Tommy Rees will always be a polarizing figure in South Bend. He's a guy who has done plenty good for Notre Dame, but has had a number of high-profile lowlights.
Rees was part of the first class of recruits that signed under Kelly, coming only a few months after Kelly left Cincinnati for Notre Dame. Kelly said he didn't look at any high school film of Rees, mainly just trusting that Charlie Weis' staff knew what they were doing.
"I wasn't going to sit down and watch him and say I don't like him let's not recruit him," Kelly said. "That ship had sailed in my estimation. I had never taken over a program and said we're not going to recruit them. "If a scholarship had been offered, we were going to honor the commitment."
Kelly was convinced Rees was a good fit in 2010, when he entered for the injured Dayne Crist against Tulsa and threw four touchdowns in a narrow loss. While he threw three interruptions, too — his stat line actually can be viewed as a microcosm of his career — Kelly liked what he saw from the 18-year-old Rees in a pressure situation.
"It didn't seem to really overwhelm him," Kelly said. "Certainly that was the first thing that struck me is that this kid loves to compete, loves the moment, and being the quarterback at Notre Dame, I don't think it's going to be too much for him."
Rees' legacy is and will be complicated, no matter what happens in his final five collegiate games. Kelly was asked about what he thinks that legacy will be on Tuesday, and offered this take:
"He just keeps coming," Kelly said. "He just shows up every day and keeps working and sometimes it doesn't look the greatest. But he keeps playing, and keeps persevering. And when it's all said and done, he represents all the things that we like. He's a great teammate. You really like your relationship with him. You love his competitiveness. Cares about the right things.
"So I guess that's how without having a chance to really formulate anything, he's just Fighting Irish."