A Fitting Finale for Tommy Rees

Tommy Rees - A Fitting Finale
(Photo: Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

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.

Sound familiar?

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.



You may also like


  1. God bless Tommy Rees. To me, he is the epitome of the college player. No, he won’t play professional ball, but he stayed in school for 4 years of ups and downs, and he always did the best he could.

    That little smile on his face at the end of the BYU game was priceless. Best of luck to Tommy in the future.

  2. I thank Tommy for his service and think he will be one hell of a coach. I hope he is a grad assistant next year at ND. Tommy has had some great moments and some not so great moments. Most of the time he had his not so great moments he saw a play that his athletic ability wouldn’t let him make. I can’t fault him for that, but I wish he new his limitations. To quote a great movie “A man’s got to know his limitations” If a running game shows up on Saturday night and Tommy is not asked to make a great play ND should be fine. If Tommy is asked to win the game on his arm ND is in trouble.

  3. Tommy was Tommy, you all are correct. But let’s hope he now gives the game of his career. Nothing to lose. Frankly, I’d like to see a chip on his and every other player’s shoulder.

    If ND wins, they should ask for the Pac-12 title trophy. IF they win, they will in my book BE the PAC-12 Champion. Now there is something to play for.

  4. Tommy Rees has definitely had his ups and downs as the article says. Still, I don’t know who could have been any better this year, considering our options. I am and always will be a fan, and, yes, I yelled at him when he messed up, but also cheered loudly (just ask my neighbors) when he did well. Face it, he got us out of some pretty rough situations and always, always was a team player. I really wish him nothing but the best. GO IRISH!!

  5. I’ve always believed Rees did the best he could. His issues weren’t really coachable, IMHO. He had big problems when under pressure. I don’t think any amount of coaching were going to change that.

    I agree with the article. In many ways, he probably played beyond his capabilities at times. But not every QB is an Andrew Luck. I think last year was the perfect role for Rees. A reliable back-up with the ability to win games when called upon, just not a start to finish 12 game QB.

    All that being said, he really was the best QB option we had this year. Hendrix is not a good passer. And burning Zaire’s redshirt was never a good idea, esp. if EG is allowed to return and wins his starting job back.

    There’s no doubt he gave ND everything he could. As a fan, that’s all I ask of any player. I always acknowledged his limitations in his abilities, but I’ll never question his commitment. I don’t think anyone can say he ever gave up in a game.

    1. You hit it on the head with that analysis. It was typical Tommy – he looked real good at times when not under pressure, under threw a deep pass that should have been a TD, and is in his signature TR move threw a brutal interception that turned an easy win into a nail biter. That game was TR in a nut shell. Having said that, since BK was unwilling to roll the dice on MZ (which I would have preferred if he was healthy)TR was the best choice. Not high praise but that is the truth. We knew exactly what we had in TR and he did not change one bit in his 4 years.

  6. Tommy did not win a national championship, nor did he win a Heisman trophy. He did not have the strongest arm, couldn’t out run anyone. The thing Tommy had is heart. There are times I cursed him from my sofa and times i jumped up and cheered! Tommy was a great leader on that field for our Irish team and accepted any role that was given him by BK. Thank you Tommy for your dedication to ND and for being true Fighting Irish!

  7. I appreciate the job he did here but if Golson played this year they would be undefeated and the Stanford game would be huge. He makes to many mistakes

    1. I agree Tommy Rees is limmited, but he has done a good job. The pick 6 against Oklahoma was because the DE came in untouched & drilled him in the back. That was the fault of the OL. He brought them back in the game several times & the defense couldn’t get the stop they needed. That loss was not on Rees. PS. The defense game up 41 points to an awful Michigan team. Again, can’t put that loss on Rees. Pitt game….i will give you that. His tournover in the end zone cost them the game. This was not a team that would have gone undefeated with Golston, unless he played linebacks in the Michigan.

  8. He can leave feeling decent about himself and the role he played. He did struggle against teams with better defenses. Maybe he has 2 good games left in his career. However, his “glass half empty” stands out more than “half full.” Let’s face it, situational circumstances offered him opportunity versus because he was such an outstanding player. He may go on to be a good position coach someday like his old man. Good luck Tom Rees.

  9. “Tommy Rees is a good QB.” If you don’t know that? You don’t know football.

    Put another way: “Vince Lombardi could have coached Tommy Rees to NFL greatness as he did Bart Starr.” (former Alabama QB)

    1. Absolutely no disrespect to Tommy Rees but to even mention him and Bart Starr in the same sentence is beyond comprehension.

      1. Don’t get sucked into the THB vortex, unless of course you hit the hash pipe with a tequila chaser.

        Soon he will start lamenting again about Eifert catching a pass in the NC game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button