Cave stands by Notre Dame
When the third overtime was completed and Navy ended 44 years of frustration with a 46-44 win over Notre Dame, Irish fans were in a state of shock as their season continued its downward spiral.
Braxston Cave was watching, just as he does every Saturday. As the Notre Dame commit witnessed the Irish fall to 1-8, his decision never wavered, but he knew he had to brace himself for what was to come.
From the moment Cave got chills as an 8-year-old when he first saw the Irish don their green jerseys, the No. 1-rated center in Class of 2008 has been waiting to get there.
For Cave, having grown up in Granger, Ind., a short 10-minute ride from South Bend, being an Irish fan is all he knows. And now that he's a future member of the program, that allegiance has heightened.
"Before I committed, I'd probably been to about 15 [games], and then now the last two years, I've gone to almost every game," Cave said. "It's awesome because I would walk through there and just visualize me getting to wear that helmet and walking through that locker room saying 'that could be my locker.'"
Committing to Notre Dame was not the hard part for Cave; it was the wait. Cave told his family from the get-go that if he received an offer from head coach Charlie Weis, that's where he'd be going. But after getting offers from five or six schools, none of which were Notre Dame, frustration began to set in.
In the meantime Cave considered Michigan, Florida, Indiana and Purdue, but again, never wavered.
"It had me thinking, but there was never really a doubt in my mind that if I got the offer that's where I was going," Cave said. "Coach Weis approached me [at Notre Dame's 7-on-7 camp] and told me he'd been keeping an eye on me and that he'd really have to have a local guy on the team, but he doesn't want to just offer someone who's local just to be on the team, he wants someone to come in and play.
"So I knew I had to perform and make things happen. I stayed in touch and a year and a half later, I got the offer."
Cave committed on March 4 and by doing so, he was able to get his individual concerns out of the way and focus on his senior season at Penn High School. Located in Mishawaka, Penn is a perennial power in the state of Indiana, having won five state championships. This season was no different as the Kingsmen started the season 12-0, only to fall in the state regionals to Merrillville. Despite being "just a lineman," Cave is one of 12 finalists for Indiana's 'Mr. Football' award.
"Not very many linemen win awards like that, so I think would really say a lot about the position and give guys hope in the future that you can do things like that even if you're not a skill player," Cave said.
At 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, Cave possesses good size and displays a quick and clean snap and also looks comfortable handling shotgun duty. He will enter college with good experience at the position.
As a kid, Cave was always bigger than everyone, so he didn't have much say so in becoming a lineman. In high school, he has spent time at both the guard and center positions.
"At first it was kind of tough getting all the calls down, but now it's just a natural instinct. I already know what to do and what to say," Cave said of mastering the center position. "I like center because the most natural at it because I've played it the longest, but it doesn't really matter."
Cave will enter Notre Dame as part of a heralded class of recruits who have verbally committed, including ESPN 150 players QB Dayne Crist and DT Omar Hunter along with fellow center Mike Golic Jr. Aside from the natural appeal of playing for the hometown team, with the Irish having a down season and losing several seniors of this year's team, including starting center John Sullivan, Cave sees an opportunity to come in and contribute right away.
"I knew by committing early and knowing where I was going, I could focus on what position I could work for, whether that was at center or guard, that I could come in and compete," Cave said. "I feel like the opportunity is there, I just have to perform on the field."
Jamar Hudson is a recruiting editor for ESPN.com.