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Notre Dame Football

Book's style was to always give Notre Dame a chance to win

January 1, 2021

It ended with an incomplete pass, in the end zone, as the game-clock expired.

Notre Dame's all-time winningest quarterback whipped a final spiral, one bereft of any bearing on the game's final outcome, that bounded harmlessly to the turf inside AT&T Stadium in the last moment of the Rose Bowl, one half of the College Football Playoffs semifinals.

Robert Hainsey, who's celebrated almost all of Ian Book's 17 career rushing touchdowns and 72 passing scores on the field with Book, hugged Book.

It was over, officially. It had been decided in the preceding hours on the field, where the Book-helmed Irish offense had possessed the ball nearly eight minutes longer than their counterparts from Alabama but also saw a double-digit deficit for nearly 47 minutes of the 60 on the scoreboard.

“I told him that I love him to death,” Hainsey shared postgame of his final moment on the field with Book. “Love him with all my heart. He's been a great teammate and a great quarterback. And I couldn't put it into words how much fun it's been having him as a friend. And he's a true friend and we're going to be friends forever.

“And it's been a great four years. I can't wait to see what he does next. The kid's a winner, and all he's going to do is go on and be the best he can be, the best Ian Book he can be. And that's all that he needs to be.”

No quarterback at hallowed Notre Dame has ever started and won more games than Book, who closed his career with 35 starts and wins in 30 of those games.

Book only ever lost to Clemson (twice), Georgia, Michigan and finally, Alabama.

“He's a winner,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “He's won more games than any quarterback in Notre Dame history. Period. End of discussion. The guy's a winner and we're going to miss him.

“He just wins football games. And there is no other story, just a winner.”

Book won games not only with more frequency than any other quarterback in Notre Dame history but also arguably a singular style.

Book out-rushed Clemson star tailback Travis Etienne in November, when the Irish notched the program's first win against a No. 1 team in nearly three decades.

A year ago, in a gusty effort to avoid what would have been a season-killing defeat, Book raced into the right, front corner of the end zone to lift Notre Dame past Virginia Tech in a game that preserved the program's still-intact home winning streak and also helped facilitate this 10-win season – the program's fourth in a row of 10 or more wins.

Earlier in this COVID-19 frenzied season, Book unleashed the strings on the Irish's downfield passing attack in a win at Pittsburgh – when Book tossed for 312 yards and three touchdowns.

Book closed his Irish career with 8,948 passing yards and 1,518 rushing yards – 10,466 yards' total offense.

All that after he was billed a three-star recruit. Who heard that, at 6 feet, one-eighth of an inch tall, he was too small for big-time college football. Whose most notable offers alongside that of Notre Dame was Mike Leach's Washington State program and perpetual Group of 5 darling Boise State.

“It means everything to me,” Book said of his Notre Dame career. “Making that decision to come to Notre Dame, it's just been unbelievable. It's been everything to me. It didn't finish the way I wanted to it to.

“But I love these guys so much, this whole entire team, the entire program. I didn't know what I was getting myself into going to Notre Dame and it's just exceeded every expectation I've had. And I'm blessed. It's awesome. What an unbelievable journey. Definitely going to stay positive. And just some special guys. Met lifelong friends and unbelievable coaches. It's just been everything I've wanted it to be. Super fortunate and super grateful. We'll keep our heads high.”

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