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December 19, 2013

‘Your jaw drops'

As a freshman, Tommy Rees’s first start away from the Notre Dame campus came in a venue arguably as historical as Notre Dame Stadium. Three seasons later, his last start will come in the same locale -- Yankee Stadium.

Though it was his first away start -- technically listed as a home game as the inaugural Shamrock Series contest -- Rees was not so naïve as to think all college football games invoke such awe. He had stood on the sidelines earlier in the season as the Irish traveled to Michigan State, Boston College and even the Meadowlands, now known as MetLife Stadium and the 2014 Super Bowl host.

“I remember walking out into the Stadium the first time and walking into the locker room,” the senior quarterback said. “Your jaw drops. It’s an incredible atmosphere. Obviously it’s the new Yankee Stadium, but just to be where the Yankees are, that organization. It’s a special place.”

Rees isn’t the only one who remembers the special qualities of such an environment, even if the rest of his teammates didn’t get Yankees captain Derek Jeter’s locker, as Rees did. Though the new Yankee Stadium was less than 20 months old at the time, the history of the original Yankee Stadium made the trek across the parking lot. Plus, a new stadium meant modern accessories.

“I remember being wowed by the design, the interior design of the Stadium once you got onto the field, the Jumbotron, and the locker room,” senior receiver TJ Jones said. “Playing in Yankee Stadium, again, makes the cold weather a little bit more bearable.”

Fans may have enjoyed numerous Shamrock Series events over that 2010 weekend, but those cursory impressions were all Notre Dame had time for three years ago as the team stuck to the usual regular-season schedule. This year, though still focused on a victory, the Irish will have more time not only in New York City, but also the venerable Yankee Stadium itself.

There’s plenty to see. Yankee Stadium houses 27 World Series banners, 40 pennants and 19 retired numbers in Monument Park.

“To be able to run out there and look around, obviously the Stadium is ridiculously nice,” senior linebacker Dan Fox said. “We didn’t get to do much because it was a regular-season game, so hopefully this time we’ll be able to look around the city a little bit.”

While Fox and Jones saw action in each game of the 2010 season, Rees had seen only spot duty until a week before the trip to New York City. His second career start could not have come on a larger stage, the same stage it will end on.

“It’s cool having the career come full circle,” Rees said. “It’s not where we wanted to be at the end of the year, but to play there again, I kind of think back to my second start.

“It’s pretty cool to play in Yankee Stadium twice.”

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