Golson, the Rebels' first unanimous All-American since Michael Oher in 2008, is widely considered a second-day draft pick. He led the Southeastern Conference with nine interceptions in his senior season and ranked eighth on the team with 41 tackles.
However, he's long spoke of a return to the Ole Miss baseball team. He hit .204 in 22 games as a freshman outfielder for the Rebels in 2012.
“Eventually, maybe I'm going to have to give one up,” he said. “I'm not exactly ready to be done with both of them. Maybe I can play in the off-season a little bit.”
Maybe so, but there are obvious scheduling conflicts.
He's set to participate in the Senior Bowl January 24, which includes a week of prep. Ole Miss baseball, meanwhile, will be in the home stretch of preseason practice. The NFL Scouting Combine runs February 17-23, the second week of the baseball season. He's also scheduled to make an appearance at the Walter Camp All-America ceremony early next month.
“That's the biggest concern right now,” Golson said. “You play baseball, you have to find time to train for the Senior Bowl and you have to find time to train for the Combine. And then you've got to make sure you're still in baseball shape. Those are the biggest questions right now.”
Golson was a two-way star for Pascagoula High School, where he was considered a “toolsy” baseball prospect with great speed. Some scouts described Golson as an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. He started 15 games in 2012, totaling 13 runs scored, five RBI and five stolen bases.
Golson said he's practiced his hitting as recently as a week before the Egg Bowl, a 31-17 win over in-state rival Mississippi State. The former eighth-round pick by the Boston Red Sox had six total tackles and a pass breakup in the game.
“I probably won't know for sure until after the bowl game when I get back to Oxford,” he said.
Right now, he's focused on the Peach Bowl. No. 9-ranked Ole Miss faces No. 6 TCU Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. in Atlanta, Ga.
“It's going to be huge for the program, the recruiting process,” Golson said of the game. “You guys know, when we came in here, we never even thought about being in a bowl game like this. We seniors knew. We might not have gotten to where we wanted to be, but we can improve the program.”
This Is The End
C.J. Johnson took a minute to gather himself, something he's done a lot lately.
He has to put his head down sometimes to fight away tears, because he can't hide his emotions when considering the future. Next season - heck, next month - is going to be strange for him. All of his closest friends from the signing class of 2011 are set to graduate following the Peach Bowl, and because he missed all but four games in 2013 due to injury, he'll be the last out the door.
He's returning next season for what will be his senior year.
“Everybody already calls me old,” Johnson said.
Players will scatter after Wednesday. Some will return home to enjoy what's left of their winter break before classes and the off-season strength and conditioning program pick back up in January. For the seniors, namely Johnson's buddies Cody Prewitt and Golson, it's off to train for the next step in their playing careers, be it in the NFL or somewhere else.
“We were in the room a little while ago, and Senquez was asked about playing in his last game,” he said. “I just kind of looked at him and I was like ‘Bro, don't leave me.’
“This game is going to be emotional for me not only because I'm coming back, but because it's those guys' last game. Talking to you about it right now, I'm getting emotional. I love those guys so much. They're like brothers to me. It's going to be a little emotional, but it'll be all right.”
Johnson has been through this before. The 2011 class has endured plenty in its years at Ole Miss, be it a 2-10 nightmare in its debut season or the jarring departures of highly-touted players such as Nick Brassell and Tobias Singleton. Just last year Johnson saw close friend Donte Moncrief opt for the NFL over one more season at Ole Miss. He was selected in the third round by the Indianapolis Colts.
“It was tough,” Johnson said of the ups and downs the class faced. “It wasn't just all of that stuff. Combine that with the 2-10 (season), it's taken a lot out of us. That's what makes us so close as a group is because of all the hard times we've had together. It's finally coming to an end. Wow.”
Nothing lasts forever. Days and months and years go by and people go their separate ways, whether they wanted to or not. For Johnson, a chapter of his life is closing.
Yes, he's thrilled for Prewitt and Golson. And he'll celebrate when they're drafted, just as he did with Moncrief.
Even if it's bittersweet.
“I'm going to be all over the place,” he said. “I'll be so excited for them, especially when I get to hear their names called. It'll almost be like I'm getting drafted when I see those guys. It'll be fun to watch those guys go on to the NFL and have a good career, just like watching Donte this year. It's been a blessing to watch him in the NFL.
“Hopefully one day I'll get my shot, too.”