SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Scenes from the life of the Heisman favorite ...
Or rather scenes carefully scripted by Charlie Weis for a select group of national writers invited here this week. The purpose: to unveil the new, improved Brady Quinn for 2006.
|Brady Quinn brings game and glamour back to Notre Dame's QB position. (Getty Images)|
We got a glimpse of the Notre Dame superstar athlete in full bloom. Things might never be this laid back again for him -- or us --- again.
The perfect storm of looks, arm and national program will draw increasingly pushy media hordes in the months to come.
The intent was to control the message. Weis is very, very good at that. Being a Heisman guy is different here. You'll have to take our word for it. Amazingly (or maybe not), a Notre Dame player hasn't won the award since 1987. An Irish quarterback hasn't won it since 1964 (John Huarte).
It's been so long between Stiff Arms that Notre Dame Nation, already lathered up by the Weis Resurrection, is going to need Bounty to sop up the drool over this kid.
Statistically, Quinn already is the best quarterback ever here. Better than Montana, Theismann, Hanratty, Clements, all of them. It's not even close.
Let the geeks recite the stats. This is why we came: Quinn is the embodiment of Notre Dame. Classy, crisp, cool -- with an NFL-ready arm. He even has his own commercial (see below).
Weis waved his wand in 2005, turning an uncertain, unaccomplished wannabe into his Next Brady. The Irish will open the season No. 1 in some preseason polls. That might be a little too optimistic, but the fact that it's being contemplated is the point.
|Monday: The candidates|
|Tuesday: They wouldn't take it away, would they?|
|Thursday: The favorite|
|Friday: The challenger|
Quinn is the face of the program. The anti-Powlus who is actually delivering on his promise. It's a handsome face, full of a humble charisma. For reasons different from those of Charles Barkley, Quinn cringes when he hears "role model."
"I don't think of myself as that," he said. "I'm just a slappy, as coach would say."
Kids, please don't ask your parents what a slappy is. Just know that Quinn has an edge, too. He's 21 now and has admitted to having the occasional beer.
Beer? At Notre Dame? Imagine that.
He took his longtime girlfriend -- aptly named Lindy Slinger -- to the Cayman Islands for spring break.
What did The First Couple of Football do? Toss footballs on the beach? Pretty close. Pay $70 each for a week-long World Gym membership so they could work out each day.
"Her hands are a little suspect," Quinn said of Lindy, who plays soccer at Miami (Ohio).
He's America's Quarterback for America's Team. But does he really need this kind of attention in May? As he is quickly finding out, Quinn doesn't have a choice.
The interview session was an appetizer, a tease. A coach, a team, a girlfriend, millions of fans and the Downtown Athletic Club await the ride with Quinn -- a slappy no longer.
The Brady Quinn direct-to-video DVD
Stay in your shoes, Domers, you can't buy it. You probably won't ever see it. But this select national writer has a copy.
Don't worry, this is not badjocks.com material. Quinn is an accomplished actor. We know this because he received high praise for his role in a commercial produced for the Oscars.
Rather, Notre Dame's Oscars.
Really, it's the O.S.C.A.R.S. -- Outstanding Students Celebrating Achievement & Recognition Showcase -- an end-of-the-year banquet salute to ND's athletes.
At this year's shindig earlier this month, there were skits, a comedian, music, etc. Quinn, though, starred as himself in a slick faux MasterCard ad shown on a big screen.
"How did you find out about that?" Quinn asked.
Dude, c'mon. There's a reason one becomes part of a select media group.
Scene 1: Quinn, jamming with his iPod, is pouring over his playbook muttering, "34 Hip, Wide I, U Waggle Right," over and over.
Voiceover: Yellow highlighter, $1.29; iPod nano, $149
Scene 2: Cut to Quinn lip synching The Black-Eyed Peas' My Humps while primping for a party.
Voiceover: red plastic party cup, 79 cents
Scene 3: Cut to Quinn putting the moves on a random coed at the party, using his best pickup line. Yes, it's 34 Hip, Wide I, U Waggle Right.
Cut to distressed party girl, turned off by Brady's semi-suggestive babble. She empties the contents of her red plastic party cup on Heisman Boy's head.
Voiceover: Dumping your drink over Brady Quinn's head?
There are some things about being a football player you just can't teach. For everything else, there's Charlie Weis.
For a school with its own network and an endowment big enough to purchase Indianapolis, Quinn's candidacy will handle itself. But consider that the kickoff.
The autograph thing
Weis is a veteran coach with all the answers. Really. This is what veteran coaches with all the answers tell their superstars:
Always personalize your autograph. That way, a football signed today doesn't show up on eBay tomorrow. There's not much market for balls signed, "To, Shecky. Best wishes, Brady Quinn."
Still, it's getting a little ridiculous. When Quinn moved out of his dorm (he lives off campus now), he found the hall littered with 50-60 footballs awaiting his signature. Admirers will e-mail him with an autograph request, drop off the ball and pick it up later.
"There's actually an incident with a group of people," Quinn said. "When you carry 10 helmets around in two arms and you're not asking to make it out to anyone, you're probably putting it on eBay.
"This group of people came to the dorms in the fall. I was a little upset. They proceeded to ask for autographs. I said no because I told them earlier in the day. I don't come to their house and bother them where they live.
"It's pathetic they would try to make a living out of you."
It's not only autograph seekers, Quinn feels the eyes, hears the whispers as he matriculates through campus.
"It's tough finding spots to study," he said. "The library is a good spot if you can find a place to hide away. People are seeing you walk in, (know) what floor you're on. They would come up with requests or something while you're studying. It never seemed to end."
Reminded that Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush needed security last year on campus to keep autograph seekers away, Quinn broke up the room.
"We're a Catholic university, so we'd probably get a priest or something," he said. "I don't think we're to that point yet but ..."
The Pasty Gangster
The annual Notre Dame Bookstore Basketball Tournament bills itself as "largest 5-on-5 outdoor tournament in the world."
Guess whose intramural team is undefeated? Quinn's quintet: You Got A Bad Draw.
"Sounds kind of cocky and arrogant," the quarterback said, smiling. "That spread to other teams making fun of us."
Like the less-intimidating "I Guess I Got a Bad Draw."
Notre Dame athletes -- the rest of would call them ringers -- are intentionally limited on each roster. Quinn's teammates this year included teammates Chinedum Ndukwe, Dan Stephenson and walk-on David Fitzgerald.
"They all avidly root against them," Weis said. "I'm talking hundreds and eventually thousands (of fans), they all go out to root against the football players."
Wait, isn't football the heart and soul of this university?
"It's not like they're really against them," Weis added. "(Brady's team) won 21-1 and the (fans) went bananas. The article the next day was about the one basket."
About that undefeated thing, there is some controversy. YGABD apparently had to forfeit last year because it didn't show up for a game. It snowed that day. Who would show up?
The opponent, as Quinn tells it, apparently scraped together a team and showed up in the snow to earn the TKO.
An appeal is pending.
Forget a lot of what you believe about Notre Dame quarterbacks.
Here's part of the reason Quinn is so great: The school's quarterback legacy hasn't been lately.
Huarte was the last Irish quarterback to win the Heisman in 1964.
The last first-team AP All-American at the position was Joe Theismann in 1970.
That's more than what can be said for Joe Montana, who is ineligible for the South Bend-based College Football Hall of Fame because he was never a first-teamer.
In shattering the single-season passing record last year (by almost 1,200 yards), Quinn passed the immortal Jarious Jackson.
He also passed Ron Powlus in career touchdown passes (58 and counting). You know, the same Ron Powlus who fell two Heismans short of winning two Heismans.
Part of Quinn setting most of the school's passing records during his junior season is a product of Gerry Faust and a lot of option football run by Bob Davie and Lou Holtz.
A lot of it is sheer excellence. By the time he's done, Quinn should have more than 11,000 passing yards and close to 90 touchdown passes. Ten years ago, the school records in those categories were 6,527 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Describe sheer excellence
Shortly after he arrived, Weis told his quarterback he'd always be a 50 percent passer. It was a rather public outing since it appeared accompanied by the word "friggin'" in a national magazine.
"That simple comment was to get him to throw check downs," Weis said. "He didn't have to throw the ball 50 yards down the field every play. By taking pot shots at him, you have to find some way to make him get it. That comment was the one that, for him, got him to start dumping the ball off."
It was actually more than that. A 50.8 percent passer to that point in his career, Quinn completed 65 percent of his passes last season, setting another school record.
But what's his favorite color?
There's getting to be a Teen Beat magazine vibe to his life.
If you must know, Quinn hasn't had a soda in years. It's part of his strict, health-conscious diet.
Breakfast: five egg whites, oatmeal, whole grain toast.
Lunch: baked chips, turkey sandwich, apple.
Dinner: Chicken, fish, maybe beef; veggies and pasta.
FYI, Brady's turn-ons include sunrises and freshly cut grass. His turnoffs include rude people and Ohio State's defense.
OK, maybe not. We're not sure why anyone cares about this stuff except that we're treading dangerously into Entertainment Tonight territory.
Weis has gotten Notre Dame to lower its academic standards
Maybe, but not for his quarterback. Quinn has a double major in finance and political science. His course load includes Security Analysis, Management of Financial Institutions and Advanced Corporate Finance.
Then there is Politics of Tropical Africa, Religion and Politics in South Africa. You still with us?
"You can't always spend the amount of time you want to on a particular course," Quinn said.
Yeah, it's borderline academic fraud, all right. Brady says his GPA is slightly below 3.00. Amazing, considering who he is and what he wants to do with that class (over)load, which is get his law degree. Seriously. Even if it's 10-15 years down the line after an NFL career.
Along with all that, Quinn actually has a job, working part time in the school's Office of News and Information. You're probably thinking the same thing. Quinn could orchestrate his own Heisman campaign.
But he won't.
The end of the beginning
This is how we'll leave him: The product of Columbus, Ohio, who didn't become a Buckeye. Tyrone Willingham's recruit who didn't become a star. Suddenly, a high NFL draft choice who wisely didn't become that either. By choice. Not yet.
"I'm not going to be able to get his coaching in the NFL," Quinn said, explaining his decision to stay for his senior season.
If you looked real hard to the back of the room, the script deviated. The kibitzer was smiling.
Dennis Dodd is the winner of the All-American Football Foundation's Fred Russell Outstanding Sportswriter Award.