Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees has had his ups and downs during his four years with the Fighting Irish.
From the high of winning his first four starts as a true freshman, to the let down of the 2011 season that saw him struggle with interceptions, and finally his redemption as a solid backup to Everett Golson—Rees, along with the Notre Dame fanbase, has run the gamut of emotions.
Now that Rees is the undisputed starter for the upcoming 2013 season, lets take a walk down memory lane.
Here are the top three moments of his career with the Fighting Irish thus far:
I must admit I may be a bit partial to this game in particular, as I was in the stands that night.
Going into that game, no one—and I do mean no one—expected the Irish to win. Sure, Notre Dame had been on a two-game winning streak coming into their yearly bout with the Trojans, defeating Army and Utah. At the time, Utah was actually a Top Ten team, but a victory against Utah does not elicit the kind of knee-jerk, visceral reaction that a win against archrival USC does in the heart of every hardcore Irish fan.
The mighty Trojans loomed large that rainy evening, having won their last eight matchups against the Fighting Irish.
Both teams had lost their starting quarterbacks to injury earlier in the season, but it was freshman Rees who capitalized on the moment, leading his team to a 20-16 victory over USC.
Admittedly, this was not his best game of the year statistically, but it epitomized the Rees-Michael Floyd combination that was so potent that season. And while I am usually a very stats-oriented writer, I have to go with gut reaction on this one.
Before this game Rees was the freshman who stepped in and got the job done, but after he was a hero. He did what no Irish QB had done in eight years: he defeated USC—and at the Coliseum to boot.
Before anyone goes scrambling to the comments to remind me how Rees threw two picks, let me remind you that he also led a four-play, 61-yard touchdown drive in just 42 seconds, giving Notre Dame a 31-28 lead over the Wolverines with just 30 left seconds on the clock.
Why is this a career highlight?
Because it was a damn good drive, and he didn't fold under pressure. Sure, he made mistakes, but he fought his way back and delivered his team the lead on his last play of the game. If that isn't a perfect example of the oft-debated X-factor, I'm not sure what is.
As I mentioned in my last article, the Notre Dame defense improved dramatically between 2011 and 2012. The 2011 defense was just not able to prevent Michigan from scoring with a mere 30 seconds left on the clock.
Had the defense held on, Rees' legacy in that game would have been remembered in a much different light.
If the USC game typified what Rees was capable of with Floyd, the Michigan game showed what he could do with Eifert.
Though he was overshadowed by Manti Te'o's amazing performance in the wake of his personal tribulations, Rees played one of the best games of his career.
His highlights during the game included a 38-yard completion to Tyler Eifert on third down and a rushing touchdown. That's right, Tommy Rees rushed for a touchdown.
Rees finished 8-of-11 for 115 yards and cemented his reputation as the go-to guy in tough third-down situations. More importantly, it showed that he could be a gracious stand-in for Golson who was willing and able to assist his younger counterpart from the sidelines and step in for him when Irish head coach Brian Kelly deemed it necessary.