With an early exit from the playing field, the fall of 2012 was not one Saint Paul (MN) Cretin Derham Hall standout James Onwualu
and his teammates envisioned.
"We ended up losing earlier than my school ever has in its history," said Onwualu. "So that was extremely upsetting. We're done with our season. I personally had a good season, but as a program we had a rough season. So now I'm training to get ready to go to Notre Dame.
That day is fast approaching as Onwuala only has about two weeks of classes left to finish.
"I'm taking my official during the banquet," said Onwualu. "But I think I'm going to go up there this week to figure out my classes and do all the meetings and stuff. I believe January 11 or 12 is move in."
With each day on the calendar meaning a day closer to leaving, Onwualu has experienced several emotions.
"It's crazy as there have been so many things lately that just kind of trigger the emotions about leaving early," said Onwualu. "There is definitely good, but there are also some parts that are hard. So it's pretty crazy that it's almost here."
Onwualu won't quickly forget the experiences he had at Cretin Derham Hall, nor the people he shared success with.
"Every team you play with you become connected," said Onwualu. "That's really what this sport is all about. There have been guys on this team that I've been playing with ever since I've been playing this sport. So it's tough knowing I'll never play with them again. These are the guys that have pushed me in practice and have made me who I am. It's definitely sad, but I'm fortunate enough to do it all again and get another four years playing."
The recruiting process also gave Onwualu experiences he'll remember in the years to come.
"The thing I enjoyed the most was meeting a whole bunch of different people," said Onwualu. "To be given an opportunity to meet all of these different coaches and different players from all over the country I was blessed.
"As for what was tough, I would say dealing with all the different schools at a young age and being pulled in so many different ways and trying to say the right things to the many interviewers every night and the pressure of making it to where you want to be. Overall I'm just blessed to be in the situation I'm in and wouldn't want it any other way."
Onwualu also got a sense of what makes Notre Dame and its football program special.
"I've been to two games Miami and Michigan," said Onwualu. "It's a unique atmosphere at Notre Dame. They can talk about how down South everybody goes crazy and every school has their energy, but around campus and at the games it's a great feeling to be there and be part of the whole thing."
While his time was limited to get back to campus, Onwualu has been watching.
"If I'm not there I've been watching the games every week," said Onwualu. "What I've seen it doesn't matter what team they are playing they are going to play Notre Dame like it's their Super Bowl.
"I've kind of experienced that at my high school where every team comes and plays their hardest and gives you their best shot and I really like that about Notre Dame."
A new beginning
How was returning to campus different for Onwualu knowing he'd be there soon to start a new chapter in his life?
"I still felt the same about the place before I was committed," said Onwualu. "But now I can sit there and watch the game and go like that can be me next year and I'm going to have the opportunity to do that and that I'm going to be on the sidelines with those guys and playing in front of the 80,000 or whatever number it is. So being in that position is the shocking part and what really makes it different than before."
As for making the adjustment from high school student to college student, Onwualu feels those around him will make it a much easier transition.
"Mike Heuerman and I are planning on being in the same room together," explained Onwualu. "I talk with him every day and that makes me feel so much better about the whole thing. I know the coaches are going to be there for me and feel comfortable being there, it's just the thought of leaving that is tough."
Beside Heuerman, Onwualu also expects to get a helping hand from his future quarterback Malik Zaire.
"Malik is going to be a guy I'm studying with at night every night," said Onwualu. "We'll be studying our playbook as well as for our classes. We are both very similar in the way we think, the way we learn and the way we act in the world. Even if he weren't the quarterback, which is just a plus to what we've got going on he's going to be a guy I'm going to be around a lot and being there early with him will be a big plus for both of us I think."
With his senior season completed, James Onwualu has started putting in place the final details before starting his Notre Dame career. IrishEyes.com caught up with Onwualu to get the latest on his final days as a high school student.
James Onwualu has started his countdown until he reports for classes at Notre Dame.