When Jimmy Clausen graduated from high school, he was one of the most decorated, sought after high school football players to ever commit to the University of Notre Dame. As a senior quarterback at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, California he threw for 49 touchdown passes in 2006 leading the Lions to their first ever Division III state championship. He was 42-0 as a high school starter passing for over 10,000 yards with a state record 146 touchdowns over the course of his high school career.
In 2006 he won the Hall Trophy for the nation's top football player and was named the "Offensive Player of the Year" by USA Today. Clausen was also named the "Co-Player of the Year" along with USC commit Joe Mcknight, by Parade Magazine. Sports Illustrated called him "The Kid with the Golden Arm" and many considered him to be a "once in a decade" quarterback prospect." He was ranked as the No. 1 football prospect of the class of 2007. He was a five star prospect who had offers from Oklahoma, Michigan, USC among many others.
After a loss to Georgia Tech in the first game of the season, Clausen was named the starting quarterback in the 2007 football season. He would start seven games that season. As a starter, Clausen had a record of 1-6, completed 56 percent of his passes for 1254 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. His passing efficiency rating was 103.85.
Tommy Rees, on the other hand, graduated in 2009 from Lake Forest High School in Lake Bluff, Illinois. The son of a football coach, his senior year he completed 215 of 308 passes for 2572 yards and 23 touchdowns. Rivals ranked him as a three star prospect, the 13th best quarterback prospect in Illinois and the No. 31 quarterback in the nation.
After a season ending injury to Dayne Crist in 2010, Rees took over as a starter and led the Irish to four consecutive wins including signature wins over USC and Miami.
Coming into the 2011 season, Rees was the sentimental favorite to earn the starting quarterback job. Coach Kelly, siting intangibles as the deciding factor, gave the starting job to Dayne Crist. With a sub-par performance in the season opener against South Florida, Rees replaced Crist entering the second half of the game and leading the Irish on a late charge that fell short. Rees has remained the starter ever since.
In the Michigan game, Rees, poised beyond his years, led the Irish late in the game on what appeared to be a game winning drive hushing a capacity crowd at the Big House. However, the defense failed to stop a game winning Michigan drive that gave Rees his first and only loss as a starter.
Since that time, Rees has led the Irish to four consecutive wins including a 59-33 win over Air Force this past Saturday.
While it seems ridiculous to compare Rees to Clausen, Rees compares favorably to the "Kid with the Golden Arm."
Through his first seven games as a starter, Rees is 5-1, has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 1798 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. His passing efficiency rating is 129.1. These stats are far superior to those posted by Clausen through seven games.
Is the difference due to the far more talented and better coached team Rees currently plays for? Perhaps, but Rees does seem to have a special quality that Clausen lacked. Rees has an ability early on in his career, to play with poise and a steely determination when the game is on the line. Clausen despite all his career totals, failed on many occasions to deliver that game winning drive in the closing seconds.
Although it is too early to predict if Rees will ever match Clausen's career stats, he is off to a good start. Many contend that Rees may not be a starter after this season, especially with such talented players as Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson waiting in the wings, but one cannot deny his productivity and winning percentage as a starter.
With difficult games like USC, and Stanford on the horizon, the Irish faithful will know fairly soon if Rees is for real and has the potential to lead this team back to prominence.
If his early stats are an indicator of things to come, Rees should deliver an outstanding career under the golden dome.