Northwestern’s Ryan Field should be rocking Saturday night when undefeated and #3 Notre Dame come calling for the first time since 1976. It will be extra special for Tommy Rees, Notre Dame quarterbacks coach and one of the most accomplished passers in school history. Rees is a Lake Forest native who grew up a bit of a Northwestern fan.
He attended a lot of Wildcats games in his youth, and Northwestern was a factor in his recruiting process before he decided on Notre Dame. Once Northwestern committed to Trevor Siemian, Rees looked elsewhere. He ended up leaving South Bend among the top five in 21 different single-game, single-season or career passing categories, including the highest career pass completion percentage in school history.
Additionally, Rees began his coaching career at Northwestern, where he spent one season as an offensive graduate assistant for the 2015 team.
“Obviously, Chicago been home for me, somewhere I have a lot of pride in, so getting to play there will be a lot of fun for me,” said Rees during our exclusive conversation.
“I learned a lot from Coach Fitz, he’s someone who’s been a great mentor to me, and a great role model to a lot of coaches that go through Northwestern,” said Rees, who went 23-8 as the Fighting Irish starting quarterback.
Tommy Rees is just like Fitzgerald, someone fortunate enough to have the rare opportunity to coach at his alma mater.
“He’s a tremendous human being and he’s been a great role model for me,” Rees added.
Rees said that the two men still talk regularly, but less so this year, only because their two sides are facing one another. The ND assistant finished his collegiate career second in ND history in TD passes, and third in passing yardage.
Northwestern’s current starting quarterback, Clayton Thorson, has rewritten the school’s passing record book. He worked under Rees while he was in Evanston, and sung his praises after NU crushed Wisconsin 31-17 yesterday.
“He was a really good coach and obviously a really good player,” said Thorson. “He did a great job teaching attention to detail, just taking everything and knowing that it all matters”
Obviously, the development of Notre Dame starting quarterback Ian Book is a testament to the work that Rees has put in this season. Of course, we were only able to see that because the original QB1 this season, Brandon Wimbush, failed to develop at all.
Tommy Rees obviously knows a lot about playing QB in South Bend.
“The quarterback position, there’s no ups and downs, you got to be steady and have a good demeanor about yourself,” he said at ND Media Day.
“Whereas other places you might be able to be able to hide a little bit- there’s none of that at the quarterback position.”
It all harkens back to this iconic movie quote, from Oliver Stone’s 1999 offering Any Given Sunday. It’s delivered to QB Steamin Willie Beaman (played by Jamie Foxx) by head coach Tony D’Amato (portrayed by Al Pacino).
The dialogue is as follows:
“You’re a goddamn quarterback! You know what that means? It’s the top spot, kid. It’s the guy who takes the fall. It’s the guy everybody’s looking at first – the leader of a team – who will support you when they understand you.
Who will break their ribs and their noses and their necks for you, because they believe. ‘Cause you make them believe. That’s a quarterback.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.Follow paulmbanks