Chris Watt admits it: he's thought about what it's going to be like tonight in Miami when he and his Notre Dame teammates line up against Alabama with the national championship at stake.
Contact information ( * required )
"Definitely," said the former Glenbard West standout offensive lineman. "Before you go to bed at night you think what it's going to be like walking on that field with all of America watching one of the biggest sporting events of the year.
"Coming into Notre Dame you know there's always an opportunity to play for a national championship. It's something that you work at every year."
And that's just what Watt has done throughout his career at Notre Dame -- work.
The Glen Ellyn native arrived toting one heck of a football resume. He was the Daily Herald's selection as captain for the 2008 DuPage All-Area team after a stellar career at Glenbard West that was capped by a 12-1 season.
He was on everyone's top 100 list in overall recruits and in the top five of everyone's list as an offensive guard. Rivals, Parade, USA Today -- you name it -- and he was listed as a top prospect.
But all the accolades didn't seem to mean as much once he reached South Bend.
"I remember coming in and seeing some of the defensive guys and wondering 'How am I going to block these guys? They're so big and so quick -- it's going to be tough to do,'" Watt recalled.
After redshirting his freshman year, and thanks to hard work both in-season and out, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Watt gradually made his way into the lineup his sophomore season, seeing action in all 13 games, mainly at right guard.
"It's just been working on my technique over the summers and in spring -- it's really helped me grow as a player," he said.
By 2011, Watt started all 13 games at left guard, part of an O-line that allowed only 17 sacks in 13 games (fewest since 1998), and this season Watt and tackle Zack Martin anchor a powerful -- and often-used -- left side of the line that has propelled the Irish to within a game of the national championship.
"We certainly use the left side of our offensive line I'd say at a ridiculous rate," said Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. "I'm not giving away any secrets.
"(Alabama's) not very good at what they do if they don't know some of the tendencies we have running the football. We typically like to go left. It's not by accident."
No pressure on Watt and his linemates, but Irish head coach Brian Kelly announced this week that Monday's game "is about the big fellas, and this game will be decided unquestionably up front."
That is once the big fellas get their nerves settled after a few plays.
"You really can't stop them," Watt said of the jitters. "It's one of those things that you have to get out of your system on the first series -- after that everyone settles down.
"I'm sure Alabama will be going through the same thing. Neither of us have played in five or six weeks -- everyone is going to be getting a little bit of the rust off as far as game tempo, but after that first series everyone is going to be pretty set."
As for the nerves of players' parents? Well, that's a different story.
If you listen to any sports talk radio, you know that ND alum Mike Golic of "Mike and Mike" has been going ga-ga over the Irish for the last month or so.
In the Watt family, when it comes to who's more wound up about Monday's game, mom Mary Pat or dad Rich, it's no contest.
"I'd definitely say my dad," Watt said with a laugh. "He loves going to the games. He's been my No. 1 fan; he's pretty intense about the whole thing.
"Everyone's been pretty good about (ticket requests). My dad has actually been the only one who's been asking for more."
But even Rich Watt can't compare to Mike Golic on the excitability-o-meter.
"I'd have to say Mr. Golic," Watt said when asked to compare. "He's pretty intense and obviously having two sons on the team (Mike Golic Jr. and Jake), playing for his alma mater -- he's obviously really excited about it."
And it's not just family.
"We got to go home for five days over Christmas and we got to spend time with my friends and they were pretty excited for me," said Watt, whose brother Kevin played DE for Northwestern. "They said they're going to be watching the game from my buddy's lake house in Michigan."
From the stands or on TV, they'll all be watching a young man who, along with his teammates, will be living the dream Monday night.
"Coming off last year, we really wanted to get into a BCS game ... and we somehow found our way to the BCS championship game," Watt said. "It's definitely surreal."