During Tom Rees’ Notre Dame career at quarterback from 2010-13, Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly often predicted that the football IQ of Rees will make him an outstanding coach someday.
That opportunity will now occur at his alma mater, where the 24-year-old Rees today was officially announced as the new hire to coach quarterbacks. Rees’ predecessor, Mike Sanford, was hired in December as Western Kentucky’s head coach.
“I’m very excited to have Tom join our staff,” Kelly said in a released statement from Notre Dame. “He possesses an understanding of the game, and most importantly the quarterback position, that’s unique. He’s a true student of the game and great communicator that will offer immediate dividends toward guiding our quarterback room.
“As a former quarterback at Notre Dame, Tom also has a rare ability to truly relate with the quarterbacks on our roster. He’s literally sat in their seat, dealt with the ups and downs, faced the criticism, deflected the praise, and all that comes with playing the position at Notre Dame. He can genuinely mentor them — not only on the football field, but in the classroom and the community as well.”
A December 2013 graduate of Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business in management consulting, Rees served as a graduate assistant at Northwestern in 2015 and was hired as offensive assistant by the San Diego Chargers last February.
“When I finished my playing career and graduated from Notre Dame, I wanted to do two things,” Rees said in another released statement from the school. “First, I wanted to coach, and second, at some point in my career I hoped to get an opportunity to return and do it at my alma mater. I didn’t know when or if this opportunity might present itself, but I’m so grateful and honored that it did. I’m ready to get things rolling with this great staff and group of student-athletes.”
Rees’ father, Bill, was an esteemed college assistant and recruiting coordinator at UCLA from 1979-93 before working in the NFL a couple of decades. For the past two seasons, he has been player personnel director at Wake Forest — where newly hired Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko worked for three seasons.
The Lake Forest (Ill.) High product Rees was an early entrant at Notre Dame in January 2010 with minimal fanfare. Classmate Andrew Hendrix arrived as the better Irish quarterback prospect that season, but Rees ended up a full-time starter two seasons and a stellar figure out of the bullpen the other two while starting 31 games in his career.
Limited in arm strength, size and mobility, Rees compensated with moxie and a strong understanding of Kelly’s offense, especially the ability to check into correct blocking schemes with his football knowledge.
Throughout his career he moved ahead of or stayed in front of five-star prospects such as Dayne Crist and Gunner Kiel (in addition to Hendrix). He also was not nearly as mobile nor possessed the arm strength of 2012 starter Everett Golson or 2013 early enrollee Malik Zaire, but he was an ideal complement to Golson in 2012 and stepped in for him in 2013 when Golson was sidelined for academic reasons.
Rees finished his career completing 627 of 1,048 passes (59.6 percent) for 7,670 yards with 61 touchdowns and 37 interceptions.
“He’s an incredible young man that he can stay so focused in the game, know what’s going on during the game,” Kelly said during the middle of the 2012 season in which Rees was college football’s top fireman with his relief efforts off the bench during Notre Dame’s 12-0 regular season. “At halftime, I’m talking with him and Everett and he’s pointing out some things about the outside coverages that we should maybe think about running, as well. He’s just a very smart football player.”
• As a freshman, Rees replaced Crist early in the Tulsa game when Crist suffered a torn ACL. The Irish dropped to 4-5 after that loss, but the Irish then won all four of Rees’ starts to finish 8-5. It was capped with a 33-17 Sun Bowl win versus Miami in which Rees completed 15 of 29 passes for 201 yards with two touchdowns.
• Crist received the starting nod in the 2011 opener, but after the Irish fell behind 16-0 at halftime in the opener versus South Florida, Rees started the second half and nearly rallied the Irish to victory before losing, 23-20. He started the final 12 games in the 8-5 campaign.
• Golson took over as the starter in the 2012 opener — in which Rees was suspended — but Rees came off the to lead the game-winning drive against Purdue, provided a steadying hand in the final three quarters of a win against Michigan after two first-quarter interceptions by Golson put him on the bench (Rees also scored his lone career TD in that game), led the drive that put the game into overtime against Stanford, and then threw the game-winning scoring pass to TJ Jones versus the Cardinal. He also was the starter against BYU when Notre Dame rallied from a 14-7 deficit to a 17-14 win.
• Rees started all 13 games as a 2013 senior after Golson was removed from the team that fall while serving his penance for academic indiscretion. Notre Dame finished 9-4 and No. 23 in the Associated Press poll while Rees threw for 3,257 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Rees is the third former Notre Dame quarterback to coach the same position for his alma mater the past 25 years. The others were Tom Clements (1992-95), who started from 1972-74 and led the 1973 national title run, and Ron Powlus (2007-09), who started from 1994-97.
Rees is the sixth new on-field hire on the staff since the conclusion of the 4-8 season. The others are defensive coordinator Elko, offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Chip Long, special teams coordinator Brian Polian, linebackers coach Clark Lea and wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander. Also added is new strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Balis.
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