Golden's Selfless Switch Creates Advantage
By Nicole Dimtsios
The safety position is the vocal lead for any secondary, and Arizona safety Robert Golden won't stop talking.
"He doesn't shut up, but I love it. It's all positive and it's all competitive," said Ryan Walters, Arizona's secondary coach. "The guys feed off of that and it makes them more competitive, and they play harder because of it."
The self-admitted chirper uses his duties as leader of the defense to his advantage. As a senior, Golden knows which buttons to push to pester opposing receivers.
"I feel like if I get in their head and make the game competitive, we all go out there and [play better]," Golden said.
Golden has gone up against some of college football's elite receivers, including Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon in the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl. Despite the Arizona loss, Golden finished the game with five tackles and broke up a team-high four passes.
But the Fresno, Calif., native hasn't always play the game with such confidence. The highly-recruited corner has faced a winding road in Tucson. After expecting to play corner, Golden saw action on special teams and the bench during his freshman season before being switched to safety by then-secondary coach Mark Stoops.
As the Wildcats' strong safety in 2009, Golden started all 13 games. But a season later, Arizona needed Golden to return to his natural cornerback position.
Golden has started in 27 games for the Wildcats, and has become a specialist at breaking up passes. He led the team with 12 during the 2010 season at cornerback and was third on the team with 60 tackles.
Despite his success on the outside, Walters called on Golden to make the "selfless" switch once again.
"It's been a long journey," Golden said.
But according to Walters, it's been during his second stint at safety that Golden has come into his own.
"The way he carries himself, his involvement in every play, really shows maturity at that safety position," Walters said. "He's physical. He throws his body around. He plays 100 miles per hour every snap. He's a vocal leader, but he leads by example as well."
After the departure of most of Arizona's experience on the defensive line to graduation at the end of the 2010 season, head coach Mike Stoops said he leans on the "natural safety" to fill the role as one of Arizona's veteran leaders.
But his time left leading the Wildcat secondary is ticking down. Sophomore safety Marquis Flowers said Golden's biggest advantage was being able to use his experience to make sure younger players were mentally sound during games.
Golden's adjustment between cornerback and safety gives him the ability to be flexible, but comfortable at both positions.
The transition between the two positions has defined Golden's career as a Wildcat, and although he describes himself as a natural cornerback, it has been his time at safety that has brought out his big mouth.
"When playing corner you've got to be able to go out there and hold your own, be on your own island out there and play ball," Golden said. "With safety, you've got to be the one being a vocal leader out there.
"I want to go out there and be aggressive," Golden said, "be both the talker and just go out there and play with excitement."