NFL Draft: UNC’s Quinn lands on his feet in St. Louis
By R.B. Fallstrom
ST. LOUIS ó James Quinn recalled with amusement the time when his young son, Robert, pined for a career as a professional skateboarder. NFL aspirations came later.
ěFor real, thatís what he talked about. ëDad, Iím going to be a professional skateboarder,íî James Quinn said Friday. ěI said ëOK, Iíve got you.í I had his back.î
After his 6-foot-5, 265-pound son raise a No. 1 jersey at his introductory news conference Friday with the St. Louis Rams, both parents noted with pride that Robert eventually made the right call. In sports and in life.
The former North Carolina defensive end was the 14th overall pick on Thursday despite playing only two seasons in college and despite the circumstances of his early departure. The 20-year-old Quinn was declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA last fall for receiving improper benefits, including jewelry and travel accommodations.
Quinn started both seasons in college and had 11 sacks and six forced fumbles his sophomore season. He was considered one of the top pass rush prospects even without a junior season, but no doubt dropped several slots.
Both of Quinnís parents said their son learned the hard way to do a better job of picking the company he kept. Maria Quinn called Robert ěmy big teddy bear.î
ěHe learned not to hang with the wrong crowd,î Maria Quinn said. ěHe was hanging with the wrong crowd and not listening. But he learned, trust me.î
Robert Quinn showed growth declining an invitation to New York for the draft and stayed home to celebrate with family and friends. A large crowd gathered at a local restaurant to wait for the pick.
ěI had, I donít know, 150 or so people with me,î Quinn said. ěHearing my name called, hearing them cheering, it was definitely worth it.î
Defensive end is a strength for the Rams, with James Hall getting 10.5 sacks last season and Chris Long adding 8.5 in a breakout season at left end. Robert Quinn played exclusively right end in college and figures to be the heir apparent to the 34-year-old Hall.
General manager Billy Devaney said of the small group of players the Rams had to choose from, Quinn had by far the highest grade. The Rams also were impressed during Quinnís visit to St. Louis a few weeks ago.
When Quinn checked his cell phone Friday morning, there were welcoming text messages from Long, quarterback Sam Bradford and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, and he met with Hall Friday afternoon. Coach Steve Spagnuolo made the telephone call to inform Quinn he was a Ram.
ěI just put a smile on my face. There was a whole bunch of tears of joy,î Quinn said. ě
James Quinn ran the high hurdles in the 1984 Olympic Trials for Baptist College. He gave up on an NFL career when he broke an ankle in high school.
ěIt was one of my dadís old childhood dreams to play in the pros, so I guess he gets to live it through me now,î Quinn said. ěIím hoping I can keep that smile on his face.î