Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why Tommy Rees Deserves a Standing Ovation On Senior Day

Every year the day that is filled with the most mixed emotions is Senior Day. That is the day that we are sad to see them go but are happy for what they gave to the program and want to wish them well. This year we have a player who will go down as one of the most debated players in Notre Dame history. That is Tommy Rees.

His four year career has really been a roller coaster ride. The first time we saw him was as a freshman against Michigan when he came in for injured starter Dayne Crist. I did not think much of him at that point as he looked very ineffective. But later that year, he came in again against Tulsa when Crist was once again injured. But this time it was for the year. Rees had a good game that day but he came up short with an interception in the endzone at the end. Fans were frustrated as the team was 4-5 and a 4-8 season was staring us in the face.

Then after a bye, Rees rallied the team on Senior Day with a huge win over a ranked Utah team. Then the team found new momentum and defeated Army at Yankee Stadium, defeated USC, and triumphed again in the Sun Bowl against Miami.

Then came an offseason in which Rees and Crist would have to compete for the starting job not only with each other but also with freshmen Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson. In spite of the fact that Golson and Hendrix were more taylor made for Brian Kelly's spread system, they were way behind Rees and Crist. And although the competition was close, Crist got the nod in the opening game against South Florida. But he was so ineffective that Rees replaced him at the half.

In spite of the fact that Rees was the least talented quarterback, he continually outperformed the competition and was the quarterback for the rest of his sophomore season. He lead the team to an 8-4 record in which his play was very up and down. He had over 20 turnovers that year although he did look good at other times.

Then came an offseason in which he would once again compete with Golson and Hendrix for the job while Crist left for Kansas to be reunited with Charlie Weis. During spring it was close among all three, but Golson clearly look the best in the Spring game.

Then came probably the darkest time in Rees' career when he got arrested for drunk and disorderly and assaulting a police. That cost him a one game suspension and who knows if he would have won the starting job over Golson?

But during that special year when the Irish went to the BCS title game, Rees found a new role that he excelled in. That was a backup and mentor to Golson. Since Golson was so young, there would be games he would struggle in. I will never forget that day when he came in against Purdue with fans booing him and led them down for a game winning score.

Then two weeks later, he once again came in for a struggling Golson to lead the team to victory in an old fashioned defensive battle against Michigan. Later in the season he replaced an injured Golson against Stanford and threw a touchdown in overtime. He started against BYU and wasn't great but good enough for a win.

His role on the field diminished at that point as Golson was beginning to really grow. Although he did get in for one play against Oklahoma, but it was a big play. He hit Tyler Eifert for a long first down on a third and long on a drive that Golson led them to score. That drive grabbed control of the game for the Irish.

Although he didn't play much after that point, he was just as important in his role as a mentor to Golson. The two became friends. Going into the offseason, Rees did not look to have much of a role on the field in his senior season.

Then we all know what happened as Golson made a mistake we know he regrets in which he cheated on a test. Rees once again has had a season that has had it's ups and downs. Fans have been back and forth with each other about him.

My stance is and always has been was that I love the kid but he is a good backup quarterback. And we knew that we would have to play the season with our backup quarterback. So do I blame him for the 7-3 record? The answer is no. When a team knows they are playing with a backup at quarterback, it is up to the defense and running game to really step up and neither have been consistent all season.

Rees was never recruited to be the starter. He was a coaches kid who was smart and picked more for his intelligence. He was a good guy for depth on the roster. It is not his fault that he outperformed the more talented guys and that Golson made a bad mistake. Rees has given all he has to Notre Dame and has made the most of what he has. Can you honestly say the same thing about Crist and Hendrix? Is it his fault Golson messed up? For that reason Rees deserves a huge ovation on Saturday.

Thanks for everything Tommy and I hope Coach Kelly keeps you on as a GA. Otherwise you will be missed and good luck in your future endeavors.

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