Back in 2010, Texas, Auburn and Arizona State all had one thing in common: All three universities were playing tug-of-war with the nation's second-ranked offensive lineman, Christian Westerman.
Ultimately, the Sun Devils and Longhorns lost out to "War Eagle" just months after Auburn won the BCS National Championship.
Hearing the local product out of Chandler, Arizona would be a new member of the Southeastern Conference came as a bit of a surprise to Sun Devil fans. Westerman went 29-0 and won back-to-back state championships during his junior and senior year at Hamilton High School. His talents earned him a spot as a USA Today's First-Team All American, and there is little doubt that he could have helped turn ASU's football program around well before coach Todd Graham arrived in Tempe.
However, after being at Auburn for two full seasons, Westerman decided it was time to go home.
"Coach Graham was definitely a big factor, but the main factor was coming back home and coming back and seeing people who love to come out and watch me, like my parents. I have tons of family here and tons of friends so you can't beat that," Westerman said.
The 6-foot-4, 298-pound star transferred to Arizona State over winter break and has been enrolled in school this spring. He came to Tempe as a redshirt sophomore after only playing in two games with Auburn due to a nagging ankle injury.
But he is ready to start fresh with his football career on a Sun Devil team that has aspirations to make a Rose Bowl appearance. Westerman had nothing but good things to say about his Sun Devil experience throughout the spring months.
"It was awesome. It (spring practice) was actually one of my favorite parts of my football career. Ever, said Westerman. "Just being able to come home and get back to my old environment that I grew up playing in and to play with guys I grew up with, you can't beat that. I've never had this much fun playing football."
One of the players Westerman played with in the past was redshirt freshman Mo Latu, who played on the offensive line this past season. Westerman is focusing on playing guard for the Sun Devils, but he does have experience playing tackle back during his high school years.
"Seeing what coach Graham has done with this program is absolutely amazing. It's definitely changed since I knew back in the day and I love it," Westerman said. "I love the system here. The way they run the ball here, you can't beat it."
Former head coach Dennis Erickson was aggressive during the recruiting process to land the five-star lineman, but it was tough to turn down an offer from a championship team.
Not to worry, though. The Arizona State coaching staff, especially offensive line coach Chris Thomsen, has worked Westerman quickly into a Tempe mentality.
"The biggest slogan is just hard work, basically. Everyone is working hard, said Westerman. "There is not one guy who's slacking. They don't allow that. When everyone is working hard, that's a championship team and that's what they have here," Westerman said.
Changing offensive schemes is one of the toughest things to do, especially with Mike Norvell's high-octane offense. Westerman is certainly battle tested from his time the SEC, but he is working on finding some chemistry with Taylor Kelly under center and the plethora of running back that rely on Westerman to protect the rock.
Auburn was forced to use three quarterbacks last season, so it was tough for the offensive line to adjust to their three styles. The War Eagles rushed for nearly 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns so they were predominately a run-first offense.
"I'm working mainly on my pass rushing right now. Run blocking I've definitely improved in. The main thing is my technique as well. I want to get that down and my posture to be able to come move guys off the ball next year," Westerman added.
Westerman took a handful of snaps during the spring game and did not make any noticeable errors, even against pass rushers like Will Sutton and Carl Bradford.
"Watching guys like (Evan) Finkenberg and watching how he does things. He's been teaching me different hand movements and he has definitely taught me a lot."
Westerman will add to an already experienced core in the trenches with Kody Koebensky at center, Finkenberg at tackle, and the emergence of Vi Teofilo, Jamil Douglas and Sil Ajawara.
There is no denying the new addition will be very well received in Sun Devil Stadium, but the question now turns to whether or not the on-going investigations with Auburn's football program turn into sanctions.
If Auburn were to get sanctioned before the start of the season, Westerman would have the chance to play immediately in the fall. However, it's more than likely that Westerman will be asked to sit out the 2013 season per NCAA transfer rules.
"I mean that's not in my hands, I don't control any of that but it would be awesome (to play this year). If not, I'm just looking at this as a get better year to improve my skills," Westerman said.
That's a good mentality to have given the bright future this Sun Devil program has in store. It would be a bonus to see Westerman battle in the trenches on Saturdays.