When Everett Golson arrived in Hamilton last June, he did so without his beloved musical instruments. And so to get his fix, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback would make a weekly pilgrimage to a local music store to play some of their demo models.
“At first they looked at me kind of funny, like: ‘What is that guy doing here again?'” Golson said this week. “Then I got to know them and it was cool.”
Golson was raised in a musically-inclined household in South Carolina; his grandmother, father and uncle are all members of their church’s gospel ensemble. He plays keyboards and drums and music is, he says, a passion almost on par with his commitment to football — and something he couldn’t bear to be without.
Those early days in the Black and Gold weren’t particularly easy on the field, either. A late addition to training camp, he started the season on the practice roster, but then moved to the injured list, unable to participate in on-field sessions. He dressed for five games, but never saw the field.
That will change on Thursday when the 24-year-old is expected to see plenty of action in Hamilton’s first pre-season tilt against the Ottawa Redblacks. With starter Zach Collaros sitting this one out — no need to risk the franchise player at this point — Jeremiah Masoli will start. But head coach Kent Austin doesn’t expect the veteran backup will need long to shake the rust off before turning things over to Golson.
“He’s come a long way. He’s worked really hard.
“Fundamentally, he’s more accurate than he was last year. He has a better understanding of the offence and that really only grows by playing,” Austin. “He’s both a runner and a passer. He can buy time and he does keep his eyes downfield, so he’s not just looking to pull the ball down and move the sticks, similar to Zach.”
Rookies Matt Johnson and Cody Keith will also see playing time, but it’s Golson who needs to show he can perform reliably as the No. 3 QB. A star in college — he led Notre Dame to a perfect 12-0 regular season and a berth in the BCS Nation Championship Game in 2013 — Golson also lost a season for academic reasons and finished his career at Florida State.
“I’ve been through some up and downs, but this has been a great place for me,” Golson said. “I enjoy being around the players here, the coaches. And if I get an opportunity to play, so much the better.”
While acknowledging that last season was tough at times, Golson said it allowed him to learn the nuances of the CFL in a way that’s better prepared him for this season.
“You have to understand the game to be effective,” he said. “Understanding coverages, understanding the 12th man takes time. But I see the patterns and I’m learning how to attack it.”
Musically, things have improved as well. Golson found a playing partner in offensive lineman, and guitarist, Mike Filer, who allowed him to set up a vintage Hammond organ at his farmhouse outside the city. The two haven’t jammed yet this season — Luke Tasker also plays guitar — but have found a common ground.
“He’s an unbelievable musician,” Filer said. “We’re all here for the same reason — football — but when we enjoy something together outside the game, it brings a different aspect to it.”
Notes: Austin said Sergio Castillo and Andrew Hawkins will make the trip to Ottawa and both kickers will see action. … A number of high-profile veterans, however, will be sitting out, as Austin and company look to give first-year players and guys on the bubble a chance to prove themselves. “It’s not just evaluation, we need to develop depth in the event we have in injuries,” Austin said. … The game is one of just four pre-season contests that will be broadcast on TSN, though it will not be on the main network and instead will be carried on TSN3, TSN4, TSN5, and TSN4K.