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Ian Book makes first career start: Meet Saints' rookie QB who will face Dolphins on 'Monday Night Football'

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For the New Orleans Saints' quarterback position, it's next man up, next man up again and then next man up one more time.

Head coach Sean Payton will start a fourth quarterback of the 2021 NFL season in a Week 16 ESPN "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

First-stringer Jameis Winston, expected to succeed franchise legend and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 31. Trevor Siemian started for the next month, and Taysom Hill had started from Weeks 13-15.

Both Siemian and Hill tested positive for COVID-19 last week and are out Monday.

That leaves the Saints down to their latest option: Ian Book.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Ian Book warms up before their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Caesars Superdome.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Ian Book warms up before their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Caesars Superdome.

Who is Ian Book?

As the Saints prepared for a future without Brees, they targeted the 2021 NFL draft as an option to build depth. The opportunity presented itself in the fourth round (133rd) overall with Book still on the board.

Book was born in El Dorado Hills, California, and became a three-year starter for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in college. This will be his first NFL start. He has not yet taken a snap in regular season play.

In one preseason appearance, Book went 9-of-16 for 116 yards with one interception against the Baltimore Ravens.

Ian Book is Notre Dame's winningest QB in school history

As a three-year starter, the Fighting Irish won 30 games during Book's starts, making him the winningest quarterback in program history. He was also a two-year captain.

For his college career, Book had a 64% completion percentage and totaled 8,948 yards, 72 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

The 23-year-old was also effective in Brian Kelly's offense in the running game. A mobile type, he rushed for 17 touchdowns and 1,517 yards on 361 carries (4.2 yards per carry).

Notre Dame made the College Football Playoff twice during Book's tenure (2018, 2020 seasons) and lost in the semifinals both times.

'I'm gonna be pretty buzzed, yeah'

Hill and Siemian aren't the only Saints players on the COVID-19 list. According to ESPN, 16 of New Orleans' 53-man roster are on the list, in addition to three practice squad players and four assistants.

It will be Book's job to lead the shorthanded Saints in a game with playoff implications. Both teams enter amid their respective conferences' wild card hunts with 7-7 records and three games to play.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity. … I’m gonna be pretty buzzed, yeah.” Book said, via ESPN. “I don’t know what it’s gonna feel like. I’ve played in big games, but I think this is the biggest, obviously. This is Monday Night Football. I grew up watching prime-time football since I was a little kid. It’s a dream.

“The main thing for me is to have fun, move on to the next play, and play with speed. Don’t go out there thinking all the time, that’ll just slow my process down. I just gotta go out there and play and have fun. It’s football.”

What Tommy Rees says about Ian Book

Notre Dame offensive coordinator and former Fighting Irish QB himself Tommy Rees, who coached Book for four seasons, told the Saints' team website:

"If a guy's open, the ball is going to be on target, I know that," Rees said. "He's a very accurate kid. He's a really good athlete, he'll be able to run around, probably make some plays. There might be some opportunities for him in the run game a little bit. You're going to see a guy that goes out there and the moment's not going to seem too big for him at all.

"He got opportunities like this early in his career at Notre Dame, and I was always extremely excited for him because you saw his ability in practice and you saw the way – like, he's dang accurate and he makes the right decision repeatedly. You always wanted to see, if this is how he practices is that going to translate to a game, and it always did. I think that's going to hold true."

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who is Ian Book? Meet Saints QB making 1st start on 'MNF' vs. Dolphins