By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
SOUTH BEND —
The annals of sports are full of stories of redemption.
Notre Dame senior quarterback Tommy Rees can write another such story this fall as he returns to the helm of the Irish offense to start the 2013 season.
The Fighting Irish open next Saturday, Aug. 31 at home against Temple.
It’s been quite a roller-coaster ride for Rees over the past four seasons: From taking over for an injured Dayne Crist in 2010, winning his first four starts, losing the job to Crist in fall camp in 2011, getting it back at halftime of the 2011 opener at home against South Florida.
Rees was the starter for most of 2011, then lost the job to Everett Golson last season after a tumultuous offseason that included an arrest for underage drinking at an off-campus party and a one-game suspension to start 2012.
Add to that being booed loudly by the student section when he entered the game late against Purdue — eventually leading the Irish to the game-winning field goal.
He’s back in the saddle now after Golson was suspended for the 2013 season due to academic reasons.
Rees is ready to embrace his second chance to see what he can do.
And he finds himself in unfamiliar territory: He’s been named “the guy.”
Now, it’s a matter of playing well enough to keep the job.
And since Rees got his shot in 2011 after a lackluster performance by the starter in the first half of the opener, he’s cognizant of that reality.
Rees is appreciative of the confidence head coach Brian Kelly and his staff have placed in him.
“It’s the first time in my career I have had that happen,” Rees said on Thursday at Notre Dame’s media day. “I haven’t changed in how I prepare for practice and how I go out there and compete. It gives me an opportunity to go out there and compete, along with being the voice on offense that everyone is looking to.”
Rees is also thankful for the support of his teammates.
“I love my teammates and I love the guys that I am out there with everyday,” Rees said. “For me there was not another option. I have to stay prepared, and when the moment comes for you, you have to be ready. The team counts on you, and you count on them. It’s what our team is built on. People talk about their team being a family all the time, but until you are a part of it and until you feel how close this group is it’s hard to explain.”
Senior offensive guard Chris Watt said the Irish O-line is 100 percent behind Rees.
“I think it was great for him to be named starter in June, because it gave him the confidence going into summer workouts that he’s going to be the guy that will lead our team to wherever we go,” Watt said. “And he still has a chip on his shoulder and still has something to prove, so I think that will be very beneficial for us this year.”
Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said Rees’ 2012 season prepared him to retake the reins this season.
“It is a testament to his upbringing and who he is as a person.,” Martin said. “I think what really got him through it more than anything is that he has always loved Notre Dame and he loves his teammates. ... Regardless what was going through his head during a moment or day when heard something in the dorm, something he read, or anything yelled from the stands, he just looked at his teammates and fought for them until the end.”