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The Tommy Rees saga at Notre Dame formally began when former quarterback Dayne Crist suffered a torn left patellar tendon during the first quarter of the Irish's eventual 28-27 loss to Tulsa on Oct. 31, 2010.
A true freshman at the time, Rees relieved Crist and finished the afternoon with a Notre Dame freshman-record 334 passing yards.
Following the loss, the Irish owned an abysmal 4-5 record and learned that they would be without Crist for the remainder of the season, effectively handing the keys of the offense to an unproven freshman.
Despite Rees' youth and lack of experience, he guided the Irish to four consecutive victories, including a 33-17 win against Miami in the Sun Bowl that brought Kelly and Co. to a final record of 8-5. But with Crist slated to make a full recovery in time for spring ball, a quarterback competition was undoubtedly in the works.
Having remained neck and neck through spring ball, Crist and Rees entered fall camp as fierce competitors for the starting job, though Kelly eventually awarded Crist the job one week prior to Notre Dame's opening game of the 2011 season against South Florida. Via Hayden Moore of Irish Sports Daily:
"Both of those young men, I mean Dayne and Tommy Rees, had a great battle for that starting position, but Dayne will be our starter. I expect him to be our starter for 13 weeks.”
However, it was quickly learned that Kelly may not always be a man of his word after he benched Crist in favor of Rees following a first half which ended with the Bulls holding a stunning 16-0 lead over the Irish.
During the second half alone, Rees completed 24 of 34 passing attempts for 296 yards and two touchdowns, while also committing two turnovers, both interceptions.
While the effort didn't result in an Irish victory—South Florida won, 23-20, in shocking fashion—it earned Rees the starting job for the following week's game at Michigan, as well as for the remainder of the season.
Quickly earning approval from the fanbase, Rees slowly but surely saw the celebratory praises of his efforts transform into the unmistakable ire of Irish fans far and wide after accounting for 19 of the team's 29 turnovers during the course of the season, earning him the moniker of "Tommy Turnover."
Matters for Rees worsened, as freshman quarterback Everett Golson—a more mobile, athletic alternative—was gaining steam as the favorite to usurp Rees as the team's starter entering the 2012 season.
It was a prophetic notion, as Golson won the job and started 11 of the Irish's 13 games, including the BCS National Championship Game.
After that incredible run, it was difficult to imagine Rees resurfacing as a starting quarterback at the collegiate level, but fate has quite peculiar way of flipping a situation on its head. In June, it was announced that Golson was suspended for the fall semester for what he deemed "poor academic judgment," opening the door for Rees.