Notre Dame football alumni await BCS Championship in Miami - FOX 32 News Chicago

Notre Dame football alumni relive the glory days as Irish take on Alabama

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

When Notre Dame and Alabama kick off Monday night, it could be the most watched college football game ever – and nobody will be glued to their seats more than the Notre Dame alumni.

Watching Notre Dame go from unranked to unbeaten at No. 1and to number one in college football has perhaps been most fun for the Irish football alumni.

Many of them reside in Chicago, and have been reliving their golden days this season, especially as their alma mater prepares to play Alabama for college football's greatest prize. They've been waiting for this BCS Championship game between the Fighting Irish and the Crimson Tide for 25 years.

"At Notre Dame, football is a religion - and at Alabama, it's a way of life."

Howard Cosell's iconic statement before the 1973 Sugar Bowl was something that Tom Thayer lived through, as offensive lineman for Notre Dame.

"The most memorable game in [my entire] football career - outside the Super Bowl - had to be walking into the Alabama stadium and seeing Bear Bryant on the side line," Thayer said. "[He is an] iconic figure - what he meant to college football and the football landscape everywhere. You know, it was pretty neat."

Tony Rice is the last Notre Dame quarterback to lead the Irish to a national title.

"I wear this for pride. I'm happy to be a part of the elite group. No one else has this ring," Rice said." It's not flashy, but I tell you what though. That ‘ND' really stands out."

Though it's been decades since Rice and Thayer took the field for Notre Dame, they are all part of a unique fraternity. They know they will always get the same from their opponents and from college football fans.

"Every week, no matter who you played, you always got that team's best effort," Thayer said.

"There's no on the wagon stuff," Rice said. "You either have to be a part of Notre Dame or you hate Notre Dame."

Notre dame football is 125 years old. When the Irish take the field on Monday, it's a return to where every alumnus believes they belong.

"Ultimately the focus is on the game, but the actual moment of kickoff will be so exciting," Thayer said. "You just have to be able to absorb it, get into it the momentum of the game and not assume it's too big for either one of the teams."

"They came to the promised land of doing what they have to do in order to represent us past players," Rice said.

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