With Golson out, Rees has chance to rewrite legacy

With Golson out, Rees has chance to rewrite legacy

May 26, 2013, 5:00 pm
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Tommy Rees jogged on to the field at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 8, facing a score tied at 17, 2:12 left on the clock and the ball on the Irish 35.

A chorus of boos greeted him. The wounds from 2011 had yet to heal, with the 80,000-plus fans registering their disdain for the guy who threw plenty of crippling interceptions in an 8-5 season.

Rees wasn't Notre Dame's guy last fall. That's not to say he didn't have the support of his teammates -- he had overwhelming support from them -- but Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin wanted to not only win in 2012, but to also set the program up for success in 2013 and beyond. It was a strategy that led them to Everett Golson, but with the quarterback out of the picture for at least 2013, they're right back to where they were in 2011.

[More: Golson intends to return to Notre Dame]

The circumstances probably aren't what Rees would've wanted, but the result is what he hoped for: One final shot at the starting gig at Notre Dame.

"You go out there and compete, and you're not okay with where you're at if you're not the starter," Rees said before Notre Dame's spring game in April. "I understand how things work, but I'm still going to go out there and compete and, if there's a time when I'm needed, just be prepared."

That time is now, with expectations as high in South Bend as they've been in years. It was supposed to be Golson to lead Notre Dame's bid to close the Alabama gap and contend for a BCS title. That now falls on Rees, the same guy who's thrown for 34 touchdowns but also 24 interceptions in three years with the Irish.

"Does he have all of the elite skills? No. But he's a gamer. He'll do anything," Kelly extolled after Notre Dame topped Purdue in Week 2. "Those guys in that locker room will go to the wall for him. They'll do anything, because he's a great teammate."

Right now, that quote from Kelly stands as Rees' legacy among his teammates and coaches. Despite the missteps of 2011 and his arrest in May of 2012, he's well-respected by those within the program.

His legacy, though, isn't written by just those around him. Rees has a chance to change how he's remembered among the Notre Dame fanbase -- just think of the warm reception he'd get around South Bend if he's able to guide the Irish to a BCS berth in 2013 under the current circumstances.

"I feel the best I have since I've been here," Rees said in April. "I'm excited with my progress and I'm excited to keep moving forward."

Notes on the Golson fallout

-- Not surprisingly, Gunner Kiel won't be returning to Notre Dame. The ex-Irish quarterback told the Cincinnati Enquirer Sunday morning "I'm a Bearcat," ending far-fetched, but plausible, speculation Kiel would find his way back to South Bend.

-- The news from Saturday night was noticed by a pair of blue-chip prep quarterbacks. Kyle Allen, who holds an offer from Notre Dame and is rated by Rivals as the No. 1 class of 2014 quarterback prospect, retweeted SportsCenter's tweet on Golson no longer being enrolled at the school. And Brandon Dawkins, a three-star dual-threat quarterback from West Virginia, tweeted: "Trying to get coach on the phone to commit to #NDnation! I am trying to be a part of the program. Hoping I can get a hold of coach soon!"

-- More from Twitter: Safety Nicky Baratti, a high school quarterback in Texas, posted on Sunday: "No I will not be playing qb."