When Mike Heuerman committed to Notre Dame in the spring, the Barron Collier senior had faith the Fighting Irish football team would return to national significance.
The 6-foot-4 tight end's faith has been rewarded this season.
In April, Heuerman picked Notre Dame over 20 other Bowl Championship Series programs, including recent powers Alabama, LSU and Oregon, and local favorites Florida State and Miami. At the time, the Fighting Irish were 32-31 their past five seasons, and had only won two bowl games since 1993.
Things certainly have changed. After enrolling at Notre Dame later this month, Heuerman could be suiting up for the defending national champions when spring practice starts.
"I never expected them to go 12-0," Heuerman said, "but it was a totally different team when I committed from the team I saw a couple weeks ago."
The Irish started the season unranked and facing one of the toughest schedules in the country. Notre Dame shocked many by going undefeated, rising to No. 1 in the polls, and earning a spot in tonight's BCS National Championship game against Alabama.
Heuerman took his official visit to Notre Dame's campus in South Bend, Ind., in April. He also visited Ohio State, where his older brother Jeff is a tight end, for the Buckeyes' spring game.
As Heuerman drew more attention from recruiters, eventually being ranked the No. 8 tight end in the Class of 2013 by Rivals, more scholarship offers came.
Though his top choices included Miami, LSU and Ohio State, Heuerman stuck with Notre Dame in part because the Irish were the first school to offer him a scholarship in December 2011.
Now Heuerman is feeling pretty smart.
"The whole country is doubting us (in the title game)," Heuerman said. "That's how the whole season has been. Nobody thought we would win 12 in a row. People were saying they didn't even know if we would have a winning record."
Heuerman was encouraged, even delighted, by the play of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert this season. Eifert caught 44 passes for 624 yards and won the John Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end.
With similar size to Eifert (6-6, 250), Heuerman hopes he can fill in for the graduating tight end next season at Notre Dame. The 6-4, 230-pound Heuerman graduated a semester early from Barron Collier and will enroll in college this month. Jeff Heuerman did the same at Ohio State in January 2011.
Since he's not a part of the Fighting Irish just yet, Heuerman did not get tickets to the national championship game. With seats commanding more than $1,000 in some cases, Heuerman won't be buying his way into the game either.
Heuerman isn't sure where he'll watch his future team play for its first national championship since 1988, but he is certain of what he'll see.
"People have been doubting us all year, and we've always come out on top," Heuerman said. "I have a lot of confidence in our coaches, our players. They believe, and that's all you need. I definitely think we'll come out with a big 'W'."