Perhaps nobody embodies Notre Dame more than senior linebacker Brian Smith.
A 3-year starter under Charlie Weis, Smith was reduced to a backup role when Brian Kelly took over.
"It was very difficult," Smith explains. "I feel like I give my team a good chance to win some football games, but it's hard to do that from the sideline."
Smith says that the key during the season was to not let the emotions show.
"It was hard but I stayed resilient and stay patience and I never let anyone see that I was upset because I knew if I showed I was upset, it would be a distraction to the team," Smith said. "These guys are my brothers and I don't want to do that to my family."
Smith finally got his chance when Carlo Calabrese got injured in the game against Navy.
Since moving to the starting spot at inside linebacker, Smith has played so well, the spot is his--even with Calabrese back and healthy.
"When I got my number called, I just wanted to do my best for them and it's worked out for the best so far," Smith says.
The Irish have won three straight games heading into the Sun Bowl, which will the be the last for Smith in his career. It's been quite the journey for someone whose blood is Notre Dame.
"I've always said I've been committed to Notre Dame since I was four years old," Smith jokes.
That's because Brian's dad Chris also played for the Irish and remarkably the two of have shared similar paths. Both played in a Bowl game in Hawaii for starters.
"And He kind of had dark years--They won the national championship before him and after him," Brian explains.
But there were some good things that the two shared as well.
"His senior or junior year, they beat USC in the Coliseum and they won their last three to go to the bowl game. the parallels are crazy," Brian continued.
"We have a lot of fun just looking back at those kind of things and just talking about them and just being father and son."
Brian says they will share more of those at Christmas this week.