By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
As journeys go, Brandon Golson’s may not have been quite as adventurous as Lewis and Clark’s or Marco Polo’s, but in football terms the West Virginia linebacker’s travels to Morgantown have been anything but a walk in the park.
In fact, he did everything he could not to get here, topped off by a mistake that nearly was catastrophic to his life, but in the end he salvaged what may wind up being an NFL career thanks to the faith Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia staff had in him.
As he goes into the final week of his last spring practice, the senior from Fork Union, Va., has become one of the key players expected to resurrect the Mountaineer defense.
Asked before Saturday’s practice/scrimmage in Charleston to name the player or players who had helped themselves most this spring, Holgorsen opened by citing left tackle Adam Pankey on offense and KJ Dillon on defense.
But he could not stop there, for there were two other players who had played their way into his heart, and they were junior linebacker Edward Muldrom and Golson.
“You talk about being disruptive on defense and we need sacks. We didn’t have any sacks on defense last year, and those guys have been disruptive as far as getting to the quarterback, along with Dillon and (junior safety) Karl Joseph in the secondary,” Holgorsen said.
The emphasis on defense this spring has been on making life uncomfortable for opposing quarterbacks, and Golson has been doing just that.
“Brandon is a guy who is multiple in how we can use him. He’s big enough that we can put him at defensive end and get after the quarterback. He’s a true linebacker, but we can move him around and do some different things with him,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said.
Before we go any further with what he will do for this year’s defense, it is time to look back to the trip he took to get here.
Coming out of high school, he opted to go the junior college route and attended Georgia Military Academy, where he raised havoc on opposing offenses, so much so that he was a three- or four-star linebacker when he put himself on the market for major college offers.
Golson eventually decided upon South Carolina, which was something of a coup for Steve Spurrier.
It also didn’t last.
Arizona came knocking. You might recall who coaches out there, a fellow named Rodriguez.
Everything was set until Rich Rodriguez lost one of his defensive coaches, a fellow named Gibson, the same Gibson who is now WVU’s defensive coordinator.
On National Signing Day, Golson flipped to West Virginia, joining his Georgia Military teammate Mario Alford in becoming Mountaineers.
“The relationship they had built with Tony (Gibson) was the biggest thing,” their GMA coach Bert Williams said at the time. “It’s a great program, obviously. Our guys know about the quality of that program, and they knew Tony. He got them to come visit, and it’s hard not to like what you all have going up there in Morgantown.”
Everything seemed set. WVU had themselves a couple of solid players and solid citizens, until ...
The news broke suddenly.
This was the lead of the story in the local paper back home for Golson:
“ST. MATTHEWS — A former Calhoun County football star’s plan to play with the West Virginia Mountaineers is under review following his arrest.”
It went on to say that Golson and two others were arrested in connection with a burglary.
Defense attorney Martin Banks, who represented Golson, called the charges an “aberration” from his client’s character.
“Brandon is a good kid, an unusually talented kid. He has a great family and he’s never been in trouble before,” Banks said at the time. “We’re hoping these things work toward his benefit. He’ll make full amendment on these alleged charges.”
A deal was worked out. Holgorsen suspended him, studied the situation and took into account the family and that he had not been in previous trouble, and took him into the program, and to date it has worked out.
Golson has made only trouble for offenses on the field by lining up inside and outside to blitz the quarterback, while Holgorsen has protected him from saying anything that might hurt his situation by making him unavailable to the media as he majors in sociology and anthropology.
“He’s just a freak of nature,” said sophomore cornerback Daryl Worley. “He’s a good guy. He does everything right. He works hard every day and goes full speed.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.