At the beginning of the season, there were just a handful of players thinking like Pittsburg State sophomore linebacker Nate Dreiling.
With each win during the regular season, there were converts.
And by the time the NCAA Division II playoffs started last month, everyone in the Gorillas' locker room was on the same page.
"By that point, there wasn't a doubt in our minds," Dreiling said. "There was nobody that thought we weren't going to win it all."
Pittsburg State brought the NCAA Division II championship trophy back home for the first time since 1991 on Saturday night, capping a 13-1 season with a win earlier in the day over Wayne State 35-21 at Florence, Ala.
The Gorillas arrived at the Joplin, Mo., airport in the early evening and their team bus received a police escort back to Pittsburg, where fans filled up the school's main gym to greet the team.
"People were honking and waving at us as we were making our way into town, which was crazy ... you could just feel the excitement building up," Dreiling said. "And then when we finally walked into the gym, the place just exploded."
Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck's demeanor during the game — including the final moments — was decidedly subdued, but he admitted Sunday that what was going on underneath the surface was the exact opposite.
"I've always had the philosophy that you don't want to get too high when things are going good and don't want to get too low when things are going bad," Beck said. "But I had some serious emotions running through me during the game because we'd been to that point before and had come up short.
"All the coaches got together last night at a former graduate assistant's house and it all finally came out then. That's when it got pretty emotional, when we were with our guys that had worked so hard all year long."
Thanks to a pair of people closest to Beck and Dreiling, however, that hard work didn't get to stay on the back burner very long.
Beck awoke to a call from Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, a Pitt State assistant with Beck under Chuck Broyles in 1991.
"He told me congratulations and to get my tail-end out of bed and get to recruiting," Beck said. "He said there were probably other coaches out there already trying to beat us."
Dreiling's back-to-reality moment came from his father, Hutchinson High football coach Randy Dreiling.
"You figured people would give you time to enjoy it," Nate Dreiling said, laughing. "But my dad told me 'Good job, now you need to get back to work.'
"I think I'm going to relax a little bit and enjoy this ... every minute it sinks in a little bit more."