Aug. 8, 2013
By: Betsy Devine
When you first look at Woody Quinn you would expect to find him on a beach in California surfing or playing volleyball.
That's because the stocky, 6'6", Dana Point, Calif. native Quinn can be seen daily walking around in one pair of colorful bathing suit shorts or another on the Tennessee campus.
It's his trademark of sorts.
Quinn, who first attended college on a volleyball scholarship to Pepperdine, and who played high school volleyball under the direction of hall of famer Karch Kiraly, made the transition to football last year after a five-year hiatus.
His first experience at Tennessee has been eye opening to say the least.
"I wouldn't say it's overwhelming," said Quinn. "But, I didn't realize how raw I was in junior college ball and I definitely know that's been motivating me, because I think that my potential is super high and I believe I can achieve what I set my mind to."
"The learning curve has been a lot [here]," said Quinn. "But that has been good for me. I just have to not pick a thousand things every day to get better on; although I try to attack everything I do with the team, but try to improve on one or two things every day."
Quinn comes to Tennessee from Santa Ana College in California, where he spent the 2012 season making 15 catches for 252 yards and a TD while maintaining a 3.79 GPA in his return to football.
The reason for his arrival on Rocky Top?
"Well, we liked his film right from the get-go, for a number of reasons," said tight ends coach Mark Elder. "We liked his size and his frame. We liked him as a blocker. We thought he was a good receiver, solid athlete. So he fit a lot of the things we were looking for, as far as size, speed, parameters."
"Then you realize, boy he hasn't even been doing this very long, and you get even a little bit more excited about that saying, `Okay, I know it's going to be a learning curve for him, but at the same time, as he gets it he's going to have a higher ceiling because of the fact he is not maxed out.' It's not like he has been taking these reps for ten years and that he is what he is. That was an encouraging piece that we liked about him as well."
After nearly a week of practice, both Quinn and his coaches know that he has a lot he can still improve on.
"I'm really raw," said Quinn. "Coach [Jones] is preaching battle through adversity every day and that's what I'm trying to do--get more physical, get meaner, improve on a bunch of facets of my game every day and self-reflect after and reevaluate if I got better. If I did, it's a good day, move on to the next one, just keep battling and getting better."
One of Quinn's greatest critics is Head Coach Butch Jones, who has gotten on him over the sound system every day in practice.
"Coach has been hard on Woody," said Elder. "I've been hard on Woody. Woody's a very prideful individual, it's important to him. He's taking that hard, but not losing confidence with it. He understands that I'm coaching him, and Coach Jones is coaching him to get better; and that's our ultimate goal is not to get on him because we like doing that. It's to get him better."
"The thing that we always say is, "You don't worry when you're being coached. You worry when you're not," and if you're not doing something right and a coach just lets it go by, that's not good," continued Elder. "Woody's going to be able to contribute for us. That's why Coach Jones has been on him, that's why I've been on him. Playing in front of a big crowd and things along those lines, we want to make sure that he is focused and that he is not letting those outside distractors get into him."
Quinn sees his coach's critiques as motivations. When he hears his name on the mic he cringes, not because he is embarrassed, but instead because he knows that he wasn't doing his job.
"I'd rather be coached really hard every day, on me every day, then pushed to the side or doing something wrong and not told I did it wrong," said Quinn. "I'd rather be coached 24/7 than not coached at all."
Quinn has gotten to the point where he is coaching himself in his sleep and has woken up every night of training camp thinking about plays he could have done better in practice that day.
He racks his brain because he is stepping into a tight end race for the starting spot, held last season by current Oakland Raider Mychal Rivera. Like every other position on the team, the starting role is up for grabs.
"I think our tight end position is progressing," said Jones. "The addition of Woody Quinn has really helped that. He brings another level of competition. He is a gifted athlete. He is continuing to learn the physicality of playing football and he is extremely intelligent."
"It's just really fueled me to every day," said Quinn. "You hear people say football is a war, you're a gladiator, but when you cross the line it's different. That's been a huge mental focus for me, focus and come into every team meeting in the morning ready to attack."