Tommy Rees, The Most Unappreciated Man in the World

Tommy Rees - 2013 Notre Dame Quarterback
Tommy Rees, shown here in practices leading up to the BCS National Championship, has been thrust back into the mix as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback. (Photo: Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports)

Ever since the news broke that Everett Golson would not be enrolled at Notre Dame for the fall semester, Notre Dame message boards have read like an obituary for the 2013 Notre Dame football season.  Faced with the prospect of Tommy Rees starting at quarterback for the Fighting Irish once again this season, many Notre Dame fans have decided to start looking ahead to 2014.  All because the likely guy under center for the upcoming season has won 76% of the games he’s started throughout his career.

Tommy Rees’s career has been a rollercoaster ride any theme park would be jealous of. Lightly recruited out of high school, Rees received a Notre Dame offer after Charlie Weis had a tough go recruiting quarterbacks after signing Jimmy Clausen and Dayne Crist in back to back classes, Rees enrolled at Notre Dame in 2010 with fairly low expectations.

Tommy Rees’s Unexpected Instant Impact

Not many felt Tommy Rees would start many games for Notre Dame, let alone as a true freshman.  One Dayne Crist knee injury later though and Rees was thrust into the most high profile quarterback position in all of college football.

Tommy Rees - 2010 Tulsa
Tommy Rees shown here as a true freshman against Tulsa in 2010. Rees threw four touchdowns against Tulsa, but a costly intercepted secured Tulsa’s upset of the Irish. (Photo: Robin Alam / Icon SMI)

All Rees did in response to being thrown into a situation he wasn’t exactly ready for was throw four touchdown passes against Tulsa in his first bit of extended action.  Ask anyone what they remember of him from that game, however, and they will undoubtedly mention the interception he threw in the end-zone that ended the game with the Irish in field goal range and down by just one point.

Rees then proceeded to guide Notre Dame to three straight wins including a home win over a top 10 ranked Utah team and the first win over arch rival Southern Cal in nine years to secure a bowl berth for the Irish after it looked like Notre Dame would be home for the holidays in 2010.

Fast forward a year and Rees lost out on the 2011 quarterback derby to Dayne Crist.  After Crist was ineffective in the season opener, Rees was back under center for the Irish.  Rees couldn’t guide the Irish to a comeback that day, but the following week he helped the Irish build a 24-7 fourth quarter lead.  Ask anyone what they remember of Rees from that game and it’s the costly fumble he had during Michgian’s comeback.

People forget that after the Irish lost the lead, Rees guided Notre Dame on a four pay, 61 yard touchdown drive in just 42 seconds giving the Notre Dame a 31-28 lead with just 30 seconds on the clock. A lead that the 2011 defense, still a year away from being the force it is now, was unable to hold onto for half a minute.

Fast forward another year and Rees again lost a quarterback derby – this time to Golson.  Despite being the reigning starter, Rees didn’t pout, wasn’t a distraction, and even offered guidance to the young quarterback who just took his starting job.

Tommy Rees Vital Role in 2012’s 12-0 Regular Season

Along the way during Notre Dame’s magical 2012 regular season, Tommy Rees was called upon more than once to either close out a game or relieve an ineffective or injured Golson.

With the Purdue game on the line, Brian Kelly called in Tommy Reesin the waning moments of the contest.  Rees responded by leading the Irish to a game winning field goal on Notre Dame’s final drive of the game.

Tommy Rees - 2012 Michigan
Tommy Rees came off the bench against Michigan last September and led the Irish to the first victory over Michigan since 2008. (Photo: Matt Cashore / USA Today Sports)

A week later when Michigan came to town, a young and shaken Golson was pulled by Kelly after a couple bad turnovers.  Rees came into the game, calmed the situation, and Notre Dame ended up beating Michigan for the first time in the Kelly Era and ending the month of September undefeated for the first time in over a decade.

A few weeks later against Stanford with ESPN College Gameday visiting for the first time in seven years, Golson was knocked out of the game after a blow to the head on a scramble late in the game.  Rees came into the game and led the Irish to a game tying field with 20 seconds on the clock.  Rees then connected with TJ Jones for a touchdown on the first possession in overtime to set up Notre Dame’s epic goal line stand as the Irish knocked off the 17th ranked Cardinal.

All of this isn’t to say that Rees is perfect or that he gives Notre Dame a better chance to win games in 2013 than Everett Golson.  I don’t think anyone could reasonably argue either one of those points.  Rather, my point in all of this is that Tommy Rees is not nearly as bad of a quarterback as many Notre Dame fans would have you believe.

Has Rees made his fair share of silly mistakes throughout his career and have some of those mistakes cost Notre Dame football games?  Of course.  Name a quarterback who hasn’t made dumb mistakes that cost his team games at some point in his career.

Does Rees have a rocket arm or blazing speed?  Absolutely not.  No one could argue either of those points either.  In fact, it is fair to say that Rees’s physical limitations will certainly impact what Brian Kelly can and can’t do with his offense in 2013.

What is not fair to say at all, however, is that all is lost if Rees starts at quarterback for 12 regular season games in 2013.  While he might not have a great arm and may be one of the slower players on the team, he’s shown he can win football games.  In fact, he’s won 76% of the games he’s started throughout his career.

The last time we saw Tommy Rees…

Let’s also not forget that the last time Tommy Rees was a regular started for Notre Dame he was a true sophomore.  Remember Brady Quinn as a sophomore?  He threw 10 interceptions as a sophomore in 2004.  Jimmy Clausen?  He threw 17 interceptions his sophomore campaign in 2008.   Ress tossed 14 picks his sophomore season in 2011.  Four more than quinn and three fewer than Clausen.  He also threw 20 touchdowns in 2011 – three more than Quinn, six less than Clausen.

It’s rare to find a quarterback that’s won that many of his games who has lost his job once before and then remained positive and actually helped his successor.  It’s even more rare to find a quarterback that is so under appreciated by his fan base too.

Tommy Rees has won football games for Notre Dame. He’s handled himself well on the field and been a positive influence on the team.  Heck, he;’s even helped Notre Dame win games since losing his starting job.  And, at the end of the day, his winning percentage and his stats – a common point of contention – actually compare quite favorably to those of Brady Quinn And Jimmy Clausen threw their first two seasons as a starting quarterbacks.

If Tommy Rees’s senior stats can fall somewhere in between those of Quinn and Clausen as his sophomore stats from two years ago did, a repeat BCS bowl berth is not out of the cards for the 2013 Fighting Irish by any means.


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  1. I’m not going to say that I had ever thought highly of Rees, because I haven’t. The one thing I can say aout him from what I have seen in the three years he has been at Notre Dame, is that he is the most calm, cool and collected kid in critical situations I haveever seen, other tan making costly mistakes. The last kid we had at Notre Dame that was not given much of a chance at first, had to compete most of his college carear to get the start and also was very cool under pressure, was Joe Montana. I have noticed the similarities betwen the two but have yet to be abale to trust Tommy just yet.. I feel that this year could be the year that Tommy shines, due partly to the fact he literally lost the starting job last year and now this is his last chance to truly prove himself.and partly because the offense is more in tune now an it has been in the last three years.. it also depends on how well our running game will be and if tommy can show that he posesses a strong enough arm to stretch the defense( which I have yet to see).. We have great WR’s with Daniels and Jones, and hopefully if Greg Bryant starts, a great power back that can catch! I am hopeful for thi year, but not totally on the tommy wagon just yet, but I really feel he could prove all of us wrong and hope he does.. Go Irish!!

  2. QB is work in progress at all levels. Remember Joe Montana at ND? I’m tired of hearing about AL’s demolishing of ND in NCS game. Did they see the whole game? Do you think Nick Saban took it easy in the 2nd half when ND battled them even-up. I think Nick would have loved another 28-0 for 56-0 final. THAT would have been a rout. Lacy and the refs won that game. When ND tried to counter with Eifert, the refs responded. I think TR will be just fine with an even better defense and an improved supporting cast on offense, even with departure of Eifert. Someone posted that AL’s All-everything center held Nix on every play. Does anyone have a tape on that?

  3. Does anyone remember what happened last year? tr got drunk and punched a police officer. the guy is a BUM, he doesnt deserve to wear the uniform!

  4. anybody think kelly should change the offense to better suit what rees can do? he is definately not mobile enough to pay in the spread offense sucessfully againist better competition. if he cuts down his turnovers in the red zone that would go a long way to improving his peformance. all those lost scoring opportuities really hurt the team.

  5. We played Miami in the Sun Bowl after the 2010 season. The Champs Sports Bowl was after the 2011 season. #checkyourfacts

  6. Tommy Rees has to be the Rodney Dangerfield of Collge QB’s. Seriously, he’s like 14-4 as a starting QB, however, imo, it’s bout’ time for his team and coaching staff, to show him a little respect. He’s the best bet for this season imo, NOT a true Freshman.

  7. dont you get it, i hate to lose, one game, one player, one teammate, one domer,
    If you can accept losing, you can’t win.
    Vince Lombardi

  8. clearly we are stuck with tommy. but maybe kelly can have joe montana or tony rice meet with him over the summer and help get him from good to great, you wont win a nc without a great quarterback, still dumbfounded that kelly was not on top of the bcs game, wasnt aware of golson’s academic trouble and didnt get him a tutor, and my favorite subject letting gunnar get away. this guy leaves me cold. god bless tommy, notre dame qbs always rise to the occasion.

    1. WTF ???

      “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. You are now entering…the Twilight Zone.”
      —Rod Serling-

    2. I literally scan this board everyday hoping and praying for the insane comments by the one and only bj. Ah, where to begin. Why not have him shake Tom Brady’s hand and maybe that will somehow rub off some magic on TR.

      How on earth is it BK’s fault that GK transferred. The kid has committed and decomitted and transferred to more schools without ever seeing the field then any kid in history. He didn’t want to be there, he saw the writing on the wall with EG and left. Too bad for him because he would be the starting QB at ND this fall instead he is sitting in a Cincy dorm room sitting out a year.

      Finally, it was EG’s decision to cheat (allegedly), nobody else’s. Furthermore, EG came out and accepted responsibility for his actions, didn’t blame anybody else and will try to redeem himself. Why is it that a college kid can accept responsibility for his actions but you continue to whine and complain about everything. To quote you, “Fire Kelly, Fire Diaco, Fire Swarbrick!”

      NBC – Hicks, Mayock, Flanagan!

      1. Ooops… you misquoted. (forgot one)

        “Fire Bobby Boucher”

        Remember… the goofy kid who handled the teams’ water bucket?

        That dude left bj cold so he has to go too!

      2. What makes you think Kiel would have been the starter? He wasn’t #2 on the depth chart when he left, though I think he would have gotten playing time if TR didn’t produce. No doubt MZ wouldn’t play in ’13 if TR & GK were both still on the team.

        Hope GK is successful at UC, while he was highly rated as a HS QB, I never considered him being able to play at ND, only reason ND had interest in him was because his uncle played back in the ’80s.

  9. Exceptional Frank,

    You’re definately an avant-garde sports writer! Especially, by masterfully lighting the ND firebrand in your readership with integrity! A real classy post! Excellent job! You may have missed your calling as a supreme court attorney, you make a great case for Rees.

    Here come our beloved Irish! Foxsports 1 Regis & Lou & Allen Pinkett!

  10. Good article. I’m certainly pulling for Tommy Turnover and hoping he has “figured it out” and truly finds redemption. I’m just worried about a good defense having time to gameplan for him. I was hoping to avoid a cardiac episode every Saturday this Fall, but I guess I’m used to it at this point…

    1. So if he is Tommy Turnover, why didn’t Clausen get such a catchy name? He had more picks as a sophomore after starting more games as a freshman than Tommy did. He had more experience and was a 5 star player and still turned the ball over more than a lowly 3 star. Had a lot less wins than Tommy too.

  11. 76% win percentage says it all. 9-3 in 2013 will be about right with TR costing the boys 2 games with absolutely atrocious plays.

    I’d rather go 9-3 with MZ at the helm and not waste the opportunity for him to get the experience even if it does cost him a year. Not everybody is Johnny Football so he probably won’t win the Heisman, but 9-3 with him would be exciting whereas 9-3 with TR will be heartbreaking.

    1. Yes. This.

      Get MZ in there and get him some experience. We have no garuntees that Golson will be coming back. If we waste a year with Rees starting, where does that leave us in 2014 if we don’t have Golson?

      1. Well, truthfully I only said 9-3 to line up with the 76% winning percentage everybody is so excited about. I don’t want to jinx any of the particular games, but looking at the schedule I can see anything from 7-5 to 10-2.

        But really, my point was that QB is now a non factor for this team. There is no longer a QB on the team that is a difference maker. Literally. It makes no difference who amongst them plays QB, I think the record will be the same so why not get somebody with some potential and eligibility the experience? I think we all agree that the D and running game are going to have to make up for limitations at QB whether they are TR’s limitations or MZ’s. I dread the possibility that next year Golson does not return and no QB on the roster has any real game experience. Turns a one year problem into a two year problem with no real payoff in 2013.

  12. TR is a great kid, but he has no business being a starting QB for a top 25 team. Everyone talks about how “football smart” he is, and point to his winning percentage. Let’s take a closer look at Tommy’s career:

    You mention the 4 TD’s he threw against Tulsa. Congrats Tommy, 2010 Tulsa had a horrible defense. Wish you hadn’t thrown 3 interceptions, including the one that cost us the game. Throw that out of the end zone.

    Led us to a win against USC? We won that game IN SPITE of Tommy Rees. He threw 3 interceptions and fumbled once! The defense and the running attack won that game. (Thank you Robert Hughes!)

    South Florida- 2 INT’s, we lose the game by 3
    Michigan- 2 INT’s and a critical fumble in a game we lose by 4
    USC- 0 TD, an INT, and a horrible backwards pass to a running back that was fumbled. If you want to know how Rees will play against elite defenses, go back and watch this game.
    Wake Forest- 2 INT’s, we had to come back to win this game.
    Stanford- Knocked out of the game. Won’t be able to withstand a fierce pass rush.
    Florida St- 2 INT’s, including an absolutely horrific pass that should never have been thrown when we were driving for the lead in the 4th Q.

    Yes, he stepped in and made some great plays, and helped us pull out some tough games. But check out his performance in the Pitt game, his last meaningful game experience, when he came in and threw one of his worst interceptions ever. Then tell me with a straight face that he is progressing as a QB.

    1. All quarterbacks throw interceptions even the best of them. The writer pointed out that the great Jimmy Clausen threw 17 as a sophomore to Tommy’s 14. Plus Jimmy lost to Navy three times in large part due to his bad turnovers. (Fumble at the goal line, hitting Floyd in the back again at the goal line.

      Rees has done more with less than any ND QB since MacDougal. Give him credit and get behind him – not his fault Crist was a bust and Golson let the team down by cheating.

    2. Irish96, lots of good points, maybe a year later we have a new guy. I don’t think BK would have named him with out a lot of thought.

    3. Yo,bubba,I’m telling you with a straight face and the facts on my side that he’s progressing it, as I posted in some painful detail on one of the earlier threads.

      In terms of completionpercentage, yards per pass attempt, yards per
      completion, and interception frequency, the body of evidence, empicirical, unlike yours, is clearly indicative that he’s improved.

      Look it up, you might learn something. Your approach is with emotion and anecdotal evidence. That just won’t do.

      1. He might be progressing, but being the #60 QB in the country instead of #100 doesn’t give me any confidence in his abilities. The offense is still hamstrung with him running it. He will still cost us multiple games with terrible interceptions at the worst possible times.

      2. By my count you can only count the Tulsa game in 2010 and maybe the FSU bowl game in 2011 as losses due to his turnovers.

        The 2011 game against USF was never that close, and he didn’t get into the game until the 2nd half, when the game was already out of hand. The loss to Michigan the following week has to fall on the defense, not being able to hold onto a lead for the last 30 seconds. You can say Rees didn’t play well in either game but he was far from the reason why we lost.

      3. Irish96 – you really skew the facts.
        TULSA – Took field down 0-7, first drive is quick TD via Rees’s arm and missed PAT and Tulsa returns to the house – 3 point swing. 37 yard punt returned 59 yards by Tulsa to the house – 7 points.
        We should have never been down 1 under a minute in the first place.
        USF – Took the field down 0-16, lost by 1. 300 yards, 2TDs, 2 INTs. Not every INT means points for the other team, by the way.
        Michigan – Frank gets it right – put us up by 4 with 80 yards and 30 seconds between Michigan and a win (FG would do nothing). Again, our defense gave up 80 yards in 30 seconds.
        Tying FG made possible by his arm, entire OT came on his arm. If our D didn’t stop them? 2OT, possession favoring ND. Golson had four FUMBLES that game, including an endzone shoulda-safety that EG lovingly turned from -2 to -7.

    4. If you want us to take a closer look, then that should include the entire picture.

      Rees was thrown into the spotlight at just 17 years of age because the previous head coach left the cubboard bare at QB.

      All that was there was the always injured, no confedence, and gun shy Dane Crist.

      Until Kelly had the chance to recruit, Tommy Rees was it.

      He took the job, he took the hits, and he took the criticism.

      That would be a lot even for a 21 or 22 year old 5th year senior.

      Then, when he lost the job to an obviously more athletic Everett Golson, he didn’t sulk, quit, or transfer.

      He supported the kid, helped him in his development, and also kept himself ready and prepared, and in the process, he shown himself as a true team player.

      You know, it takes guys like that if you have any real desires in being a true national champion.

      Last year ND won 12 regular season games for the first time ever.

      Think about that.

      And try to remember that a team player like Tommy Rees had a lot to do with it.

      1. I’m not arguing any of those points. He’s a great kid who does everything he can with his extremely limited tool set. But he gets too much credit for his winning percentage as a starter. It’s a team game, and almost any division 1 QB would have performed just as well or better in the games Rees has started. There is not a single team in the pre-season top 25 who is starting a QB with his combination of weak arm and lack of running ability.

      2. I-96,

        No doubt he gets too much crdit when things go good.
        (And probably too much blame when things go bad)

        That’s life as a ND QB.

        As far as a weak arm goes, I think a lot of that was pinned on him back when he was a 17yr old freshmen.
        He has now been in the conditioning program for almost 4 years.

        While he will never strike fear in anyone as a runner, if he is able to air it out every now and then to say a Chris Brown type deep threat, it should be enough to keep a defense honest.

        I guess only time will tell on that one.

      3. Golson had his bad moments too, the biggest difference between his season last year and Rees’ season in 2011 rested on two factors, a very good defense and offensive line, neither were present in 2011.

        Another difference between the two QBs last season, when EG came up to the line he ran the play, when TR stepped up he was able to read the defense and either audible out of a bad play or into a play to take advantage of the defense.

        TR isn’t as athletic and EG, but if the line doesn’t fold on him (like 2011) he’ll make the plays.

  13. Football is a true team sport. Time and time again teams loaded with stars have failed to achieve their potential because of a lack of teamwork and leadership. (USC last year?)

    In my opinion, BK and Diaco have built a true team atmosphere. Tommy appears to have the unselfishness required of the type of leader that inspires teams to reach a higher level than the sum of their parts. I wonder what all of the naysayers will have to say if TR shows he has the right stuff to lead the Irish “TEAM” to a major bowl or even back to the National Championship game?

  14. Gotta ask this question. If College Game Day was in South Bend in 2005 for the USC game and returned for Stanford in 2012, how is that 8 years between ESPN coming to town?

  15. Tommy Rees is the least athletic quarterback in all of d-1 football. Have you seen the kid attempt to run? It is a travesty that such an unskilled oaf can play for a school like ND.

    1. How quickly people forget the QB draw for a TD when Golson still wasn’t ready for primetime

    2. If he was that bad he’d never had made it to the sideline. What everyone seems to forget as well is how poor our defense played back in 2010 and 2011, not to mention how inept our running game was back then. With a much better offensive line and defense Rees will do just fine.

  16. Tom Rees is a senior quarterback which is good for ND. Mr. Hendrix is also promising & I feel he needs more pressure situation games for experience. I deem this duel QB potential equally vital to ND’S 2013 season record. It is frequent that injuries to a starter occur and the opponent prevail in a big game. Just ask Colt McCoy of the 2009 Texas Longhorns BCS NC versus Alabama.

    (Texas had only a redshirt freshman to back up McCoy who was injured in the red zone on the second series of the champion game)

  17. I want to believe.

    Tommy deserves to be appreciated. His limitations are not matters of character, intelligence, or desire but physical.

    Even then, he may prove to be a more polished QB in 2013 than we remember. The offensive line should provide better protection and give him more time. He has a nice – and I think underrated – arsenal of skill players around him.

    And with a great defense he will not be forced to play above his ability. Nothing would give ND fans more pleasure than a historic season for Tommy Rees.

  18. Yes, I agree Notre Dame can win with Tommy Reese. However, the following factors must be present. 1- great defense. 2- great special teams. 3- great running game. 4- change the offense to a more I formation, pro style offense. 5- creative play calling getting the ball to the playmakers- Carlisle, Atkinson, Jones, Brown, Daniels, Nichols, Bryant.

  19. a ray of sunshine amongst the clouds.

    totally agree with your assessment of TR. despite the roller coaster (and trust me, i’ve been there for every hill and valley), there are a lot worse options we could have right now.

    (have to point out that he did, in fact, win a bowl game his freshman season vs. miami in the sun bowl. the champs bowl was his sophomore season.)

  20. Yes Tommy can take us back to the NCG, I’m not doom & gloom bout him starting. He’s won 76% of his games and will have a better team around him. One thing the article didn’t say but I believe to Bettie is the team believes in him and that’s very important!

    1. Dan Newcomer

      great comment about the team’s belief in Rees.

      My favorite Everett Golson quote is the one about the degree to which Rees helped Ev in the Spring and Summer of ’12, when it was clear that Golson had passed Rees for the starting position.

      Golson remarked that he doubted that he could have generated the same generosity of spirit that Rees had.

      That earns a lot of credibility with the team members.

    1. Just glad you’re filling the role of “Mr. Doom & Gloom” on these posts vs. actually being invovled with the team. I’ve been (and continue to be) a big fan of Tommy Rees. I have no doubt he will continue to embarass those of you who speak negatively of him by his play and also continue to make the rest of us proud to be a ND fan! Go Irish!!!

      1. Tommy has gone through much adversity, on and off the field, but always came back with the right attitude. I admire this young man for his character. I don’t know of a better college QB for quick reads and calls at the line of scrimmage. He is very intelligent. A true team player and leader. I am proud of Tommy Rees.

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