Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2024

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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90 MARCH 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Y oung and single men or women often learn there are three types of people you date. 1. The casual "flings" that elicit initial buzz but soon fizzle. 2. "The one" you marry. 3. The "fillers" in between. They are the girl or guy you respect and are fond of … but you aren't sure about tying the knot for the long term. Quarterbacks are often perceived simi- larly. Recent examples of flings at Notre Dame with highly touted quarterbacks in- clude Jimmy Clausen and Carlyle Holiday. With Clausen and Holiday you had some good times … but deep down you sensed this wasn't going to be a long union, or perhaps even the ideal one. Next, there is the quarterback you marry to take you through the long haul. Former Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian found that with three-year starters such as Terry Hanratty, Joe Theis- mann and Tom Clements. Successor Dan Devine's salvation was finally settling down with Joe Montana in 1977, and Lou Holtz paired with option wizard Tony Rice in 1987-89 turned out to be the ideal bliss. Finally, there are the quarterbacks who are labeled "fillers." If they are augmented well on offense, defense and special teams, you can win with them. They possess the "Three S's" — sharp, solid and systematic, but not necessarily "sexy." You are glad to have them on your roster, yet you wonder "is there somebody out there where we can do a little better?" The outside perception of Notre Dame freshman Tommy Rees has been that of a filler, a caretaker, a bridge between second-round pick Clausen and … well, whoever the "next" great Notre Dame quarterback will be. Maybe it will be Rees. The day prior to the 33-17 Irish victory versus Miami in the Sun Bowl, a Chicago Tribune headline read: "Tommy Rees is Notre Dame's man for the moment, and maybe nothing more." The subhead added "Start in Sun Bowl could be fresh- man QB's last for Irish." With a 4-0 start, Rees already has achieved more than what 99.99 percent of 18-year-old football players ever will, yet his modest stature, stats and three- star high school rating have prevented him from receiving the type of adulation others might receive. To Rees, the behind-the-scenes work he, his teammates and coaches share in the Guglielmino Complex at Notre Dame is what is most important. "I don't read the press, I don't pay at- tention to anything [people] say," Rees said after this year's Jan. 22 Football Awards Show in which he received the inaugural "Next Man In" honor. "I just fo- cus on my job and my responsibility. You hear things, but you kind of shrug them off. Those things don't matter." Quarterbacks at Notre Dame in the 1960s and 1970s who were tagged as fill- ers included Bill Zloch (1965), who came between Heisman winner John Huarte and Hanratty; Cliff Brown (1971), the bridge between Theismann and Clem- ents; or Rick Slager (1975-76), the man between Clements and Montana. Notre Dame finished anywhere from No. 9 to No. 12 with a Zloch, Brown or Slager, but the search for more remained. In the 1980s at Notre Dame, Terry An- drysiak was a filler for both Steve Beuer- lein and Tony Rice. In the 1990s, the "filler" tag was given to Kevin McDougal, who had to sit three years behind one Golden Boy recruit, Rick Mirer (1989-92), and watch another, Powlus, take control in the first month of his freshman year in 1993. Only an in- jury to Powlus the week before the opener thrust McDougal into full-time action. That year, McDougal became the pass efficiency king in Notre Dame annals while directing a controversial No. 2 fin- ish. Still, many people anticipated the joy of Powlus eventually ascending to the throne. As they would learn, support- ing casts also matter to a quarterback's legacy. Right now, the perception of Rees might be similar to that of a former Irish quarterback, Matt LoVecchio, who won his first seven starts as a freshman while leading the Irish to the BCS in 2000. Or there is Evan Sharpley, who was a backup to both Brady Quinn and Clau- sen, but was someone you wanted and needed on the roster as a safeguard or prime insurance coverage. Does Rees fall into that LoVecchio/ Sharpley genre? Or is he the long-range quarterback in Kelly's spread who can run the read option and other elements without relying too much on the defense or Michael Floyd to save the day? Kelly believes he has a win-win situ- ation at quarterback. If Rees keeps the job, he will have earned it against quality competition. If Rees loses it and was just keeping the seat warm … then maybe he's just a filler. Either way, the quarterback situation at Notre Dame should be more competi- tive and healthier than it has been the past several years. "This isn't where I want things to end," Rees said. "It's kind of just the begin- ning, and to put myself in a good position for the future." The same can be said about the collec- tive Notre Dame program. ✦ BEST OF THE FIFTH QUARTER ✦ LOU SOMOGYI ✦ MARCH 2011 Tommy Rees Beyond Just 'Filling' A Role EDITOR'S NOTE: The late, great Lou Somogyi possessed an unmatched knowledge of Notre Dame football, and it was his mission in life to share it with others. Those of us at Blue & Gold Illustrated would like to continue to provide his wis- dom and unique perspective from his more than 37 years covering the Fighting Irish for this publication. Rees — the first-ever first-year starter, regard- less of class, to lead Notre Dame to a bowl game victory — set single-season freshman school records for touchdowns (12) and completion percentage (.610) in 2010. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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