Of all of the seniors who played their final games in Notre Dame Stadium this weekend, none have had the kind of up and down career of Tommy Rees. Rees’s four years at Notre Dame have been filled with peaks and valleys – some high highs and some low lows – that more often than not result in some ugly wins. His final appearance in Notre Dame Stadium followed the same script.
The first time Tommy Rees saw extended playing time in Notre Dame Stadium four years ago, he came off the bench and tossed 4 touchdowns against Tulsa in relief of an injured Dayne Crist. The problem that day was that Rees also threw three interceptions including one in the endzone that ended the game with the Irish in field goal range.
On Saturday, Rees started the game off great and it looked like Notre Dame might have an easy afternoon. Rees dropped a perfectly placed bomb into the hands of Davaris Daniels for a 61 yard field goal to put the Irish up 7-0 on the first drive of the game.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter. Rees threw what could have been a devastating interception in the endzone on a play that should have been a touchdown to put the Irish up 14 points. HE had Troy Niklas open early but was late with the pass and Craig Bills made the athletic interception. Luckily for the Irish the defense held and the Irish were able to eventually extend the lead to 10 and hold on for victory.
Just as he has done over the course of his career, Rees experienced some highs and some lows in his final home game. Over the last four years there have been times when Rees has looked outstanding only to immediately turn the ball over with a head scratching decision. And that is what has made Rees one of the more polarizing quarterbacks to play for the Irish in recent memory despite winning more games for the Irish than Jimmy Clausen or Rick Mirer.
Tommy Rees’s name is going to appear in Notre Dame history books more than anyone could have ever imagined when he enrolled in January 2010 as part of a recruiting class that featured three quarterbacks of which Rees was by far the lowest rated. Rees, however, will likely leave Notre Dame with more touchdown passes than Jimmy Clausen while Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa – the other quarterbacks in his class – will leave Notre Dame with less than 30 career completions combined.
Despite putting up great statistics and winning 21 games as a starter to just 7 losses though, Rees is more often than not the recipient of more harsh than kind words on Notre Dame message boards. Part of the reason for that is because of just how much better Rees record and stats would look right now had it not been for those head scratchers.
Tommy Rees has won a lot of games for Notre Dame over his career, but a lot of those wins have not been pretty. The win over BYU was a solid win, but it wasn’t pretty. It could have been much prettier had Rees not thrown that endzone interception or if he hadn’t underthrown TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels on a few second half passes where the Irish receivers had blown right past the Cougars secondary.
Rees has never had the arm to consistently hit those throws though. Some fans haven’t been able to get past that. Or the fact that Rees isn’t going to escape the pocket and run for a first down more than once or twice a season. You know what though? While he doesn’t have a cannon for an arm and has made some maddening decisions at times in his career, he has over achieved perhaps more than any other single player for Notre Dame in recent memory.
Notre Dame’s win BYU made this year’s senior class the winningest group of seniors to pass through Notre Dame since the class of 1995 and Rees has been a big part of that success. Even last year when Rees lost the starting job to Everett Golson, Rees had a hand in wins over Purdue, Michigan, and BYU during Notre Dame’s 12-0 regular season.
Did you ever think four years ago that Rees would be closing in on 60 career touchdown passes or that he would have won more games for the Irish than Mirer and Clausen? No, of course you didn’t. Rees was a 3-star recruit with a few other offers from some MAC programs. Four years later though, he’s going to leave Notre Dame with his name all over the Notre Dame record books. He also left the field of Notre Dame Stadium to chants of “Tommy, Tommy, Tommy” from the Notre Dame student section. A well deserved ovation and fitting end for a player who has given so much to the Notre Dame program over the last four years.
The script may have played out in all too familiar fashion in the last home game of the Tommy Rees era of Notre Dame, but it ended with a storybook ending that no one could have seen coming four years ago.