Nine offensive linemen came to the University of Colorado together in the summer of 2007 to shore up woefully thin numbers in the trenches in Boulder.
They had big dreams for turning around a program that had gone 2-10 the previous fall with too few linemen remaining after that season to have serious scrimmage periods in spring practices.
One of them was a Parade All-American, one of them was a walk-on from Aspen. One was a giant from Hawaii, one was the younger brother of a former CU standout.
They received varying grades and accolades from recruiting services. Together they were considered the future of the program and fans looked ahead with glorious visions for what they might achieve by the time they were juniors and seniors.
None of it panned out.
Five seasons later, seven remain in the program -- one has been converted to tight end -- and they are preparing for the final two home games of their careers Friday night against Southern Cal and next week against Arizona.
"They're all good dudes and we all got along really well from the beginning and really formed a bond I think has lasted the last four years," the tight end convert Matt Bahr said. " ... We're all buddies and we will be forever."
Bahr, now called "skinny boy" by his old friends in the trenches, has seen occasional playing time this fall at tight end, but the only two from the group playing regularly on the offensive line are former five-star recruit Ryan Miller, who has been a stalwart since his freshman season and mans the right guard spot, and Ethan Adkins at left guard.
While their tenure in Boulder hasn't gone exactly how any of them planned, they have found peace and fulfillment in the journey.
No one can accuse this group of not having sacrificed for the program. The list of injuries they have suffered during their careers is a healthy one.
Broken back, broken legs, broken hand, broken toes, broken fingers, mangled shoulders, sprained knees, concussions, torn muscles, ruptured discs, degenerative discs ...
For some, injuries have robbed them of significant playing time and even the ability to truly make an impact on the program.
Blake Behrens played regularly during the 2008 and 2009 seasons but he has fought through three shoulder surgeries during his career and came to the realization earlier this fall that his career was going to end with him watching from the sidelines instead of battling in the fray.
"Obviously it didn't play out as you would imagine it from the beginning, but it's been a fun ride regardless," Behrens said. "I'm just here to contribute in whatever way I can now and make sure we get that win."
" ... Hopefully we're going to be remembered as kind of that transition era of Colorado football. We definitely didn't have the type of seasons you hope to have, but I think we definitely played a big part in what we're setting this program up to do in the future."
Shawn Daniels has endured a similar dose of bad luck. Numerous injuries have taken away chances for him to claim a significant role on the team. In early August this year, he was hopeful of earning the starting center job competing against a sophomore and redshirt freshman, but he suffered a badly strained calf muscle that kept him out of action all the way to last week, when he participated on the field-goal unit kicking an extra point along with David Clark, the only walk-on in the group.
Daniels is hopeful of earning more playing time in the final four games.
"It was good to see him get in there last week," Bahr said.
With nine offensive linemen joining the program at once, someone figured to have to wait awhile for playing time. Sione Tau worked his way through three seasons and a suspension to arrive at his senior year without ever having played a down on Saturdays. He finally got on the field this fall and even started a game.
"When I first got here I was kind of immature and trying to do things my way," Tau said. "Now it's just looking back, I kind of regret not taking things seriously in the beginning."
Tau said running on to Folsom Field behind Ralphie for the final time next week will be a difficult moment for him in some ways and a rewarding one in others.
"It's going to be pretty sad because running behind Ralphie was pretty much one of the exciting things that brought be here because the mascot was pretty beastly," Tau said.
And what of the two who didn't last to the end?
Kai Maiava has long since transferred to UCLA where he became the Bruins starting center after former CU coach Dan Hawkins foolishly tried to turn him into a fullback.
Maiava actually returned to Boulder to see his former teammates last summer and he will be reunited with them, appropriately enough, on senior day at UCLA when the Buffs pay a visit to Westwood.
Mike Iltis remains in school in Boulder but decided to quit football prior to his senior year to focus on academics.