Notre Dame football fans didn't believe quarterback Dayne Crist would overcome a tear to his ACL last season in time for spring practices. But he did.
Others weren't convinced he was the right fit for Brian Kelly's spread offense. Crist slowly convinced Irish Nation that he could pull it off.
Now the Californian must strengthen his other knee and a surgically-repaired patellar tendon, then sway Kelly and ND supporters all over again.
As the Irish (7-5) prepare for a Sun Bowl tilt with Miami (7-5) on Dec. 31, the starting quarterback job appears to be freshman Tommy Rees' to lose. At least that's how it seems after Rees nearly led Notre Dame to a comeback against Tulsa then rattled off three consecutive victories to close out the season.
Rees, though inexperience and nerves led to eight interceptions, threw for 905 yards and 10 touchdowns. Crist threw for 2,033 yards, 15 TDs and tossed only seven picks. Old news, according to Irish faithful.
This weekend, a confident Crist was made available for the first time since he was lost for the season.
"I feel like it's coming along great," he said of the rehabilitation process. "I'm very happy with the progress we've been making. I was able to hop on a bike [Friday] and it felt great. So, I'm just happy with the little battles along the way but it's still a long process -- unfortunately, it's one I'm familiar with. I think that will serve as a benefit through this rehab process and just kind of help give me some perspective on things."
Like the fact he's yet to master the spread.
"In some ways, but in others I'm still learning," Crist responded when asked if he has felt like an assistant coach over the last two months. "It's one of those situations where you just have to continue to remind yourself to just stay as involved as possible. It's a tough time, you know, anytime that you're hurt. It's frustrating and you want to be out there doing things and you want to be going through the same routine you were before you got hurt. But you have to understand and be mature and understand that there so many things you can learn from a situation like this. That's what I plan to continue to do."
Crist knows the drill. He knows what he can and can't say. He knows the challenge ahead of him when it comes to reclaiming his old job next season. Yet, he's throwing all his support behind rookie Rees.
"I'm very proud of him; he's a very hard worker," Crist said. "He and I talk a great deal, you know, football or not football. We're with each other a great deal of time, just hanging out and stuff like that. We're always bouncing stuff off one another and just talking football and everything like that. It's great to see him go out there and be able to compete and get some wins -- and some wins the team definitely needed."