In a sense, things have come full circle for Blaine Irby.
Let's take it back to 2008, Irby's sophomore year at Texas. Three games into the season, he suffered a devastating blow against Rice. He tore all three ligaments in his knee that resulted in nerve damage. Doctors told the tight end he may never walk again, much less play the sport he loved.
But Irby didn't take no for an answer. He rehabbed though the 2009 and '10 seasons and did all the right things to miraculously make the comeback he did to play this year.
Irby, a California native, finished the year with 11 receptions for 157 yards and three touchdowns. He had a 41-yard touchdown from Jaxon Shipley on a trick play against Texas A&M that swung the momentum pendulum and also had a one-handed grab against Baylor.
Down 3-0 in the second quarter of the Holiday Bowl Wednesday, Irby caught a 30-yarder from David Ash to bring Texas into the red zone for the first time all night. It set up the following trick play when Shipley hit Ash for a touchdown to put the Longhorns up 7-3.
Irby announced a few weeks ago that he would not apply for a medical hardship that would grant him a sixth year of eligibility, saying he wanted to be healthy for the rest of his life. Smart man.
It was special that Irby was able to finish his football career in San Diego, which is just three-hours from where he started it in his hometown of Camarillo.
"It's definitely an emotional experience," he said. "I think coming back to California for the Holiday Bowl, as much as we wanted to go back and change some games that didn't go our way this year, it's a pretty cool experience just how it all tied up together and we finished the season with a win.
"And me personally, just coming back, I'm thankful these guys took me in. I felt like I was out of town for a couple years. I felt like a freshman back in that first January coming back. It's just great coming out here and playing with my friends again. Coming out here and battling and winning like this…it just caps it all off."
For more coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!