Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, who began the season on the bench, only to revitalize the Irish offense after taking the reins during their vintage undefeated regular season, has made the college football playoff cover of Sports Illustrated.
With just over two weeks until Book and the Fighting Irish take on Clemson in the college football playoff semifinal, Book and his teammates were doing interviews during ESPN media days when the young quarterback learned the news, according to WSBT.
“Is that real?” asked Chase Claypool after being shown the cover.
“Dang, never would’ve thought I’d see that,” Book modestly replied.
Book had proven his quality before, leading Notre Dame to a 33-10 victory over North Carolina last season when starter Brandon Wimbush was injured, then replaced an ineffective Wimbush in the Citrus Bowl clash to lead Notre Dame to a comeback victory over LSU. However, the highly touted Wimbush beat Book out for the starting quarterback job during spring practice and started the first three games for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame had won three games to open the season, including a pivotal victory over Michigan, with Wimbush at the helm. However, head coach Brian Kelly decided to take a chance that Book could again spark a sluggish offense. Despite his team’s 3-0 record, Kelly started Book in the fourth game against Wake Forest. With Book under center, the Irish offense indeed caught fire, routing the Demon Deacons 56-27. In his first start, Book completed 25 of 34 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns.
Book rewarded the faith of his coach beyond that game, enjoying a breakout season while winning the final nine games and leading Notre Dame to a 12-0 record. Book completed over 70 percent of his passes for nearly 2,500 yards and 19 touchdowns over the course of the year.
Notre Dame football posted the video of Book receiving the news that he was a Sports Illustrated cover boy:
The road has been long for Book, who is a junior this season. In a time when college football players limited to backup roles are transferring schools at a rate never before seen, Book stayed at Notre Dame and battled for the position. Following his freshman season, Kelly was concerned about his quarterback depth behind Wimbush as none of his backups had any experience or been tested under pressure.
Book asserted himself in spring practice, beating out Montgomery Vangorder for the backup job while showing a command of the offense and poise that belied his inexperience, according to AJC. In the spring game, Book completed 17 of 22 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown. That was followed by solid performances against North Carolina and LSU before Book finally got his chance and took full advantage this year.