Brady Quinn still trying to find traction in the NFL

BOB WIENEKE
South Bend Tribune

Seven seasons have passed since Brady Quinn last played at Notre Dame, and two unchecked items — winning a national championship and adding to the school’s Heisman Trophy haul — along with his continued pursuit of gaining solid footing in the NFL, have stopped him from sitting back and reflecting on the panoramic view of his ND career.

Those matters aside, Quinn points with pride to the state-of-the-program shift that occurred during his career — starting with a 5-7 freshman campaign and ending with back-to-back BCS bowl appearances.

“I think if I’m proud of one thing it’s the fact that we left Notre Dame off in a better place than when we got there. And that’s kind of that life lesson that your parents teach you — leave something better than how you found it,” Quinn said earlier this week from Dallas, where he was working at a football camp. “I guess that’s one thing that I am proud of, but I haven’t had much of an opportunity to look back only because I’ve been kind of busy trying to make my career and make it happen in the NFL. So I think until that day is long and far behind me I’ll continue to focus on what I’m doing each day and what I’m doing at each point in time in my life.”

This point in Quinn’s life has been a busy one. The former first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns spent last season with the New York Jets and St. Louis, had back surgery in November and hopes to land with a team before camps open later this month.

In March he married former Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone, and part of his offseason was spent trying his hand at broadcasting.

As full as his plate has been, a high priority for Quinn remains his work with the 3rd & Goal Foundation, which assists veterans who face homelessness or require home improvements to make living more comfortable. Quinn’s father is a former Marine who has built and remodeled homes, and in 2010 they came up with the idea of helping veterans who had been injured.

“One of the biggest downs in football is third-and-goal because a lot of times it’s the difference between a touchdown and seven points versus a field goal and three, and a lot of times those four points can make the difference between you winning and losing the game,” Quinn said.

“So, we felt like that was a fitting name for such a pivotal moment in these soldiers’ careers, when they come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. ... We feel like it’s a pivotal moment and a big play for us to go in and help remodel the home and make it more comfortable and fitting for their lifestyle.”

Success stories have included building ramps for a veteran who had to have both legs amputated because of an explosion, and installing new floors and lights for a veteran who lost an arm.

“It’s a good organization, something that I’m proud of,” said Quinn, whose longterm goal is to localize 3rd & Goal foundations in each NFL city.

Which NFL city Quinn next finds himself in next is the big unanswered question in his life. After spending three seasons with the Browns, Quinn was traded to Denver and spent two years there before landing in Kansas City for a year then splitting time in St. Louis and New York last season.

A couple of teams showed offseason interest, but Quinn wasn’t fully recovered from the back surgery he had around Thanksgiving.

“I’m feeling pretty good from a rehab standpoint, so I’m just now getting into hopefully having the opportunity to pass a physical and work out for a team,” Quinn said. “Now, I’m just kind of waiting for that opportunity hopefully before camp to be able to go in and compete and hopefully have an opportunity again to play.”

During the offseason, Quinn has had the chance to do TV and radio work and see if it’s something he’d like to pursue once his playing days are over.

“Right now I’m just kind of testing it out. I think it’s something that it allows you to again still be around the game of football, talk about the game of football, watch film on football and have to keep up with all that,” Quinn said. “It kind of immerses you in that meeting room without necessarily being in that meeting room.

“It’s been a fun opportunity, to be honest. It’s been a ton of fun to try to help inform and educate people about the game of football through the experiences that I’ve had ... and try to communicate to those viewers what exactly a player is thinking or what is taking place and how things actually work.”

What Quinn will be doing next season remains unknown. Stability, however, is something he’d like to find.

“Obviously, there’s been a ton of change, and with any change it’s hard to grab any traction. I think if I’d had the opportunity to be in a system for a while and be in one place for a while it’d be nice,” he said. “It’s hard — when you’re constantly moving around, constantly learning new systems, constantly adjusting to personnel — to have a lot of success. I think, if you look at your most successful quarterbacks, they have had the opportunity to grow, they’ve had the opportunity to learn, they’ve had the opportunity really to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

“So it’s tough when you don’t have that opportunity to learn from mistakes. It’s tough when you don’t have that opportunity to develop a rapport with your wide receivers or even a relationship with your coaching staff so that they understand the kind of person that you are. Hopefully, I can find that opportunity out there with a team or an organization that will give me the chance to continue to help benefit them, help continue to get better as a player and help their team win.”

Quinn also had thoughts on a number of topics, ranging from his alma mater to the off-field exploits of quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Browns’ current hope of the future.

On the state of the ND program under fifth-year coach Brian Kelly: “He’s done a tremendous job. You’ve seen the success they’ve continued to have year in and year out, even last year. It was a pretty successful season not having your starting quarterback back. I’m really excited about them coming into this upcoming season now that Everett (Golson is) coming back. Hopefully he’s had some time to continue to mature and grow and even get bigger and stronger.”

On Notre Dame Stadium switching from natural grass to FieldTurf: “I’m always a fan of natural grass. It’s proven that there are less injuries on natural grass. I understand if they feel that the playing surface was affecting their style of play or what they were doing — I get it from that standpoint. But again, if you ask players, I think they always like a nice, grass field compared to anything else, and I wish they would have maybe tried at least one more year or two more years to make the grass work.”

On Manziel’s extra-curricular activities: “I have no problem with him going out and having fun in his free time. I really don’t see a big issue with some of the things he’s done. I think the only thing I have a little bit of a problem with is he’s on camera, saying a profane word and holding up a stack of cash next to his ear.

“In my opinion, I come from humble backgrounds and my parents would never be appreciative or respectful of me acting like that because we didn’t have a stack of cash lying around like that and I was taught better than to say a bunch of cuss words or say profane things out in public, especially given the chance that there are kids who could be listening or watching it.

“I was always mindful of how I acted or how I conducted myself, especially in a public setting. I think, if he wants to have fun, he needs to do it but not try to attract so much attention. And if you’re going to make a mistake try to make it so not as many people see, not so that everyone sees.”

On his close relationship with former Irish coach Charlie Weis: “Hannah and Friends (Weis’ charitable organization) is a tremendous charity, and the work they do in the community is just really second to none. And they’ve done a great job of bringing awareness to children with special needs, and they’ve obviously provided a solution to a problem.

“I try my best to do all I can to help out with all that, and they’ve done an amazing job to continue to build the community where Hannah and Friends is at. Coach Weis is out in Kansas now, but I still continue to support him and keep in touch with him.”

On how college quarterbacks have changed since he played: “It’s tough because you see the spread game and much more shotgun sets, which kind of takes away from some of the elements of professional football — some of the downhill running game, some of the stuff I was accustomed to watching growing up, and elements of that, where quarterbacks had his hands under center and he’s directing everything and so forth.

“Now it’s tough when you watch a game and the players are looking to the sidelines to have the coaches call the plays and all that. I personally loved the opportunities to be able to check a play and audible and go into an alert system or change the route or change the protection. That’s the fun of playing the game. It’s tough to watch sometimes and see how much the coaches have control over what theses guys are doing sometimes.”

BWieneke@SBTinfo.com ¦ 574-235-6428 ¦Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

 Brady Quinn listens to a question after New York Jets football practice in Florham Park, N.J., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013.