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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Hard work turning Golden

Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

At the start of football season, Robert Golden had a lot to live up to. The highly-touted recruit played primarily on special teams in 2008 as a freshman but was expected to be a big-time playmaker as a starter for the UA defense in 2009.

But his impact wasn’t as noticeable as he would have hoped after the first few games of the season. Golden switched from cornerback to safety, and that transition can take longer to adjust to than other position changes.

“”(The slow start) was just getting used to the position, getting comfortable out there, you know? Our linebackers and our two corners, they’ve been playing great ball so I wasn’t (getting) that much action,”” Golden said. “”But the (Pacific 10 Conference schedule) just started so I know I’m going to get opportunities to make some good plays. I’m just eager for that to come around.””

Luckily for Golden, he has a lot of experience at his disposal. UA head coach Mike Stoops and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops both played safety at the University of Iowa in the 1980s. Both coaches are also admittedly tougher on their defensive backs than most other players.

Senior co-captain Cam Nelson also started his career as a cornerback before switching to safety. Before the start of the season, Nelson offered some advice to Golden.

“”I just told him that it was going to be a little rough and to try and take coaching as best as possible and just work on your open-field tackling,”” Nelson said. “”That’s the biggest thing in the transition from corner to safety, especially as a boundary corner, because you don’t have too much room to tackle a guy in a tight spot. As a safety, there’s a lot more ground to cover.””

Golden heard that advice loud and clear. He kept working hard in practice and maintained a positive attitude despite not playing up to his potential.

Wildcat fans saw a glimpse of what Golden can be capable of against Washington last Saturday.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound sophomore recorded four tackles, snagged the first interception of his collegiate career and had a bigger impact on the game than the stat sheet suggested. Golden said, after nearly half a season, he’s finally comfortable in the defense and that’s helping him make more plays.

“”Knowing your responsibilities and staying focused (is the main thing). The game is physically played, but it’s a mental game,”” Golden said. “”You’ve got to have your mental game strong in order to be successful at this game.””

Golden’s drive to be better, along with his willingness — and genuine desire — to be coached is what makes Golden a special player, Mark Stoops said.

“”Oh, he’s the best. Nobody cares more than him,”” Stoops said. “”He cares and wants to be a great player, and he works at it and he has a great attitude. With his ability and that type of attitude, eventually it will all click.””

Golden seems to know it, too. When asked what his potential was, he smiled, shrugged and said, “”It’s all about … improving and getting better each and every day that I step out on the field.””

And that’s what’s different about Golden. He actually means it and follows through.

“”It’s just something that he tries to do,”” Nelson said. “”He doesn’t talk back or try to tell coach, ‘Well, I thought this and that and that,’ he just tries to listen, soak it up.

“”I think he can be very good if he just keeps the same mentality and just stays level-headed. Because he’s going to get successful at that position, and as long as he doesn’t let it get to him, he’ll be a really good safety.””

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