Golden Opportunity? Receiver Hopes So

Coming off an ankle injury, Penn State's redshirt junior is looking for more action when the Nittany Lions take on Purdue in West Lafayette Saturday. With his big frame, he brings a different element to the receiving corps. Also included with this story is an audio interview.

Derrick Williams was a freshman preparing for his first game at Penn State on the morning of Sept. 3, 2005. Terrell Golden, though just a redshirt sophomore, was by default the most experienced member of the Nittany Lions' receiving corps. Before the start of the matchup with South Florida, the two embraced in a handshake that has become a staple.

Golden said the two are close friends, while Williams compares their bond to one of brothers. Off the field they watch movies and play video games. The idea of the handshake came while watching the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America. On the field, however, they have had very different paths.

At the time of Williams' debut, Golden figured to be a fixture in the PSU offense. He had just three career catches at the time (for 60 yards), but, thanks to a preseason injury that sidelined Mark Rubin for the year, he was the only experienced wideout on the roster.

And even his biggest play had come with a “catch,” so to speak. Trailing Purdue 10-0 in 2004, Golden made a diving grab of a 37-yard pass from Zack Mills for a touchdown to cut the lead to 10-7. As he got up in the end zone, he flashed a hand sign honoring his home state of Virginia, and was hit with a flag for excessive celebration.

That, obviously, did not go over well with head coach Joe Paterno.

“Yeah, I was in Joe's doghouse for a little bit,” Golden said. “He doesn't like people to show off or hot dog, as he puts it. I was young. You live with it, you learn.”

Golden did not return to the game until the final play. Despite any misgiving Paterno had about his brash receiver, the kid's 6-foot-3 frame was perfect for a last-second Hail Mary attempt from Anthony Morelli, who had been brought in on that one play because of his strong arm. The pass fell incomplete and Penn State lost to the No. 9 Boilermakers, 17-14.

It has been that kind of career for Golden.

In 2005, he did not experience the emergence he expected. A quartet of freshmen — Williams, Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Justin King — quickly established themselves as Michael Robinson's go-to receivers.

Golden, meanwhile, was limited to nine catches or 210 yards. The staff relied on him more as a downfield blocker than a pass-catcher.

This year has been tricky, as well. On his first catch of the season, a 9-yarder in the opener against Akron, he sustained a high ankle sprain. He missed a handful of games and did not make another catch until pulling in two balls against Illinois last week.

Williams was relieved to see his friend back in middle of the action.

“It's just like I went out there and caught [the passes],” he said. “He's a great athlete and he's going to have a lot of success.”

Golden's first catch went for 17 yards on a third-and-6 with Penn State trailing 9-3 in the third quarter. The conversion set up Kevin Darling's go-ahead touchdown reception. Golden's second catch was also a third-down chain-mover.

Whether he moves past Williams, Butler and Norwood on the depth chart remains to be seen (King has since been moved to cornerback). But with his big frame, Golden could give the coaching staff some options the smaller wideouts do not. He should be able to make plays over the middle or go over defensive backs on fade patterns.

And he can't think of a better time to start doing that than this week at Purdue, the same team he had success against two seasons ago. Though the performance in 2004 did not turn out to be the breakout he had hoped, the redshirt junior believes there are still plenty of good things in store for him.

“I probably thought I'd be a bigger part of the offense [by now],” Golden said. “But I think my career is right at where it's supposed to be … I'm happy to be there. I'm just happy to be a part of it.”

Hear Terrell Golden talk to FOS' Mark Brennan after the Illinois game here.

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