Tommy Rees' background prepped him for new job at Notre Dame

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Anyone who has been on the business end of a Brian Kelly tirade as many times as Tommy Rees deserves plenty of respect.

That makes for a line on a resume no one else can duplicate.

It also gives Rees a perspective, as the Notre Dame football team’s new quarterbacks coach, that is unique.

Actually, Rees was qualified for the job long before he was hired a couple weeks ago. His last couple years under center for the Irish (2012, ’13), he spent as much time tutoring the guys behind him as he did refining his own game.

The epitome of his selflessness came in his junior year (’12) after being beaten out for the starting job by Everett Golson. He considered it his duty and obligation as a “team guy” to school Golson on the cerebral side of the position. At the same time, he was on call to bail Notre Dame out of a couple tight spots on the way to the BCS National Championship Game.

“I’m a Tommy Rees fan for life,” said Kelly, after Rees’ final game, the Pinstripe Bowl after the ’13 season.

The Irish head coach backed up that statement recently by turning to Rees when an opening was available.

Well... Sort of an opening is sort of available.

As far as the NCAA is concerned, for the moment, Rees is a graduate assistant. In April, there will be a vote – which many believe is just a formality – to add a 10th full-time assistant coach to football staffs. Rees will be the 10th coach on Kelly’s staff.

When Rees, along with Notre Dame’s other new hires, met the media Monday, he talked about his role as more of a liaison than an interpreter.

“It’s not necessarily a buffer (between Kelly and the quarterbacks), it’s a communicator,” Rees said of his job. “(It’s) making sure there’s one common voice so that coach Kelly and coach (Chip) Long (new offensive coordinator) and myself are all saying the same thing.

“In my unique situation, playing for (Kelly) and being the quarterback for (Kelly), I understand where he’s coming from and what he’s trying to do. You need to have that confidence; you need to have that composure; to play the position.

“Coach’s best interest is always in that player: To make him better, to push him, to get him to a point he couldn’t get to by himself. My job of being that connector between coach and the quarterback is going to be important.”

Besides junior Brandon Wimbush, everyone’s choice as the new Irish starter, redshirt freshman Ian Book and incoming freshman Avery Davis will be Rees’ prime pupils in the quarterback room.

A rising star in the coaching ranks, Rees spent one season as a graduate assistant at Northwestern, and another year as an offensive assistant (working primarily with receivers) with the San Diego Chargers, before returning to his alma mater in what likely will be a full-time capacity.

It’s not that he has defied the odds climbing the ladder like he has, but he has battled his way through – like he did as a player.

“I’ve never really let outside opinion define my career,” said Rees. “There had been plenty of negative feedback. Plenty of people that don’t really know what they’re talking about.

“I’ve worked hard to get to this point. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder a little bit just because of (the negativity), but I try not to pay attention to it. If you do things the right way and work hard, put the hours in, and you care about what you’re doing, those obstacles are easily overcome.”

Rees said, as a player, his focus was always to find out “why” something was being done.

Now, he’ll be able to explain to his quarterbacks “why” Kelly turns purple like he does some times.

Been there. Seen that.

Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Tom Rees talks to reporters during a press conference Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, at Notre Dame in South Bend. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)