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Gastelum: Bet on Rees to excel in second chance (Aug. 30)

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, August 28, 2013


He’s back in the spotlight. 

The light came on bright in 2010 on a scrawny freshman who looked more finance than football. It flickered in 2011 when the meaning of molasses was far from sweet. It shut off when police lights lit up an off-campus party in May 2012. 

And now it’s back on again, not too bright but just bright enough to see the path ahead. It’s as if Touchdown Jesus was just changing the light bulb above Tommy Rees, who went from Tommy two-time to Tommy two-chance. 

Sadly, the Tommy memory that resonates most isn’t the 4-0 record he posted as a starter his freshman year that salvaged Brian Kelly’s first season. Nor is it the games he acted as Notre Dame’s resident Mariano Rivera, closing out last-second wins against Purdue and Stanford and leading the Irish to a win in a tricky BYU trap game. 

The lasting Tommy Rees moment over the last three years doesn’t really involve Tommy’s performance at all, but moreso his popularity. It’s not even a sight, but the sound of boos echoing through Notre Dame Stadium when Rees took the field in the last home opener. It might as well have been the Big House with students wildly booing him in the fourth quarter. 

Then he went out and won the game for the Irish. 

But, with his past, he learned the hard way. What were boos compared to having your mugshot ripped apart on blogs and having the phrase “He’s good, but …” attached to your career so far despite a 14-4 record as a starter?

The fact is, Notre Dame doesn’t go to the BCS National Championship game last season without Rees. Whenever he played, he was the steady hand on the wheel of a ship that never ran into rocky waters until the Tide rolled up. 

Despite what students and critics have said in the past, Rees should be one of the players this Notre Dame fan base trusts the most. He mentored Everett Golson last season and never received the praise, yet did all this while looking up to Golson on the depth chart. If the team was winning that’s all that mattered. 

After his arrest and subsequent suspension, he stuck around, not even transferring after losing his job to a freshman who seemed like he would stick around. 

That’s not to say he doesn’t have his deficiencies: Mobility, interceptions and arm strength were brought up at the team’s Media Day last week. Plus, he hasn’t been named the permanent starter by any means. 

But he has the unwavering support and relentless praise of team captains TJ Jones and Zack Martin and countless others, both veterans and youngins alike. Just because Rees doesn’t have a “C” on his jersey doesn’t mean he cannot serve as a leader.

He’s the perfect example of a typical college student and a fallen star at the same time. A player who was maybe cocky and smug when the spotlight first turned on but who has now learned what life throws your way isn’t always a spiral. And now he’s steadily soaring back through the clouds. 

As Irish coach Brian Kelly poetically mused at Media Day, his story is far from written. And with the bright spotlight back and life lessons as his shades, this story could turn out to be a bestseller. 

Contact Andrew Gastelum at [email protected]                        
The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.