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Notre Dame backup quarterback Rees hasn't lost his focus

Published: Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 2:48 p.m. CDT

(MCT) — Everett Golson will stand behind center and take the snaps.

Tommy Rees will stand on the sideline and be at the ready.

If all goes according to Notre Dame's best-laid plans, that's how things will remain during the Irish's quest for the BCS national championship Jan. 7 in Miami.

If they don't, because of either injury or ineffectiveness against Alabama, no one wearing Notre Dame colors will furrow a brow if the roles are reversed.

Rees, who lost his starting job to Golson before what turned into a magical season for the Irish, isn't your ordinary, everyday backup quarterback. The junior from Lake Forest, Ill., played the roles of both hero and mentor while Notre Dame reeled off 12 straight victories. If he wasn't contributing on the field, Rees was instrumental in the development of his sophomore teammate.

"Tommy in some ways can be our team MVP this year," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chuck Martin said. "Not only because he was a major part of winning four games with his play, but with how he handled the situation and how he's helped Everett."

It's those four wins _ against Purdue, Michigan, Stanford and BYU _ that will stand out most for Rees and the Irish. Rees started only one but relieved Golson in the other three to help guide Notre Dame to the No. 1 ranking in the country and an opportunity to win its first title since 1988.

"They're great moments," Rees said. "And they're great memories for me and as a team. They're opportunities where I could step in and do everything I was asked to help this team win a game. "I love my teammates. There's a special bond between all of us. Just being able to help them out and get team wins is rewarding."

It hasn't been the easiest season for Rees, who stepped aside when coach Brian Kelly stuck with Golson as the starter after Rees was suspended for the first game for a May 3 arrest at an off-campus party. This after Rees had thrown for 20 touchdowns and completed 65.2 percent of his passes in 2011. Instead of hiding behind a clipboard, Rees focused on helping any way he could _ including instructing Golson during practices and games.

"My hat goes off to Tommy," Golson said. "Being the guy that he is, doing what he does on a daily basis, he's just a great guy. It shows his character is really good.

"At the beginning of the year (with) him going through what he went through and at the same time being there for me, helping me out, telling me what he sees (and) telling me what I can get better at, it's helped me to grow to where I am now."

So while the majority of the practice snaps leading up to the title game will go to Golson, Rees will continue to concentrate on his role.

"The way to keep that motivation to stay focused is knowing that your (name) can be called anytime and you have to be ready to go and be in tune to what's going on," said Rees, who has completed 34 of 59 passes for 436 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. "You don't have another option but to stay focused."

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