Oct 7, 2012, 8:29 PM EDT
When I started writing this column, I had no idea things would go this way. Each of my other three football seasons at Notre Dame was some other class’s “senior season.” I figured my last year would go something like theirs, and when I wrote about it, I would write about the emotions. I would write about the wistfulness, the nostalgia, the relationships, and that bittersweet taste I know the final game will bring.
When I decided to write senior season, I had no idea my senior season would include a 5-0 start. I had no idea it would include a Sports Illustrated cover. I could have never anticipated the presence of College Gameday.
In the third quarter last night, somewhere around our second touchdown, I realized I wasn’t nervous anymore. I have spent this entire season in the throes of anxiety. As every game approaches, my insides twist with fear. I know that feeling hasn’t left me—it will surely find me next week. But last night, I could see that we were going to win.
We were going to win, and it wasn’t going to be because of luck or because the other team wasn’t playing their best or because the calls were going our way. We were going to win because we were better.
There has been a lot of talk this season about how outstanding our defense is, and for good reason. Our defense deserves all the credit in the world for getting us to this point. But what was truly beautiful last night was seeing our offense finally snap into place. Cierre Wood exploded with the kind of urgency and passion that we have come to expect on the defensive side of the ball but had not yet seen on the offense. Watching George Atkinson III run 55 yards for that third touchdown sealed the deal I already knew had been made. Our running game was going to trample Miami.
In a press conference this week, Manti Te’o said, “A player’s best friend is his confidence. If you’re here at Notre Dame, you’re here because you can play football.” Last night, the weight of those words truly hit me because we—the team and the student body—were approaching football with confidence. The team looked and played confident. And we cheered confident. We didn’t keep an eye on the clock and we didn’t watch the game between our fingers—we knew this one was ours.
This team is different. And this student body is different. Last night, after the game ended, we descended upon Chicago to celebrate not our win, but our future. No one moaned about how we have to play Stanford next week. We cheered and whooped and shouted, “We’re going to KILL them!”
What I can say about my senior season is that I never expected to be this blessed. I am still feeling all of those emotions that go with your last cherished games as a student, but I get to experience something bigger, and I know only precious few are able to experience it. There is an excitement and an energy in this team and this student body that can’t be stifled.
So bring on Stanford. Bring on College Gameday. We will be waiting. We will be ready.
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