After growing up together on the football field the past eight years, not even 1,200 miles was going to keep Jake Berman and Mike Heuerman apart on the biggest day of their lives.
The Barron Collier seniors were together Wednesday on National Signing Day as they committed to Bowl Championship Series programs, even though Heuerman was five states away.
Berman singed a National Letter of Intent to play for Central Florida in an afternoon ceremony. Heuerman, who graduated early and already is enrolled at Notre Dame, was in the Barron Collier media center via teleconference website Skype.
"This is our lifelong dream," Berman said. "We put in hard work together the past four years. This is the best feeling in my life to do this."
The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder will play linebacker at UCF. Heuerman, at 6-4, 230, already is working out with the Fighting Irish as a tight end.
Heuerman enrolled at Notre Dame in early January. In between class and study hall, he was broadcast on Barron Collier's projection screen from South Bend, Ind., to thank his coaches, teammates and supporters.
Though he didn't actually sign a letter of intent Wednesday – his scholarship became official once he arrived on campus – Heuerman was thrilled to be present for Berman.
"We've been great friends for a long time," Heuerman said. "Growing up we had the same dreams, and we set strong goals for ourselves. This is just the start for both of us."
Heuerman was ranked the eighth-best tight end in the Class of 2013 by recruiting website Rivals.com. Though he didn't catch many passes in Barron Collier's run-based option offense, he made his presence known on defense this past season.
After switching to defensive end, Heuerman led the team in sacks, and was named to the Class 6A All-State second team on defense. With scholarship offers from 21 other BCS teams, Heuerman stuck with Notre Dame, which lost in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game last month.
Berman led the Cougars in tackles each of the past two seasons, including a career high 129 as a senior. He graduates as Barron Collier's all-time leading tackler with 339.
Considered to be a weakside linebacker for UCF, Berman said he'll play middle linebacker after a strong performance at the position in the North-South All-Star Game.
The Knights are moving to the Big East next season. Berman said he strongly considered another Big East school, Syracuse, and had offers from Minnesota and Western Kentucky.
In the end, like Heuerman, Berman stayed loyal to the program that has recruited him from the start. He signed his letter of intent alongside his parents, Matt and Carrie, and sister, Alex, 14.
"UCF is all about family," Berman said. "The players are good to me, and the coaches are good to me. The college that treats you with the most respect and wants you the most, you should go there."
In Heuerman's absence, his younger brother Matt, a freshman at Barron Collier, signed a ceremonial letter of intent. The brothers' parents, Melissa and Paul, also were there.
Mike Heuerman followed the same path as his older brother. Jeff Heuerman graduated early from Barron Collier, in December 2010, and was present at the 2011 National Signing Day from Ohio State. Jeff Heuerman, also a tight end, will be a junior for the Buckeyes.
2013 NATIONAL SIGNING DAY
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- Prep football: Barron Collier buddies Jake Berman, Mike Heuerman sign with UCF, Notre Dame
- Prep football: Estero's Brandon James signs with Presbyterian
- Prep football: Lely's L.J. Greenidge signs with Alcorn State
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