SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On Oct. 20, 2007, Tyler Buchner first entered Notre Dame Stadium.
He sat with his father near the end zone that afternoon and watched USC drub the Irish 38-0. They left at the end of the third quarter, disappointed and wearied by the Trojan Marching Band’s repeated playing of “Fight On!”
There was no familial connection to Notre Dame. He instead gleaned much of his rooting interest that day from his neighbors at his family home in Wilmette.
“My whole street was a bunch of Notre Dame fans,” Buchner said.
On game days in the fall, the house across the street hung a Notre Dame flag, visible from Buchner’s childhood bedroom. In turn, by the age of 4, he donned his green No. 9 Notre Dame jersey and ran around the front yard with a football tucked under his arm.
In 2010, he and his family moved to Southern California during the middle of his first-grade school year.
With South Bend suddenly more than 2,000 miles from home, Buchner’s return trip to Notre Dame Stadium occurred more than a decade after his first when he attended an Elite Skills Camp in 2018.
By then, he’d mostly forgotten the look and feel of campus. Only this time, he left satisfied.
That day, then-quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees offered him a scholarship.
A rising high school sophomore at the time, he had yet to start a game at quarterback at Bishop’s School in San Diego, but his arm talent and 4.68-second 40-yard dash separated him from just about every quarterback in the class of 2021.
After camp, Rees walked across campus with Buchner while they bonded over their North Shore roots. Rees, a former Irish quarterback, graduated from Lake Forest High School in 2010. His father, Bill, who is Notre Dame’s director of scouting, also grew up in Wilmette.
“There was an instant connection,” Rees said. “The more time I got to spend around him, you said, ‘OK, this is the type of personality that can be the quarterback at Notre Dame.’ ”
Buchner lived in Southern California for eight years and was attracted to the opportunities afforded at in-state programs such as Stanford and USC. But his ties to the North Shore made Notre Dame a viable option.
From there, his relationship with Rees flourished. Nine months after the scholarship offer, Buchner committed to the Irish.
“Maybe it was a subconscious thing that I felt close to home here,” Buchner said. “There was that connection [with Rees] on the first day, and one of the things that brought me here was the people. Coach Rees was definitely one of those people.”
He graduated from high school a semester early and enrolled at Notre Dame in January 2021. A true freshman last fall, Buchner’s athleticism and grasp of the read-option earned him a role as an off-the-bench spark at quarterback, providing a much-needed jolt to the Irish ground attack.
In 10 appearances, he finished second on the team in rushing with 46 carries for 336 yards and three touchdowns. Buchner also completed 21 of 35 passes for 298 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
In 2022, he entered fall camp as the -presumptive favorite to win the starting quarterback job. On Aug. 13, Notre Dame declared Tyler Buchner “QB1” with a 41-second video montage posted on Twitter.
“A lot of the confidence we have in him as a staff started last year,” said Rees, now Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator, “and it’s continued to build through the last nine months.”
On Sept. 3, Buchner will make his first -career start on the road as No. 5 Notre Dame faces No. 2 Ohio State. Ohio Stadium has a 104,000-crowd capacity.
There’s also a 228-member marching band, one of the few to rival USC’s — perhaps a motivational call back to Buchner’s first Irish experience.
“I’m sure it will be extremely loud,” Buchner said. “I’ll just continue to get better and continue to execute and focus on football. The fans in the stadium and all that, I’ll try not to think about that.”