Quinn, a 2008 Liberty High alumnus, was pressed into starting duty recently for the University of Arizona football team during the Alamo Bowl. The redshirt sophomore center made his first career start against No. 14 Oklahoma State, taking over for four-year starter Colin Baxter, who missed the game due to knee surgery.
Quinn, who previously had played only on special teams, said it started to feel real when the team made its first walkthrough practice at the Alamo Dome.
“It was really exciting just to be able to run out on the field in a dome – the Alamo Dome’s a 65,000 seat facility,” Quinn said. “You can’t simulate a game experience in practice. There’s just nothing like seeing the guy in a different colored jersey and going and hitting him as hard as you can.”
Though the end result wasn’t great for the Wildcats, who lost 36-10 to the Cowboys, Quinn said it was a valuable learning experience.
Quinn replaced Baxter, who is regarded as one of the toughest offensive linemen in Arizona history. Playing with a torn ligament in one of his knees, Baxter decided to consider his possible NFL future and undergo surgery now so he’ll be healthy when next fall rolls around. Quinn said Baxter and quarterback Nick Foles were his two biggest supporters as he made his first start.
“That just made the transition much smoother, having them there,” Quinn said. “Over the past month, (Baxter) has taught me everything he knows all over again, just to make sure I was prepared as I could be for that game.”
His former head coach at Liberty, Nate Smith, watched the game on TV and was impressed. Smith, who called Quinn before the game to wish him luck, said that the lineman showed the ability to compete with some of the country’s top players.
Smith said Quinn showed a good first step out of the shotgun and used great leverage, but there are still some things he can work on in his next two year at Arizona.
“I think he probably came away with some positives to build on,” Smith said, “and also with some areas where he could really challenge himself in the offseason.”
Quinn wasn’t the only local alum to play in a bowl game. Freedom grad John Henderson made five tackles and registered a sack for Southern Mississippi in the Beef ’O’ Brady’s Bowl.