Local Connection: Collie has watched Kelly build program

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -After graduating from Parkersburg Catholic High School in 2010, Quentin Collie made his way to Notre Dame University.

His arrival in South Bend coincided with that of new Fighting Irish head football coach Brian Kelly, who he has watched with admiration resurrect a traditional national power.

“The first two years were a little rough,” said Collie. But he could see Kelly not only was recruiting great talent, but at the same time he was instilling a winning attitude.

Collie figured this is the year Notre Dame would blossom. Still, he thought nine wins would be a great season, given the difficulty of the schedule.

But Notre Dame exceeded all expectations. It shook down the thunder. It ran the table. It won all 12 regular season games and now will play Alabama for the national championship on Monday night in Miami.

Collie will have a ringside seat for that matchup of college football’s two most successful programs. Notre Dame students were entered into a lottery for National Championship Game tickets and Collie overcame the odds and snagged a ducat. He and his father, Aaron Collie, drove to Miami to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

A Presidential and National Merit scholar, Collie is an English major at Notre Dame. He plans to attend graduate school with the hopes of becoming an English professor.

Collie, a standout athlete at PC, still loves his sports, especially Notre Dame football. He notes that defense wins championships and points out the nation’s top two defenses will be in Miami Monday night.

And yes, he is well aware the Fighting Irish are a 10-point underdog. That not only doesn’t bother him, but he believes it will motivate Notre Dame, in whom he expresses great confidence.

“This is the matchup everybody wants,” he said. “You have two strong programs with big, strong defenses.”

Collie understands the history of Notre Dame football. He feels it when he walks into the stadium. He also was fortunate enough to attend Notre Dame’s win over Miami at Soldier Field this fall, where he also got that same feeling that it indeed a special place.

After watching Notre Dame start out 3-0 with wins over Navy, Purdue and Michigan State, Collie wondered if the Irish could handle No. 10 Michigan, a team that had beaten Notre Dame the previous two seasons.

He attended that game and said the atmosphere was electric following the 13-6 Notre Dame victory. It was at that point he started getting excited about the prospects for the season.

The Michigan win was one of three over top 10 teams as Notre Dame also beat No. 4 Stanford and No. 8 Oklahoma. The Irish also managed to win close games against BYU and Pittsburgh, prevailing in each by a field goal.

The Notre Dame football experience doesn’t center around tailgaiting. Rather, it begins at midnight with the drummer’s circle in front of the Golden Dome, which generally attracts 1,000 people. It’s an old-school experience, where family bonds are more important than partying.

South Bend is a small community where Notre Dame rules. No matter how many times Collie attends a game, he gets cold chills and even tears up watching the scene unfold.

Collie comes from an athletic-oriented family. All of his four younger brothers – Daniel, Benjamin, Noah and Xavier – are involved in sports. Daniel is a member of the basketball team at Wright State University, where he is living out his dream of being a Division 1 basketball player.

Collie plans to soak up the atmosphere in Miami from the Notre Dame pep rally to Sunday Mass to the BCS Fan Experience. Naturally, he hopes to cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame. In what has been a year of surprises in South Bend, he hopes the Irish have one more in them.