The signing of Tommy Rees in 2010 brought little fanfare. Though no disrespect was intended, the fact remained there was little reason for Notre Dame fans to notice. Rees was a 3-star high school recruit with mostly Mid-American Conference offers and was never expected to truly be in the mix for the starting quarterback job. And ample reason existed for ND fans to overlook the underdog Rees.
Tommy Rees’s unheralded journey to Notre Dame
In the fall of 2010, 5-star signal caller Jimmy Clausen exited for the pros. Enter the next 5-star, Dayne Crist, with years of eligibility remaining and a leadership style that netted him rave reviews at the Elite 11 combine, a national competition amongst America’s top high school quarterbacks. In addition, Notre Dame bested a late push by Urban Meyer at the University of Florida to land highly sought after 4-star quarterback recruit, Andrew Hendrix. The window of playing opportunity for Rees when he enrolled in the fall of 2010 wasn’t slim – it was slammed completely shut. And those are just the kind of odds Rees relishes.
Fast-forward to the fall of 2013 and no one could have predicted the turn of events. Heralded 5-star Dayne Crist never panned out, ultimately transferring to Kansas. Andrew Hendrix has gone toe-to-toe with Rees throughout the years and has fallen short. Even when heir-apparent Everett Golson led Notre Dame to an undefeated season, he couldn’t have done so without the intermittent play of Rees. When the game was tied and a two-minute drill was needed late in the 4th quarter to put Purdue away, Kelly deferred to Rees. When Golson suffered a concussion and was unable to play against BYU and an undefeated season hung in the balance, it was Rees who stepped up and kept the streak alive. He’s the kind of player who leaves every ounce of himself on the field knowing full well he’s not the quarterback Irish fans wish to see, yet he perseveres.
Looking back on Rees’ career at Notre Dame, it seems only fitting the quarterback given no chance, the quarterback who was always there when ND needed him despite the torrent of boos he received as gratitude, is the likely starter entering his senior season with the dismissal of Everett Golson. Though not always the starter, ND has been Rees’ team. When Golson needed a shoulder to lean on or advice as to what an opposing defense was showing, it was Rees there with an answer, guiding the young pupil without thought to his own status as backup.
Tommy Rees is a more than capable starter for Notre Dame
And why not Rees? His statistics certainly indicate his capability. In his three year career Rees has amassed a 63% completion rating as well as 4,413 yards, chipping in 34 touchdowns for good measure. He’s lined up and stared at the heart of the Michigan, Michigan State, USC and Miami defenses and emerged victorious. He’s done everything asked of him and has surpassed all expectations, cementing his position as a true underdog story worthy of respect.
Rees is uniquely postured for the situation, too. While Rees lacks the special playmaking ability and magic of Golson, he makes up for it in intelligence and his astute ability to read defenses. And with an emerging rushing attack and a running back unit armed with youthful talent unseen since the Holtz era, an opportunity exists for a dynamic offense. If Notre Dame is able to consistently run the football, Rees’ ability to read defenses, combined with a legitimate play action threat, could make Rees a force to be dealt with at quarterback.
Will Notre Dame succeed with Rees at quarterback, with sky high expectations after an undefeated campaign in 2012? There is no way to know with certainty. But what cannot be denied is that Rees has earned the opportunity to answer the question. This is Tommy’s moment, and one only he could have foreseen when the ink dried on his Letter of Intent to play football for the University of Notre Dame.
Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles as well as co-founded a nationally-featured non-profit organization. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.