An off-season of likely regret was followed by an August camp with limited opportunity. But less than eight quarters after the bullets went live, and as soon as the chips were down, 16-game starter Tommy Rees was called upon by his head coach.
"I really didn't anticipate it too much," said Rees of his emergency relief role late Saturday. "Coach (Brian Kelly) communicated to me on the sideline and I got ready to go. That's what you need to do when you're the No. 2 quarterback. You need to be ready at any time and know your number is going to be called."
Rees responded with three completions, two on third down, a trio of incomplete passes each of which sailed wide, and every quarterback's favorite irrelevant stat: a pair of spikes to stop the clock and set up his team for the winning score, a 27-yard field goal by rookie place-kicker Kyle Brindza.
Preceding the events, and conveniently interspersed among the incompletions, were resounding boos from the Irish less-than-faithful in attendance.
"That comes with the territory I guess. There's been some highs and there's been some lows here, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows," said Rees. "The crowd's emotions were a little flipped at the end of the game."
Rees admitted he heard the classless chorus, but barely had time to digest their echoes before getting down to business.
"Oh yeah, I didn't ever really care all that much, that's the last thing going through your head with two minutes left and the game on the line," said Rees. "I've never tried to use negative comments for motivation. If you're playing quarterback for Notre Dame, that's motivation enough. The coaches, the guys in the locker room, that's all I need.
"I heard them a little but it was a pretty quick flip from paying attention to that to getting ready to play. In one ear, out the other, and time to play."
Rees returns to backup and tutor duty this week and, as is expected, most of Saturday's contest.
"Everett's (Golson) the starter and whatever I can do, If I need to go in and play, or be an extra set of eyes for him, that's what I'm going to do for him," said the junior mentor of his redshirt-freshman pupil. "
The relationship remains unique: Rees the experienced, savvy veteran well-versed in the offense; Golson the quick-footed, strong armed talent born to play the position but still years away from his peak. Rees continues to aid him in his quest.
"First of all, Everett's a smart kid. He's gotten a lot better mentally in the last two years," said Rees. "His relationship with me has grown quite a bit since camp started, we were roommates and got to know each other pretty well, so we have a good mutual respect.
"When I talk to him, I'll try tell him 'Look here, look (at this).' I verbalize it like the coaches do but coming from me, a guy that's played, I think it can resonate a little more. I have different ways to communicate with him in that sense, a little more specific in playing the quarterback position."
Rees admits he tends to pick his spots when offering sage advice. "Absolutely, I try not to overload him. But if I see something and the coaches are doing something else, I try to grab him and let him know," he said. "He's been great taking advice and encouragement and I'll just continue to do so."
It's Golson's team to lead and Rees' team to help in any way possible. The only unlikely scenario regarding Rees' meaningful playing time through the end of November is the absence of it, but until he's called upon, Rees has the memories of an exciting comeback win under less than ideal conditions.
"That's the kind of guys we have on the team. I've felt that support from the coaches and my teammates for a long time now," said Rees of what was described as an 'inordinately' happy group of teammates congratulating the former starter. "Given the opportunity, it felt pretty good to get the win and have them as happy as they were, but that's kind of what I expected from them."
In the end, they were the only voices that mattered.