Timeline: A look at Tommy Rees' 10-year career at Notre Dame as a player and coach

Michael Wanbaugh
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — In what evolved into one of the more unlikely Notre Dame legacies in the program’s century-plus history, Tommy Rees is leaving his alma mater to become offensive coordinator for legendary head coach Nick Saban at Alabama, according to sources with knowledge of the decision. 

Rees interviewed with the Crimson Tide on Thursday and a sources say the Irish players were informed Friday that Rees was leaving, according to the Tribune's Mike Berardino.

A four-year letterwinner at quarterback from 2010-13, the little-known three-star recruit from Lake Bluff, Ill., is peppered throughout the Irish passing records. In six years as an assistant coach at Notre Dame, the past three as the leader of its offense, Rees garnered a reputation as an innovator and cultivator of QB talent while emerging into one of most highly regarded young assistants in football. 

Analysis:Tommy Rees is one of football's hottest young coaches and Nick Saban proves it

In all, Rees sports a win-loss record at Notre Dame of 37-15 in four years as a player, and 63-14 in six years as a coach. That adds up to 100-29. Not a bad decade’s worth of work.  

Here’s a timeline of Rees’ playing and coaching career since arriving in South Bend 13 years ago: 


2020-present — Notre Dame offensive coordinator 

☘ After Rees called the plays in the 2019 Camping World Bowl win over Iowa State, Brian Kelly named him Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator on Jan. 14, 2020, making Rees the youngest coordinator in program history at 27. 

Notre Dame’s Ian Book (12) is greeted by coach Tom Rees following the Notre Dame-Iowa State NCAA Football game Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

☘ In his first season running the offense, Rees helped lead Notre Dame to a home upset of No. 1 and defending national champion Clemson, a COVID-year ACC regular-season championship and back to the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years — a 31-14 Rose Bowl semifinal loss to Alabama in Arlington, Texas. 

☘ In 2021 Rees helped Wisconsin graduate transfer QB Jack Coan transition into a formable starter while blending in freshman Tyler Buchner en route to an 11-2 season that ended with a 37-35 Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State in Marcus Freeman’s first game as head coach. 

☘ Despite overtures to join Kelly at LSU or Mario Cristobal at Miami, Rees decides to remain at Notre Dame, telling his team, "I'm (bleeping) staying." 

☘ This past season proved the most challenging of Rees’ ND coaching tenure and ended with a 9-4 record and Gator Bowl win over South Carolina. After starter Tyler Buchner went down with a broken clavicle at the end of Marshall’s Week 2 upset of the Irish, Rees developed Drew Pyne into a viable starter. Pyne passed for 2,021 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions in 11 games, including an 8-2 record as the starter. Rees also utilized an reconfigured offensive line to turn the Irish into a run-first power. 

Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees before the Notre Dame vs. University of Nevada NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

☘ When Pyne entered the transfer portal before the Gator Bowl, Rees prepared a medically cleared Buchner for his first game since September. Against the Gamecocks, the sophomore threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another 61 yards and two scores. He connected with tight end Mitchell Evans for the winning 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:36 left to cap a six-minute, 80-yard drive. The Gamecocks also returned a pair of Buchner interceptions for scores.

☘ On Feb. 2, Rees — who was instrumental in landing top-rated Sam Hartman of Wake Forest from the transfer portal and assembling a top-10 2023 recruiting class — boarded a private University of Alabama plane in South Bend and flew to Tuscaloosa to interview with Nick Saban. 

More:What makes Notre Dame OC Tommy Rees so attractive to the NFL? Sean McVay has some thoughts

2017-19 — Notre Dame quarterbacks coach 

☘ After one season as a graduate assistant at Northwestern (2015) and another as an offensive assistant with the NFL's San Diego Chargers, Rees reunited with Brian Kelly as quarterbacks coach for his alma mater in January 2017. 

☘ Rees worked with starter Brandon Wimbush and backup Ian Book as the Irish capped off a 10-3 season with a come-from-behind 21-17 Citrus Bowl win over LSU after Book relieved Wimbush. 

☘ Notre Dame finished 24th in the country in scoring offense, averaging 34.2 points per game. 

In this Jan. 30, 2017, file photo, Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees talks to reporters during a press conference in South Bend, Ind. Rees tries to keep a low profile in his return to Notre Dame. The 24-year-old former Fighting Irish quarterback is back in the Bend, this time as an assistant coach Brian Kelly. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)

☘ In 2018 Rees continued to develop Book, who would go on to become Notre Dame’s all-time winningest quarterback with a 30-5 mark as the starter. Rees enjoyed his second undefeated regular season (12-0) with Notre Dame — the first was as a player in 2012 — as the Irish qualified for the College Football Playoff, losing to eventual national champion Clemson, 30-3, in the Cotton Bowl. 

☘ In 2019, Rees’ third year as quarterbacks coach, he continued to help Book find another gear under offensive coordinator Chip Long. Book had his best statistical season for the Irish, throwing for 3,034 yards and 34 touchdowns during an 11-2 season in which Notre Dame defeated Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla. 

☘ Notre Dame finished 13th nationally in scoring offense at 36.8 points per game. 

More:What happens if Notre Dame assistants draw interest from a Power Five school with a coaching vacancy?

2016 season — Offensive assistant NFL’s San Diego Charger

☘ Rees left Northwestern to become an offensive assistant for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. His main focus was working with wide receivers.  

☘ The Chargers went 5-11, but Rees gained valuable experience and insight working closely with wide receivers coach Nick Sirianni, who is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Sirianni will coach Feb. 12 in Super Bowl LVII against the Kansas City Chiefs. 

2015 season — Graduate assistant, Northwestern 

☘ Rees’ first job in coaching was as an offensive graduate assistant at Northwestern under head coach Pat Fitzgerald and offensive coordinator Mick McCall. The Wildcats finished 10-3 after a 45-6 loss to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. 


2010 freshman season 

☘ Joined Notre Dame as a three-star recruit out of Lake Forest (Ill.) High School, where he completed 215 of 308 passes for 2,572 yards, 23 touchdowns and three interceptions as a senior. 

☘ Started the season as Dayne Crist’s backup and became the starter after Crist suffered a season-ending knee injury in the ninth game of the season in a home loss to Tulsa. 

Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees consoles Miami's Stephen Morris after the Irish win the Sun Bowl 33-17 on Dec. 31, 2010. Morris replaced Jacory Harris after Harris threw his third interception in the first half.

☘ Won his first three starts that included upsets of Utah and USC. Led the Irish to a 33-17 win over Miami in the Sun Bowl as Notre Dame finished 8-5 in coach Brian Kelly’s first year in South Bend. Rees completed 100 of 164 passes for 1,106 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. 

2011 sophomore season 

☘ Rees again began the season as Crist’s backup, but was put in at halftime of the season opener against South Florida after Crist struggled and the Irish trailed 16-0. Rees finished 24 of 34 for 296 yards and two touchdowns, but threw two interceptions in the 23-20 loss. 

☘ Named the starter for the remainder of the season, Rees threw two critical interceptions the next week in a 35-31 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor as the Wolverines came back from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit.  

9/17/2011: Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees calls out a play as linemen Braxston Cave (52) and Chris Watt get into position during the second half of last week's game at Michigan.

Notre Dame's Tommy Rees calls out a play at the line of scrimmage in the second half at Michigan Stadium September 10, 2011.

☘ The Irish would finish the season with an 8-5 record for the second consecutive season, losing 18-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State. Rees completed 65.5% of his passes, but threw 14 interceptions. 

2012 junior season 

☘ Rees began the season suspended for an offseason misdemeanor arrest. He spent most of the year as Everett Golson’s backup as the Irish completed a perfect regular season (12-0) ranked No. 1.  

☘ Even as the backup, Rees played in 12 of 13 games, often coming in for key drives late in the game. He did start two games and finished 34 of 59 passing for 436 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. 

Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees (11) makes a throw during a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER

☘ Notre Dame would lose the BCS National Championship game in Miami, 42-14, to Nick Saban and Alabama. 

2013 senior season 

☘ Rees was named the starter at the beginning of the year when Golson was deemed academically ineligible for the season.  

☘ Notre Dame finished with a 9-4 record after beating Rutgers, 29-16, in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. 

☘ Rees finished his playing career with 45 games played, 30 started. He completed 59.9% of his passes for 7,351 yards, 61 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. 

8/25/2013: Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees speaks to the media on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame opens the season against Temple on Aug. 31.

2014 post graduation 

  • After going undrafted, Rees signed a free-agent NFL contract with Washington, but was released seven days later on May 17.