Nov. 18, 2005
By Katie Stuhldreher
Sometimes Brady Quinn seems larger than life. The junior Irish signal caller is touted to become the next Notre Dame Football legend, sharing the company of revered heroes such as Joe Montana, Tim Brown, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, and Knute Rockne. Every sports commentator, coach, and football fanatic in the country is intently focused on Quinn’s Heisman bid as he shatters one passing record after another.
That’s all well and good in Quinn’s mind. But, he’s more focused on his next finance exam than all the national hype. You know, the stuff that college kids should be focused on.
“I don’t know, I guess I don’t really read the sports section a lot or read the internet a lot,” says Quinn. “I don’t even really watch TV that much unless I’m watching film or have to for a class. So, it’s not that big of a deal I guess. I mean I guess it’s supposed to be weird seeing yourself on TV or something, but I don’t know. I just try to be a normal college student. You know, go to class and have as much fun as you can.”
One look around his dorm room and one can tell that Quinn is more humble than one might expect after watching him complete 31 of 42 passes for 467 yards and a school record six touchdown passes against Brigham Young.
Nothing spectacular or grand — just school books and other things one might expect. Well, except for that bright red USC baseball cap that he likes to keep around.
Dave Slates, Quinn’s uncle and a former offensive lineman at Brown, gave him the hat as a motivational tool to remind the Notre Dame co-captain that every day someone else is training hard to try to be better than him.
Says Quinn, “The whole hat thing is just something that my uncle gave me. Sometimes you just get caught up and try to live a normal college life and people forget about the gifts that God has given them and they forget that someone’s always out there getting better every day. You just have to be sure that you’re always doing your part to beat them.”
And no one will question that Quinn has been doing his fair share this season, joining Texas quarterback Vince Young as the only other player to win two Cingular/ABC Sports All-America National Player of the Week awards in 2005.
Again, Quinn kept things simple. “I just want to win out. Obviously at this point in the season, you just really want to win every game that you can,” he says.
Yet, Quinn always has approached his football career one step at a time. While attending middle school in Dublin, Ohio, he used to visit the campus on football weekends with his friend and current teammate, Chinedum Ndukwe, who had an older brother attending Notre Dame at the time.
“I loved coming up here and watching the games, seeing the place. But I wasn’t really thinking about where I am now or even going here at all. Then, it was just more of a fun sleepover for me,” says Quinn.
After Quinn completed 143 of 258 passes for 2,149 yards and 25 touchdowns in his senior year at Dublin Coffman High School, earning Division I all-state honors and a 20th place ranking on ESPN’s list of top 100 players in the nation, Notre Dame became more than just a place for fun weekend road trips for Quinn.
“I really liked the overall feeling I had when I came and visited here. It seemed like a good fit for me when I was looking for somewhere to play football,” says the Irish quarterback.
Good fit was perhaps an understatement. Quinn received a baptism by fire as he was expected to step up for struggling quarterback Carlyle Holiday in only his fourth game as a true freshman. He played in all 12 games, starting nine, and set the Notre Dame freshman records for pass completions, attempts, and yards. In addition, his nine touchdown completions left him just shy of that freshman record. Quinn completed 157 of 332 passes for 1,831 yards, setting a single season record for pass attempts.
“I think the hardest part of that season was just the speed of the game. Things are a lot faster, more intricate and detailed from high school,” says Quinn.
As a sophomore, the records continued to fall. Quinn racked up the most impressive statistical sophomore season of any quarterback to ever don the Irish blue and gold. He started every game and complete 191 of 353 pass attempts for 2,586 yards, 17 touchdown passes, and three rushing touchdowns. He also tied a Notre Dame record when he recorded a then career-high four touchdown passes against Washington.
It was after the ’04 season that Quinn recognized how much he had matured.
“I was just handling myself on and off the field better. I used to get too excited during game, too emotional, and that affected how I played. I think I’m a little calmer and more relaxed out there now,” says Quinn.
As a junior, Quinn continues to make a name for himself, as he and new Irish head coach Charlie Weis combine to produce one of the most formidable offensive duos in college football. “Most quarterbacks I’ve ever been around did not want to have a lot in their hands; they wanted you to just call the play and let’s run it. Whereas there are other quarterbacks that are like sponges that just want more to do and you can count on them. He’s one of those guys that is always there saying, `Give me more to do.’ So until he proves me wrong, I’m going to keep on giving him more to do,” Weis said of his quarterback this season. Quinn also said that the new Weis mentality has brought him to the pinnacle of his career.
“I think his biggest impact has been the attitude that he thinks we need to have. The biggest thing to help me was teaching me to have a short-term memory. You know, forgetting the last play and moving on to the next one. There’s nothing you can do to change the past or the last play or whatever it may be,” says Quinn.
Every Friday night before game days, Quinn meets with Weis one-on-one in order to establish a good coach-player relationship.
“Sometimes we talk about football and sometimes we just talk about other things. He just wants to see how I’m feeling as the quarterback and where I’m at. It’s kinda funny because that’s the only time I can see him more laid-back and not serious and getting on your case for something,” says Quinn.
Weis is not the only person who expects Quinn to be a team leader. As the quarterback and team leader, Quinn plays a big role in helping the younger players to adjust to the pace of college football as well as keeping the veterans motivated and focused.
“I think the biggest thing is just doing the right thing all the time,” says Quinn.
“Obviously we’re blessed enough to play here and go to school here at Notre Dame. So I think the big thing is just doing the right thing all the time. I try to be as strong of a Christian as I possibly can. I try to lead the kind of a lifestyle that sets an example for kids or other players on the team or whoever it may be.”
In fact, his Christian faith plays a significant role in his football career. During his freshman year, Quinn always signed his autograph with one of his favorite Bible verses: “I can do all things through God who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Before each game, he reads the Bible for inspiration.
He explains, “Obviously, I think sports and religion have a lot of things that carry over. You can read different parts of the Bible and definitely use them towards sports and motivation. That’s why I read the Bible before games every week. I try to read the Bible as much as I can. There’s a reason why we’re playing the sport that we are. God gave us these gifts. So I try to look to Him for faith and inspiration.”
Quinn will return next season in 2006 with ownership of every Notre Dame passing record.
Quinn also looks to his family for support and motivation. He cited his father, Ty, and his uncle as his role models. He even adheres to childhood traditions that they taught him.
“About twenty minutes before each game, I usually take about a tablespoon of honey just to get ready as kind of a tradition,” says Quinn.
“I’ve actually done that since like third grade. My dad kind of got me into it — my dad and my uncle talked me into it. They said it would give me a quick jolt of energy. Obviously honey doesn’t taste that great straight-up. When I was a kid it used to always make me gag afterwards.”
In addition, Quinn writes the initials of family members and loved ones who are battling cancer on the wristband that he wears on game days as a sign of love and support.
“My grandparents passed away from cancer, so it’s something that’s really affected me. I have the initials of an old coach and a cousin who are battling cancer now,” says Quinn.
Quinn’s motivation and leadership do not end with the final minutes of the fourth quarter on game day. He pursues his studies in the Mendoza College of Business with the same diligence he puts forth on the field. Quinn recently added a second major, political science, to his demanding schedule.
“Basically I want to try to enter law school when I’m done,” he says.
“I don’t know when that’ll be, depending on how football goes. I’m double majoring in finance and political science and I think that you have to take school seriously. I mean, you’re always one play away from being done. And even if you do make it, you can only play for so long. You can’t play forever. So you have to find something else to do.”
Quinn hopes that the NFL is in his future when he is done playing at Notre Dame, but he still plans on pursuing his career goals as well.
“I’d love to go into the NFL. It would be stupid to wait three years, but I’d like to go to law school afterwards, or even while I’m playing in the off seasons. Players have done that before,” says Quinn.
When asked how he would like to be remembered after he leaves Notre Dame, Quinn replies, “I guess just that I have a love for the game and that I’m a good football player and a good person — something to that degree.”
For Quinn graduation is still a long way off. In fact, he said he doesn’t even want to focus on bowl games or Heisman trophies right now. At this point, there is only one thing on Quinn’s mind.
“I don’t really pay attention to all that Heisman stuff to be honest. That stuff is for the end of the year. Right now all I’m focused on is this Saturday,” says Quinn.
Although one day Quinn will be remembered as one of Notre Dame’s most successful quarterbacks, for now he’s just happy to be a regular college athlete pursuing a degree and playing the game he loves.