Notre Dame center and Penn High School alum Braxston Cave is enjoying family time this week.
Cave's Christmas celebration began Sunday night with his parents, two sisters, brother-in-law, three nephews and two nieces at the family's home in Granger.
Braxston will play his final game at Notre Dame in the national championship game on January 7th in Miami against Alabama. After that, he begins his quest to the NFL. An once he's in the NFL, he knows Christmas time will always be in jeopardy with his family.
That's why he's taking in every moment right now.
"It's special," Braxston tells NewsCenter 16 from his parents' home in Granger. "I'm the hometown guy but what people don't realize is that I don't get to see my family as much as people think. Getting the opportunity to hang with everyone and spend quality time, it's time I'll definitely cherish."
And knowing things may not be the same next year makes its bittersweet for Braxston's mom, Kim.
"You are making me all watery-eyed just talking about it when you say he may not be here next year," Kim explains. "As a mom, I love having my kids all together for special occasions."
For Braxston's dad Rick, this Christmas together brings everything full circle on his son's career.
"Going back to a man who had a dream to someone who worked hard to receive a scholarship offer to Notre Dame to then the first time he started and now here we are," Rick says. "The hard work, more and more wins every year and then the final year--what more of a Christmas gift can you get than playing for the national title."
Family means so much to Braxston. It's the first thing he thought about when Notre Dame beat USC four weeks ago to book its ticket to the BCS Championship.
After hugging some teammates, Cave starting looking for his parents in the stands.
"Where my family at?" Cave yelled on the field at the LA Coliseum as his eyes searched through the stands. After a few seconds he spotted them, through his hands up in the yeah and yelled again, "YEAH!"
"I had no idea where they were," Braxston explains with a smile. "I just started yelling for them. I saw my dad standing up, jumping up and down and I spotted him out."
That was quite the moment for dad when he made eye contact with his son.
"A complete celebration," Rick said. "I didn't think he was going to see us. He kept looking and scanning."
That's when Rick jumped up on the stands and had a friend brace him so he could be even higher and that's when Braxston found his dad.
"Oh wow," Kim said of what that moment was like. The Cave's had 20 family members in attendance for the game in Los Angeles.
"It was so exciting because you had all the doubters and USC is not one of my favorite teams," she continues as the entire family laughs. "To go there and beat them on their turf, it was very exciting. Words can't explain."
Braxston can't put into words what it would be like to re-live that celebration on January 7th. We'll have more on that in the weeks ahead.