"But it's weird. All that time, we were worried about it happening to him and it ends up happening to me."
This is what happened when Powlus finally got to the Purdue game: He threw one pass that was nearly intercepted in the first quarter, tossed another that was picked off in the end zone in the second, but threw for a touchdown with two seconds left in the first half, was seven for nine in converting third downs with passes, had the same stats as he'd had in the Vanderbilt game—19 for 32, just less than 250 yards passing—yet took no grief. This might be because Notre Dame won 35-0.
This was the dark cloud Powlus was able to find behind his silver lining: "I threw an interception. That puts a black mark on this game for me."
This was Holtz's reaction to Powlus's having thrown 23 passes in one half: "I don't ever want to see that happen again."
This is the quarterback Powlus passed to move up to No. 2 on the Notre Dame list for career touchdown passes: Theismann.
This is what an NFL scout says about him now: "Good arm, not great. Great thrower when his feet are set, not so good on the run. Great kid who's been through a lot. Nobody on earth could've lived up to those expectations. Probably a third-round pick."
This is what really has happened to the Can't Miss Kid: He has been, in sequence, overrated, underrated, underappreciated, misunderstood and, finally, unchanged. He has not been a Mona Lisa, but he has not been a $19 Starving Artist, either. He will make it to the NFL, but he will probably be more of a Joe Sixpack than a Joe Montana. He still stays home a lot of Friday nights, still loves his dog, his family and his seventh-grade girlfriend. He needs only one more class next semester and he will have his Notre Dame degree. The other day, with nobody around, his dad asked him, straight out, "Whaddya think, Ronnie? You think you made the right decision?" And the son said, "Dad, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else."
This is what that New York photographer told Powlus's parents the other day, told them with a big smile: "I stand corrected. We couldn't ruin your son."
This is what still stands between Powlus and the dream he dreams every day, perfectly awake, the dream of winning a national championship: Texas this week, Ohio State next, Washington two weeks after that and USC at the end.
This is what Holtz said to him as Holtz piled into his car after the Purdue game: "Gotta play perfect next week, Ronnie."