Ian Book: What He Has LearnedBy Claire Kramer
At Notre Dame, there’s a magic in the sound of lots of names: Montana, Theismann, Hornung, Quinn. The Irish quarterback is one of the most visible figures in college football, past and present. For the man, it’s about representing himself, his team, his school and, on top of that, always getting better.
Eyes are on him from the moment he steps on the field, and all those watching begin to write his story. There are careers, seasons, even singular moments that define a player.
So, we should already know who Ian Book is, right?
When you ask him, his answer is remarkably simple.
“I’m just a really confident kid, coming here and just living out my dream since third grade.”
Just a kid living the dream.
To get to this level, you have to have natural talent. You have to have awareness, pocket presence, calm under pressure. You have to balance your time and shut out the naysayers and work when not a soul watches. You have to be resilient, fearless, smart.
You have to get up again, and again, and again.
And then, you have to get better. In a place like Notre Dame, you are surrounded by history, records, games and stories of lore that the Irish can recite upon a singular callback. There’s an expectation that you evolve, that you keep growing and push the standard of excellence that has come to define Notre Dame football.
Now, after 20 games started for Ian Book, what he has learned continues to define who he is as a player and as a man.
Notre Dame quarterback. An undefeated season and a trip to the College Football Playoffs. More than 56,000 Instagram followers. Team captain.
To say that there’s pressure is painfully obvious.
“We say it all the time: ‘Pressure is a privilege here,’” Book said. “There are so many other people that would love to be doing what we’re doing. We’re fortunate enough to be able to go out there and do that and really seize the moment and play for each other. That’s what it’s all about.”
Seize the moment. You play on a field in front of a green-clad crowd, almost 80,000-strong, with millions watching at home. You pass for five touchdowns on three separate occasions, all in the span of one season. You grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. You rewrite the history books of a college football program that boasts more than 130 years of existence.
But to live a dream, any dream, you need some help, and you have to keep learning. Book says he’s surrounded by people who have taught him how to be the player he is, beginning with an individual who attempted the same feats, experienced the same pressure and defined his own era in Notre Dame history.
Tom Rees, the quarterback formerly known as Tommy, returned to Notre Dame in 2017 to coach his old position. A four-year letterwinner for the Irish, he finished his collegiate career as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in program history. Entering the 2019 season, Rees’ statistics ranked in the top five of 21 different single-game, single-season or career passing categories in Irish records.
He knows what it takes to be the Notre Dame quarterback, and he and Book have created a strong bond over the past few seasons.
“He taught me so much. He’s been there, he’s been in the role,” Book noted. “So, when you can learn from someone who has done it not that long ago, it makes it that much easier.”
“People say a lot, people talk a lot; there are a lot of haters,” Book shared. “He’s been through it, and he made it. He lived out his dream, and now we’re living out ours. He does a great job of mentoring us.”
We’ll see your confidence, and raise you some more
The first characteristic Book mentioned about his personality comes as a surprise to no one who has followed him over his career: confidence.
Confidence manifests in various ways, and Book’s comes with the ability to keep calm under pressure, to trust in his preparation and rely on his teammates and coaching. Again, it comes as a surprise to no one at Notre Dame, not the least of which is Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Brian Kelly.
“I knew what we had; I knew what he was going to give us,” Kelly told reporters after Book’s five-passing-touchdown performance, his third of the season, against Navy last week. “We maintained confidence in him. The only thing I ever said to him is, ‘Don’t lose confidence in yourself. Stay confident in yourself.’”
But, even the most natural of our tendencies need to be strengthened.
“He works so hard. He does all the right things,” Kelly continued. “He had to find a mechanism, as the quarterback at Notre Dame, to eliminate all the noise that comes with it. He has found it, and he’s in a great spot. He’s going to continue to progress.”
Confidence is a must in a role as visible as the Notre Dame quarterback. But, as the commander of the offense and a team captain, Book also takes it upon himself to use his confidence to bring the rest of his team up with him.
“I’m confident with all the guys on this team,” Book stated after the Navy game. “The defense is doing an awesome job getting us the ball. They play so well and give us so many opportunities. And then, our offense is starting to roll. It’s awesome. We’ve got 10 other guys on the field that are playing for each other, and that’s when you find success
“I am definitely confident, and this whole offense should be.”
Know Your Why
With all the opportunities to learn from those who have done it before and those doing it now around him, taking a moment to reflect on his younger self provides yet another lesson learned.
“I would just say to have fun,” Book expressed. “Don’t let any moment get too big, just go out there and have fun. That’s why you started playing football when you were eight years old. You were doing it to have fun.
“Don’t ever let that slip, and that’s the reason you should be having fun out there.”
Because, after all, when he’s living his dream and learning how to live it better every day, how could it not be fun?
Book’s story has yet to be completed, but it is not just the story of a singular student-athlete.
It’s the story of a quarterback who refined his natural confidence to bring his team with him. It’s the story of a former Notre Dame great who returned because he wanted to give back to the program that gave so much to him. It’s the story of a team that bought in to the excellence and tradition the Irish program exudes. And, it’s the story of a boy, eight years old, who dreamed of playing college football.
A team captain and leader in more ways that one, Ian Book has made his mark on the Notre Dame program and on the football landscape as a whole. And, while his growth has helped his dream come to fruition, the last thing he’s looking to do is stop.