Worth All The While

A football lifer, Tommy Rees' perspective was crucial during decorated but uneven Irish career.

He's been the hero, he's been the goat, and most often, at least to those that understand anything about the team sport, he's resided somewhere in between.

He's led comeback victories and presided over blown leads. He's performed in the clutch and he's failed to come through when it mattered. Winning touchdown tosses ad debilitating interceptions have alternately dotted his resume. He received far more blame for the latter than credit for the former.

He's been a starter and a reserve, an afterthought and the focal point.

He's a quarterback, and with one more victory before his Notre Dame career concludes sometime over the University's semester break, Tommy Rees will have won more games at that position than all but five others.

That modern statistic and its overuse in today's football world has been born partly from opportunity: Rees, for the most part, has been the best his head coach has had over the pair's four seasons in South Bend.

"Obviously he's the only quarterback that I've known in my four years here in terms of consistency of being here," said Brian Kelly. "Certainly a young man that we are going to miss. I love his competitiveness and his drive. Look, we want to win football games. You're hired and fired for winning football games here; I get that.  But he really loves Notre Dame and understands Notre Dame and understands the distinctions of Notre Dame."

Part of those distinctions include scorn from those outside the program's walls.

He's heard it all and to those that only wish him well, rest assured, he doesn't care.

"For me I've been around the game my whole life. I know how it works," said Rees when asked if he at all looks forward to the conclusion of his playing career. "I love football. I love it for the tough times and I love it for the great times. My dad always said, 'You can like football, you can love football, or you can live it.' For me it's been about living it and you have to commit yourself fully to the game."

Rees's senior class has won 35 games, the most since the graduating class of 1995 (led by Derrick Mayes, Marc Edwards, Renaldo Wynn, et al) exited South Bend. More are likely to come. A loss over the next three games is likely as well.

He's prepared for both, because while the W-L ledger represents the bottom line for most, for a quarterback, a leader, and a teammate, it doesn't define the team or the individual.

"At times people get down on it (the experience of college football) after losses, but to think about not sharing those experiences with your teammates and think about not putting on that helmet -- there are people that would give a lot to feel that bad after a guy, or even play the game."

The Constant

28 times Rees has been called upon to start, though one of those was a brief appearance in a win over Miami last fall. Six times he's been asked to bail out the Irish in a relief role -- Notre Dame has won the last four with Rees the triggerman for the duration over three of them, all in 2012.

He's come in cold off the bench on third down and fired for a first down. He's come in to position the offense for a game-clinching field goal because he was trusted to do so more than the team's starter.

And he's come in to mop-up after a mess. It's been awhile, but Rees has known garbage time as well.

"You have to be grateful and put it in perspective," said Rees. "For me it doesn't come back to doubting the game. That's part of it (criticism). I've never thought, I'm looking forward to when this is over. For me it's making the most of every opportunity I get."

No one could argue he hasn't.

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