"Last year taught me that things don't always work out the way they may seem on paper. I think we had an incredibly talented team last season but were faced with all types of adversity on and off the field. If anything, it taught me to continually look out for my teammates. To make sure that I can help them with any adversities they may be facing off the field as well. We are all very blessed to play in the NFL but that doesn't mean we don't face different trials or tribulations in life."
Brady Quinn is a veteran. An NFL veteran. That might seem hard to believe right now, as you picture his fresh face waiting in the green room for his name to be called on draft day in 2007, but if he is able to make the Seahawks or another team this year, he will be entering his seventh season.
The reason that you might think of that moment on draft day when I say the name "Brady Quinn" is because really things haven't gone as he planned. The Browns took Quinn 22nd overall that year, the second quarterback taken after JaMarcus Russell, but he actually has fewer career pass attempts than Russell... a player that hasn't been in the league since 2009.
In Quinn's rookie season, he saw Derek Anderson win the starting job and make the Pro Bowl. In his second season, Anderson re-opened the door for Quinn, but Quinn was unable to take advantage. The most extensive playing time in his career came in 2009, when he started nine games for Cleveland. He threw more touchdowns (8) than interceptions (7) but otherwise the numbers weren't very good.
After the year, Quinn was dealt to the Broncos for Peyton Hillis, and he had a chance to compete for the starting job against Kyle Orton, but ultimately was named as the backup. He stayed in Denver for two seasons, but never managed to get in a game -- some guy named Tim Tebow took over for Orton in 2011.
Last year, Quinn appeared in ten games for the worst team in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs. He only managed to throw a touchdown pass in one of those ten games -- He was 19-of-23 for 201 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions in a 27-21 win over the Carolina Panthers, what would be only their second win of the season.
It was probably the most impressive game of Quinn's career, not because of the numbers, but because of the circumstances.
Just one day earlier, teammate Jovan Belcher killed himself and his girlfriend. Quinn had to be a leader that day, and he stepped up admirably both during the game and after, with an emotional postgame speech to the media:
"It was tough," Brady said. "I think it was an eerie feeling after a win because you don't think that you can win in this situation. The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people. I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently."
I never asked Quinn specifically about Belcher, but it's clear that it's never far from his mind and that relationships are just as important off of the field as they are on it; a dynamic he brings to the Seahawks after they signed him in April to compete to be Russell Wilson's backup.
"Our team must continue to look out for one another and protect players from tragedies like what happened last season in Kansas City."
At the time, it seemed like he was running unopposed to be the backup quarterback, but since then the team has signed Tarvaris Jackson. His familiarity with the offense and the coaches has given many the idea that Jackson's got the inside track on this race but that won't stop Quinn from always competing.
Having a new job and perhaps a final chance to prove himself in the league, also didn't stop him from asking the organization if they could help him out with his own project. Lucky for Quinn, the Seattle Seahawks had no problem helping him with this project. They like these kinds of projects.
My grandpa on my mothers side has always been my hero. As a child whose father wasn't around all that much when I was growing up, I was basically a "Hero Free Agent" and my grandfather instantly gained credibility with my younger self due to a glaring physical trait that made him seem like quite the badass.
You see, my grandfather was in one of the bloodiest battles during World War II: The Battle of Peleliu. He didn't last long. My mother said he described it as "You couldn't get off of the boats fast enough. The sea was red with blood." Nearly 60-percent of the estimated 3,000 members of the 1st Marines at Peleliu were killed. My grandpa was one of the lucky ones. He was shot in his right arm early in the battle and soon after he was shipped away from Peleliu; his arm was amputated shortly thereafter.
From that point on, he had to re-learn everything. He was right-handed, so now he had to learn how to write with his left. How to do normal everyday tasks with just one arm. Not to mention the fact that like most veterans, he had to learn how to cope with life after seeing the Hell of war. Would he be able to cope?
Of course. I already told you that he's an American badass.
My grandpa would also never let go of his favorite hobby: Carpentry. He built many items of furniture with only one arm. He raised five kids with one arm. And while the technology of today is much different than the technology of yesteryear, I never once saw my grandpa wear the prosthetic limb that was given to him. He was too proud for that.
All soldiers are full of pride. They're told that pride, like the pride you have in your country, is all that you need. Pride is the whole reason you're laying your life on the line. So "handouts" aren't something that veterans will accept so easily. Brady Quinn is hoping that he can help them accept it anyway.
3rd and Goal
"Their need is paramount. We are looking for people who have served in the military, typically handicapped or wheelchair-ridden. We have helped paraplegics, soldiers who have lost legs, even Vietnam veterans. Typically, that is the criteria."
Those are the words of Quinn, explaining to me what the goals are of his foundation 3rd and Goal, an organization that he founded that helps build homes and assisted-living capabilities in homes for war veterans. Quinn's father and grandfather both served in the military, and while his life path never led to the military, due to his gifts at football and a scholarship to Notre Dame, it was never far from his mind.
"It was September 11th and I was at high school at the time when it had occurred. I had wondered that if I didn't have that opportunity at Notre Dame, what would I be doing? Would I be serving in the military like my father and grandfather? Once I had the opportunity to play professionally, I wanted to give back in some way."
But it wasn't just that Quinn's father had served himself; his dad also had special skills and valuable traits that would allow this foundation to move forward.
"Soldiers were coming back with post-traumatic stress disorder, missing limbs, and being that my dad was a Vietnam veteran, he could really relate to a lot of recipients. He was also a home-builder and contractor, so he had the ability to help them rebuild their homes as well as their lives. A lot of these individuals don't want to take the help, but we felt it was easier for someone who has served as well and it's easier for them to accept it."
With Quinn's profile as a college football star and professional NFL player, combined with his fathers military history and contracting background, they could team up to finally give back and do something good for people that had fought for their country. But was the NFL doing enough to help Quinn with his fight?
At least one team has stepped up in a major way.
See Hawks Help
Quinn's playing career hasn't gone as many people had predicted it would go. He's a 6'3, 235 pound quarterback that set passing records at the most prestigious football school in the country. He finished fourth in Heisman voting as a junior, behind Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Vince Young. Perhaps he can take solace in the fact that he's still fighting for a chance to become the player he has always envisioned himself becoming, and he still has the same goals today that he did when the Browns drafted him six years ago.
"I believe everyone has their own path to accomplish the goals they set out for themselves. I still believe in my ability as a player and I work everyday to achieve those goals."
Quinn might be a high-profile backup in the NFL due to his high-profile college career, but he's still fighting for a roster spot on the 53. Nothing is guaranteed. But he won't forget that he's also here for more than just football.
I can tell you that when I start a new job, the last thing that I want to do is even risk ruffling any feathers. Within that honeymoon period, it's best to not ask for any favors or try to make any of this about "you" but there wasn't any risk of that with Quinn and the Seahawks.
That's because the team and head coach Pete Carroll have always appeared adamant that it's just as important to give back to the community around you as it is to win games. Quinn says that's more than just appearances and explains how 3rd and Goal has gotten a new boost of life from the Seahawks.
"When I first started in Denver, it was probably halfway through the year that the idea was born. The next offseason I had signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and tried to work with the team to get something started but nobody has been as helpful as the Seahawks have been. We've kept trying to find recipients in Ohio because my father is there and he can oversee the work and that fit our mold better. But once I got to Seattle and spoke with some people about the project, they were so helpful and found us recipients right away.
Our next project will be in Seattle and it will be our first renovation outside of the state of Ohio."
It can be difficult to keep foundations running. Without getting into any specifics -- you can check for yourself -- many of the foundations you'll find on NFL websites are outdated and no longer appear operational. But Carroll himself took his original idea "A Better LA" and created "A Better Seattle" after he took the job with the Hawks in 2010.
Kam Chancellor's foundation 'Kam Cares,' Richard Sherman's recent charity softball game, and Russell Wilson's, well, everything about Russell Wilson and his charitable efforts that couldn't go unnoticed even when he wants them to, are just a few examples of Seattle's efforts to help the community around them and not just collect paychecks and go home.
At a time when the NFL is seeing it's most high-profile criminal scandal make headlines on the internet, we can also remember that there are plenty of players and teams trying to do whatever it takes to give back to their fans.
Or in the case of Quinn, giving back to something that goes beyond football.
The Battle Nowhere Near Seattle
It was September, 1944.
You know that a battle is bad when the Marines name a part of the island "Bloody Nose Ridge." My grandpa was stationed on Papua New Guinea, but over on Peleliu Island, something devastating was brewing. His marine unit was shipped out to Peleliu, but that would turn out to be a terribly costly effort. It was considered to be the bloodiest battle of the South Pacific, and you know how the rest goes.
As far as we know, this was pretty much the only combat he ever saw. It was enough for a lifetime though. My grandpa said that the reason he didn't have many war stories to tell, is that you really didn't see much combat. If you saw combat in World War II, you were likely seeing it for the first and last time. Of course, that's not the case of every military unit during World War II, certainly those guys that saved Private Ryan had a devil of a time, but your time in war is still something that will impact you for the rest of your life.
Even when you go home, you aren't going home.
It's probably much different these days. Soldiers could spend years in Iraq or Afghanistan, but that doesn't mean they don't see combat. It doesn't mean that their lives aren't changed forever. Many American soldiers have returned from war without limbs, without the same ability to walk, or even without the same mental state that they had when they left.
Some would say that it's a similar fate facing many of today's football players -- Post-traumatic stress disorder. These days, the military and the NFL almost go hand-in-hand when it comes to highly-publicized suicides of veterans, as well as Belcher and Junior Seau. The truth is that we don't know yet how football and brain injuries effect people exactly, but we do know that suicide rates are higher for soldiers.
In 2005, the suicide rate for men in the U.S. was 23.19 per 100,000. It was 37.19 for veterans. The suicide rate for females was 5.65 per 100,000 and yet it was 13.59 for veteran females.
It's a scary fact of life but not a fact that has to remain a fact. Every day steps are being made to hopefully rectify these issues not only for veterans but also for football players and anyone that suffers traumatic injuries and situations. Quinn describes the naming of 3rd and Goal as being important because "3rd and Goal is a crucial moment in any football game, where it can be the difference in winning or losing" and that's the same situation for these veterans. They're facing a critical moment in their lives, and someone might be able to help them convert a potential negative into a positive.
They need help. They don't want to ask for it. We may not be able to solve PTSD today, but I know we can build a ramp. I know we can help you live more comfortably.
My grandpa didn't have these opportunities, but he had his family and his woodworking. There are likely many veterans that haven't been as lucky.
Winning on and off the field
Quinn knows that he's on a special team. Even if the last six years haven't gone as he had planned, even if his goals are still the same as they've always been, he knows that Wilson is the starter but that he could always be one play away from getting into the game for the best NFL team he's ever played with.
"My job is to help the team in whatever way possible. Being a backup, you are always trying to help prepare the starter as well as the defensive on a weekly basis. At the same time, you continue to train and prepare for your opportunity when the team calls upon you. I believe the sky is the limit on what this team will be able to accomplish this season."
But if Quinn were to lose the backup job to Jackson, it wouldn't be the end of what he's set out to accomplish in his life or what it means to be Brady Quinn. It means that he can have an impact on the community, and that's something that Pete Carroll has never been shy about supporting. For the new guy with the storied college career coming into a situation where expectations are Super Bowl-high this season, Quinn's partnership with the Seahawks and Carroll starts to make a lot of sense.
For a player that faced tragedy last season and came up with the biggest performance of his lifetime a day later, buoyed by a post-game speech that reminded people that they should listen to Quinn when he speaks, his placement on the team right now makes a lot of sense.
And that fresh face you saw waiting for his name to be called on draft day in 2007 as the guy "slipping on everyone's board" may not have reached the goals he set out for when he entered the NFL, but his career isn't over yet.
It's just at a critical moment.
For more information on how you can help 3rd and Goal or perhaps be a part of helping a Seattle recipient, you can see their website here.