How relationship with Tommy Rees kept QB Steve Angeli calm during Irish uncertainty

Justin Frommer
ND Insider
Bergen Catholic quarterback Steve Angeli throws the ball on the sidelines in West Orange, NJ on October 23, 2021.

SOUTH BEND — It's his first day in the weight room participating in a team lift session, and Notre Dame freshman quarterback Steve Angeli is working his way through hip press and squat sets. After each push forward of his legs or bend at the hips, director of football performance, Matt Balis was right beside Angeli, screaming into his ear to keep pushing and go harder for 25 total reps.

How about that for a "welcome to college football" moment.

“That is why I can tell right away how much he cares and just how much he loves us, because he is there through it all pushing me," Angeli told reporters during Friday's player availability session.

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Steve Angeli

Freshman year firsts at Notre Dame

Angeli has experienced many of those Notre Dame program firsts over the last month in South Bend.

First classes. First film sessions. First practices.

It comes with the territory of being an early enrollee, and Angeli is one of 12 players in the Irish 2022 recruiting class to get a head start on their college football careers. 

"The pros are getting acclimated to the culture here, getting in the weight room with Coach Balis, diving into the playbook with the other quarterbacks," Angeli said of why he chose come to South Bend early. "They have done a great job bringing me along, Tyler (Buchner), Ronny (Powlus III)  and Drew (Pyne) just really helping me out. Any questions I have they are there.

"Just really taking this all in."

A lot about Notre Dame has changed since Angeli, a four-star recruit out of New Jersey, committed to the Irish on March 4, 2021.

Connection with Tommy Rees

For one, the head coach that persuaded him to join the Irish, Brian Kelly, is gone to LSU. And while there was a ton of uncertainty from many of the early enrollees during Notre Dame's swift hiring process, it was Angeli's relationship with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Tommy Rees that helped him stay calm and let things play out. 

“I had a lot of trust in him," Angeli said. "We have a great relationship, a lot of open dialogue. There was really no keeping stuff back, asking what I want to ask and getting answers. So really a credit to him for keeping everything level with me on the offensive side of the ball.”

Now at Notre Dame, Rees, and Balis, have been at the forefront of Angeli's introduction to college football.

Bergen Catholic quarterback Steve Angeli runs the ball in the first half as Bergen Catholic played Don Bosco in the Non-Public A Championship game at MetLife Stadium on November 28, 2021. 

Along with spending time with the other three quarterbacks on Notre Dame's roster, a lot of Angeli's time has been working with Rees. Angeli said he's been going over previous game film as well as the spring-install playbook with Rees in order to learn as much as he can before the Irish annual Blue-Gold game, set for April 23.

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Familiar face at Notre Dame

The weight room, where Angeli learned how serious Balis is, has been a chance for the freshman, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, to transform his body, which he says is one of his goals during spring football.

For most freshmen, the leap into college football with new teammates and a new coaching staff can be challenging. It's helped Angeli having a familiar face right beside him, in high school teammate and current roommate, freshman cornerback Jayden Bellamy, who is experiencing similar practices and workouts throughout the week. 

"We are able to come back from days and compare what it was like back home," Angeli said. "Knowing how he works and how we operate together has made the transition a lot more smoother."

In the back of his mind, Angeli knows the likelihood of getting on the field during his first Notre Dame season is small — but it's not zero.

Last year, Buchner (now a sophomore) and Pyne (a redshirt junior) each saw action behind Coan at various points in the season. So, Angeli isn't taking this head start lightly.

If his number ever does get called this fall, Angeli says he wants to confidently be able to get on the field and play football as if he were still in high school, not worrying about if he was — or wasn't — doing the right thing.

"I just want to do whatever is asked from me," Angeli said. "Pull my weight and just get it going here."