Chicago Bears running back Armando Allen graduated from Notre Dame in 2011 with 4,337 all-purpose yards – fifth most in school history – and a degree in sociology. Believe it or not, considering the two powerhouse programs that will collide in tonight's BCS Championship game, Alabama and ND, Allen is the only player on Chicago's roster to play for either university.
Under head coach Brian Kelly, Notre Dame is looking to cap off an undefeated season with a win in the Fiesta Bowl, earning their first national championship since 1988.
"It's been amazing for me as an alumni," said Allen. "We've been playing really sound football over the year. It's good to see the guys really bond to coach Kelly's program. It's good for coach Kelly to have the opportunity to do what he was expected to do when he came here. It's been an amazing season."
Despite owning a better record than Alabama, the Fighting Irish come into the game as 10-point underdogs. Allen isn't buying it.
RB Armando Allen
"If we go out there and just play sound football like we've been playing all year, understanding what we're playing for, as long as we're on the same page, we'll have a great chance to pull it out," he said.
Tonight's matchup will showcase two of the top defenses in the country. It's likely to be a slugfest, where one or two big plays either way could be the difference.
"It'll be a great defensive game. The key for us on offense is getting everyone implemented into the game and making big plays."
Irish quarterback Everett Golson will be asked to make a lot of those plays. It's a tough task for a freshman signal caller against an elite defense. ND fans can take solace in the fact Golson has improved dramatically throughout the season and played his best in the team's biggest games.
"He's very poised for being a freshman," Allen said. "He's athletic, he can make a lot of plays with his feet. At the end of the day he'll have a lot of opportunities to make those plays and I think he'll pull through."
On the other side of the ball, all eyes will be on linebacker Manti Te'o, widely regarded as the best defensive player in the league. He won nearly every national defensive player of the year award and was a Heisman Trophy runner up. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman, yet Allen felt Te'o was more than deserving.
"Not taking anything away from Johnny but we're way past overdue for a defensive player to win the Heisman. Not only that, I think he's the best player in the country. His team is in the national championship and he played a big role in that. He definitely should've won the Heisman."
It's been nearly a quarter of a century since the Fighting Irish have won a national championship. Tonight will be a huge game for all Domer fans, alumni and former players alike.
"It's definitely big for me because I grew up with some of those guys that are on the team now," said Allen. "For the university and alumni as a whole, it means a lot just because it's been a while. We are a prestigious school and we do believe that we are the best at whatever we're doing. It's great opportunity to prove that."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.