SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Cam McDaniel has heard the criticism: He's not big enough, he's not fast enough, he's not athletic enough to be a running back at a top-flight school.
Some players would hear those and say that they don't care, that what others say doesn't affect them. McDaniel hasn't tuned out the noise. Instead. he's embraced it.
"I'm always running with a chip on my shoulder," McDaniel said. "That's just my personality, that's who I am. And I love to take the people that always told me I can't do it, that I'm not capable, want to throw me in some statistics column and use that as motivation to play my best game. That's always been my mindset."
[MORE: Lack of sacks becoming a problem for Notre Dame]
In his first two years on campus, McDaniel saw only garbage-time carries and was cross-trained at cornerback thanks to a thin depth chart at that position last year. He entered 2013 with a wide-open backfield competition ahead of him, but one that was loaded with four and five-star talents: George Atkinson, Amir Carlisle, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston.
Through three games, McDaniel has found a niche as a tough, physical runner who's well-suited for late-game, clock-churning drives.
McDaniel's always thought he could be that guy, someone who can be depended on to carry the ball 10 times in seven minutes to close out a win -- like he did against Purdue.
"He was the guy that we had decided was going to run the football at the end of the game -- he was the hot hand at that time," coach Brian Kelly said after Saturday's game. "Plays that we were running, we were running A-gap, inside zone, we were just downhill with more hats than we could handle and just trying to win a football game."
As a three-star player from Coppell, Texas, McDaniel fielded offers from a handful of BCS programs -- Iowa, Iowa State, Colorado, Minnesota to name a few (interestingly, he wasn't offered by any school in the state of Texas, according to Rivals.com). He could've gone to one of those schools and been a feature back, or at least someone who garnered far more touches in his first two years on campus.
That thought crossed McDaniel's mind, but he ultimately didn't waver in his commitment to Notre Dame.
[RELATED: Daniels eyes consistency as next step]
"I think that's going to cross the mind of anybody that's not getting playing time instantly," McDaniel said. "But really, this is a special place, not even from a football perspective but in general. And I really feel confident that the Lord brought me here for a reason. I've always kind of had to remain steadfast with that, and that's going to be my driving force and driving factor, and it's helped me stay positive throughout these last two years."
Notre Dame's backfield doesn't have a true No. 1 back, and McDaniel's usage will likely depend on the score, down and distance. He carried 12 times against Temple (a win), once against Michigan (a loss) and 16 times against Purdue (a win).
But the opportunity is there, and McDaniel is in position to embrace it.