Tommy Rees' Notre Dame career is officially over, and I've heard from more than a few Notre Dame fans, who are thrilled by the thought. Why?
For much of the last four years, Tommy Rees was judged by fans for what he DIDN'T do, instead of what he did. And upon Further Review...we're getting it all wrong.
The often criticized, yet resilient Notre Dame career of Tommy Rees came to an end Saturday, appropriately I think, with a win at the Pinstripe Bowl.
What we should we remember about Tommy Rees' career isn't easy to answer. The kid who was once booed on his home field, and referred to as Tommy Turnover? He's the same guy who won 74% of his games as a starting QB (23-8 career record at a starter). And that doesn't count the two games he came in and won in the 2nd half in 2012 when Everett Golson went down.
Which got me thinking: Too much of Rees' career has been spent being compared to Golson. I understand why. There's plenty to admire about Golson's game, and enough not to dislike about the way Rees played at times, particularly when it came to turnovers.
But have you ever stopped to think what would life have looked like at Notre Dame the last 4 years without Rees?
When Dayne Crist got hurt during Kelly's first season, a freshman Rees went 4-0 and led the Irish to wins at USC and in the Sun Bowl. With all due respect to Nate Montana, 2010 is a losing season without Tommy Rees.
Without Rees' 2nd half heroics against Purdue and Stanford, there's probably no BCS title game last year. And Rees totally bailed the Irish out in 2013. When Golson got the boot from school, the Irish got nine wins from the guy we all expected to be the back-up.
Brian Kelly won 37 games in his first four seasons at Notre Dame: Tied with Lou Holtz & Dan Devine for most in program history. Without Tommy Rees, that would not be true.
"I'm a Tommy Rees fan for life", Brian Kelly vowed, when asked about Rees' career following the win Saturday in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Personally, I'm a fan too. I'm going to miss covering Rees. Eight times he failed to lead Notre Dame to victory, and yes, many of those losses were a direct result of his mistakes. Not once did he fail to stand up and take the blame. Not once did he succumb to human nature and lash out when backed into a corner by the media, or the countless times he was trashed on social media. He just let it roll of his back and went back to work. You can debate Rees' place in the Irish history books... but you can't say the kid didn't carry himself with class.
"As long as I've got the respect from my teammates and coaches, that's all that's ever mattered to me", Rees told me after playing his final game in the Bronx Saturday.
"I love the game of football. It's pretty special to start at quarterback at Notre Dame and that's something I'll hold with me for the rest of my life. I can leave here with my head held high. I'm happy with the way things have gone."
As Tommy Rees prepares to take his game to the next level, however lengthy or brief that stay might be, I recommend that Notre Dame fans refrain from looking at the ways Rees did not live up to the lofty expectations placed on the shoulders of a Notre Dame quarterback, and ask yourself this:
Could he really have done any more?