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. With 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Golson threw a short touchdown pass to give Notre Dame the lead, but it was wiped out by an offensive pass interference penalty that had Fighting Irish coaches livid.
That loss sent Notre Dame into a tailspin to end the regular season, losing four of its last five with a wildly inconsistent Golson.
The mistakes cost him the starting job. Malik Zaire started the Music City Bowl and Golson played a supporting role in the Fighting Irish’s 31-28 postseason victory against LSU.
The two competed for the job during spring practice for Notre Dame and coach Brian Kelly never did declare a winner. Golson made the choice for him.
Golson, a South Carolina native, considered transferring to several teams in the South, but getting into a Southeastern Conference school was going to be complicated. The SEC has a rule prohibiting its schools from taking graduate transfers who have had significant disciplinary or eligibility issues. Golson was suspended by Notre Dame in 2013 for what he has called poor academic judgment.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has no such restrictions.
At Florida State, Golson joins a team that is retooling after going 27-1 with a BCS national championship and a playoff appearance the past two seasons. Winston led the way, winning the Heisman in 2013.
Winston and 10 of his teammates were selected in last month’s NFL draft, but the Seminoles are not without talent. Golson joins Dalvin Cook, who ran for 1,008 yards as a freshman in 2014, and three talented receivers (Jesus Wilson, Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane), who combined for 93 catches and nine touchdowns last season.
“YESSSSS!!! Welcome to the family EG!” Florida State star safety Jalen Ramsey tweeted Tuesday. “#Nolenation. The Rich Keep Getting Richer!”
Florida State is the second playoff team from last season to replace a Heisman winner with a graduate transfer quarterback. Oregon signed FCS All-America Vernon Adams away from Eastern Washington earlier this year.
Golson and Adams could be among the last players to take advantage of the NCAA’s version of free agency. Many decision-makers are working to eliminate the graduate transfer exception that allows athletes to change schools without sitting out a season.
For now, it has provided two of the most intriguing stories of the upcoming season and given Golson one last chance at redemption in Tallahassee.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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