SOUTH BEND – Tommy Rees has never entered a season where he is now.
The senior is Notre Dame’s clear-cut starting quarterback after being thrown in as a starter for the last four games of his freshman year, taking over the starting role after the first half of his sophomore year and being the backup to Everett Golson after returning from a one-game suspension to start last season.
Rees’ career hasn’t always been easy, but with Golson suspended for the fall semester because of an academic violation, Rees is ready to lead the Irish in his final season.
It shows sticking around and putting the team first and being that kind of guy, I guess it has worked out for me, Rees said Sunday as Notre Dame players met with media before starting training camp today in Marion. I don’t know if that’s for everyone, but it’s worked out for me. I can’t complain.
There were few complaints when Rees first took over the starting role when former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist was lost for the last four games of the 2010 season with a knee injury. Rees threw for 693 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions as Notre Dame finished the season 4-0.
Rees replaced Crist again the next season, but much earlier. After an ineffective first half against South Florida to start 2011, coach Brian Kelly replaced Crist with Rees for the rest of the season.
Rees threw for 2,871 yards with 20 touchdowns as a sophomore, but he also had 14 interceptions and lost five fumbles as the Irish went 8-5 for a second straight year.
Rees was taken out of the running to start last season after he was suspended for the opening game because of a May arrest, but he became a valuable safety net for the Irish in Golson’s first season playing. Rees appeared in 12 games – starting two – and threw for 436 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Rees also led Notre Dame on the winning drive in last season’s 20-17 home win over Purdue and took over for Golson in the second quarter of a 13-6 home win over Michigan to help the Irish go 12-0 last season before losing 42-14 to Alabama in the BCS championship game.
Rees’ 18 starts and 4,413 career passing yards made him the logical choice to start over senior Andrew Hendrix, who has played in eight games, and freshman Malik Zaire.
He obviously knows our offense very well, Kelly said. He’s a senior, well respected. He has all the things.
Rees has also added some things, especially his ability to take charge.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder was more vocal than he has ever been during summer workouts and even yelled at receivers to quickly get back in position, according to players.
He’s a smart guy. He realizes that the quarterback is the guy that everybody is looking to, left tackle Zack Martin said. He knows that we don’t go any where without him, and he needs to be that guy. He is easily that guy. Everybody respects him on the team and is looking for him to be that guy.
Rees is prepared to be the guy Notre Dame needs.
I’ve grown up a lot, Rees said.
I’m not 19 any more. I learned a lot from all the different experiences I’ve gone through. I’ve learned a lot about football and how to be a leader and just aspects of the game. I’m really excited to put all of those things out there this season.