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Notre Dame quarterback Andrew Hendrix drops back to pass during a drill at practice Saturday, August 17, 2013. (Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)

Notre Dame quarterback Andrew Hendrix (12) stands with other quarterbacks as they prepare for the next drill at practice Saturday, August 17, 2013. (Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)
Leaving ND was ‘never an option’ for quarterback Hendrix
Posted on Aug. 18, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Aug. 18, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.

NOTRE DAME — There’s no one on the current Notre Dame roster who has ascended into the spotlight and fallen back into obscurity faster than Andrew Hendrix.

As a sophomore, the quarterback drew eyes and hearts away from a struggling Tommy Rees during the stretch of mediocrity in 2011. Hendrix’s quickness excelled in option packages against Air Force, and he led the Irish on an exciting but unsuccessful rally against Stanford.

But it was Everett Golson, not Hendrix, whose number was called after Rees’ suspension last August. Golson was an instant rising star, Rees would return to the lineup as a stalwart veteran and the oft-hyped Gunner Kiel waited in the wings.

Hendrix fell off the radar, appearing in just three games in 2012 and completing five of seven passing attempts for 71 yards.

Six months later, Golson has been expelled from Notre Dame for the fall semester, Kiel decided to play out his college career at Cincinnati and Hendrix finds himself an unexpected No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart.

Through it all, the senior never once considered leaving. In fact, he wants to come back for a fifth year if he’s invited, according to WNDU.

“You would probably have to be out of your mind to leave here, in all honesty,” Hendrix said. “At all times, you’re a number of plays away from being the guy on the field. If you have confidence in yourself, then it’s not hard to stay here. Plus, the school is unbelievable, the people are unbelievable, this organization’s great. It really was never an option in my mind.”

Since leaving was never a possibility, Hendrix threw himself into refining his game. Head coach Brian Kelly said Hendrix isn’t the “prototypical gym rat” since the Cincinnati native didn’t grow up with the game like Rees did.

But Hendrix is smart. Pre-med smart.

He’s taking 16 credit hours this semester, filling his schedule with classes like anatomy and physiology, biochemistry and embryology. He’s realized over the past two years that quarterbacking is an entirely different field of study.

“There’s been a learning curve and I think I’m on top of that curve at this point,” he said. “I’m reading things well. I’m understanding what it takes to be a quarterback. You can’t just fire balls left and right. (Being) the quarterback is an art. It’s not rules, rules, rules like a chemistry test.”

Hendrix said the biggest different between him and Rees is that the latter can read the defense and adapt quicker. Hendrix admits he’s a step behind and struggled to translate what he saw in the film room to what he did on the practice field.

Entering his fourth year in the Notre Dame football program, Hendrix is on his way to becoming as reliable of a No. 2 for Rees this season as Rees was for Golson in 2012.

“He’s become so much more understanding of the game itself,” Kelly said of Hendrix. “He can recognize things so much easier when you’re talking about different looks and understanding the concepts. It’s just film study and watching film and being in the film room and all those things that go with it. It’s just come a little bit later for him but it’s coming.”

Kelly realizes last year probably wasn’t easy for Hendrix. But the senior’s attitude last season and his willingness to help out wherever he could spoke volumes about his character.

“Whatever role he was asked, he was really a team guy,” Kelly said. “I don’t know that he really enjoyed it, but he’s such a great kid and a great teammate that he did whatever was necessary. I’m sure he went home at night and was like, ‘This stinks.’ Nobody really likes that, but he accepted his role and that’s why he’s such a great kid.”

He won’t just be in a flashy speciality package this year. That, he said, is no longer good enough for his new role on the offense.

“I think the most important thing is that I learn how to run our offense in its entirety because right now I’m one play away from running everything,” he said. “You can’t run read option all game.”

Last year, Rees bailed Golson out of tight games against Purdue, Michigan and Stanford and even played in place of an injured Golson against BYU.

This year, it could be Hendrix’s turn, and he knows to be ready.

“One play Tom’s helmet comes off or he gets injured, and you’re the guy,” Hendrix said. “And the team needs to not just function but excel with you at the helm.”