Photos courtesy Nina Kylie

Quinn finds relevance through change

BY BEN PORTNOY | JUNE 24, 2018

Around 3:50 p.m. on April 28 the final pick of the 2018 NFL Draft was made.

The cameras remained fixated on TV analysts grading each and every selection, as NFL personnel took deep breaths and began to rejoice at their rookie hauls.

All things considered, the final few picks are a formality. Those players rarely make rosters, let alone a have a major impact. The final pick even garners the moniker “Mr. Irrelevant”, if that gives any insight into the prevailing view on the back end of the seventh round.

When this year’s final pick was made, far away from the glitz and glam of the NFL Draft stage, it caused a stir at the Quinn residence in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Trey Quinn, a redshirt-junior receiver out of Southern Methodist University, and the middle of Angie and Dave Quinn’s three kids, had just been drafted by the Washington Redskins with the 256th and final selection of the 2018 NFL Draft. This year’s Mr. Irrelevant exulted.

“I was excited and I got straight to partying after that to be honest with you,” Trey told the Sports Capitol.

“It’s your baby. You raise him. He goes to high school. He goes to college. And really it’s surreal seeing him be drafted,” Angie said. “There’s 256 picks but then there’s lots of other kids that wish they had that same opportunity and so it’s just a blessing and we just can’t wait to see what happens in the future.”

***

As a football player, getting drafted by the Redskins  should be the highlight of Quinn’s athletic career. However, that moment may well have occured at Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania on Aug. 17, 2008.

For a late summer day in central Pennsylvania, the weather was perfect for baseball — partly sunny, with highs in the upper 70s. The 2008 Little League World Series was in full swing.

At 3:30 p.m., South Lake Charles Little League (Lake Charles) and Jefferson Little League (Jeffersonville, Indiana) were set to meet in a Pool A matchup.

On the mound that afternoon for South Lake Charles was a 5-foot-11, 12-year-old Trey Quinn. Sporting short, matted blonde hair, he introduced himself to viewers in the “Meet the Players” segment on ABC. Through his familiar southern-drawl and youthful voice, Quinn delivered his name to the camera and declared his favorite player to be New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. As the video cut to the next member of the Southwest squad, he flashed a wide-mouthed, over-bite filled smile.

The clip lasted about three seconds. In the grand scheme of things, it was hardly memorable. Though the following two hours would be as defining a moment a middle school-aged ballplayer can have.

In front of 11,300 fans, Quinn struck out 12 batters in six innings of work.  His lone blemish on the day: a walk. On 81 pitches, the dynamic hurler tossed 56 strikes. In just over two hours of game time, the future NFL pass-catcher had delivered the 43rd no-hitter in LLWS history.

“That World Series was something else,” Quinn said. “You can’t really compare anything to that just cause of the stage you’re on and at 12 years old, you know?”

***

Home to roughly 72,000 people, Lake Charles is a vibrant waterfront community constructed on the banks of Lake Charles in southwest Louisiana.

Around the region, it’s best known for its casinos, the most prominent of which is the L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort – a 242-acre property that includes a 70,000 square-foot casino, a championship golf course and a 26-story hotel.

It’s also where the Quinn clan resides.

“Everyone down there is family,” Trey said.

Most afternoons Trey and his brother, Carter, 17, could be found running routes and catching passes from their father, Dave, in the front yard as mother Angie looked on.

“My husband would throw the ball with the boys and then you’d find the neighborhood kids showing up in our yard, have some fun with us,” Angie said.

As a youngster, Quinn’s baseball skill was obvious – the LLWS performance was a clear indicator of that. Yet football ran in his blood.

Most notably, Trey’s grandfather, Bobby Keasler, was the head football coach at McNeese State, located in Lake Charles, from 1990-1998 before moving on to Louisiana-Monroe between 1999 and 2002. In 1995, Keasler led the Cowboys to the Division 1-AA Championship Game.

As a prep talent at Alfred M. Barbe High School, Quinn was a three-sport athlete. A two-time 5A State Finalist in the 100 meters and a member of the 2012 5A Baseball State Championship team, he was no slouch on the track or diamond. But like his grandfather, football was where he excelled.

In four years at Barbe, Quinn set the national all-time receiving record with 6,566 yards and holds the Louisiana record for receptions (357).

A Parade First-Team All-American and 2014 U.S. Army All-American, Quinn ranked as the No. 3 receiver and No. 29 recruit in the ESPN 300 rankings. A consensus four-star talent, the Barbe star received 20-plus scholarship offers. Of those, he took just one official visit according to 247 Sports — a trip to in-state power LSU.

After his January trek to campus, Quinn signed his national letter of intent to play for Les Miles and the Bayou Bengals 19 days later on February 5, 2014. The Pelican State’s finest was headed to Baton Rouge.

At LSU Quinn was part of 247 Sports’ No. 2 national recruiting class – one that included five-star talents Leonard Fournette, Jamal Adams and Malachi Dupre.

Coming off a 10-3 season in 2013 during which the Tigers beat Iowa in the Outback Bowl and finished the year ranked No. 13 in the country, the ballyhooed class sought to return LSU to the top of the college football world.

For Quinn, the opportunity was a great one – a chance to bring a national title to his home-state school. But things quickly turned grim for the homegrown star in Death Valley.

In 2015, Quinn played nine games and tallied just 193 yards on 17 receptions – a total the high school star was used to racking up in a game. As for the Tigers, they finished 9-3, third in the SEC West, and beat Texas Tech in the 2015 Texas Bowl.

Many believed Miles would be fired that offseason. He was retained, albeit for just four more games.

When Miles was fired early in the 2016 season, Ed Orgeron took over as head coach. Quinn’s numbers suffered: just five receptions for 83 yards in five games.

With a new system and an incoming recruiting class that included three receivers, Quinn’s time as a Tiger ended not with a roar, but a whimper.

***

SMU is a far cry from the modern football prowess of LSU. Since 1989, the first year the football program could compete after a two-year suspensions due to rampant infractions during the mid-1980s , they have won just 105 games. By contrast, LSU has 235 victories over the same span.

In Quinn’s case, his interest in the mid-sized university in Dallas didn’t revolve around football prestige. The system and its commander-in-chief were the appeal.

“It was coach Morris and his staff 100 percent,” Quinn said. “Me and him had a really good relationship coming out of high school and kept it going through college and as soon as I got them papers I knew what I wanted to do with it.”

Chad Morris, a Dabo Swinney disciple, brought his high-flying spread offense – one that could perfectly incorporate Quinn’s speedy, 5-foot-11-inch frame – from Clemson to Dallas.

“I think you see on Saturday it’s a huge difference,” Quinn said of the contrast in styles between LSU and SMU. “You go from running the ball 60 times a game to passing it 60 times a game and when you’re more involved in an offense it gets a little more fun for you.”

Upon  Morris’ arrival, the program was in disarray. June Jones had brought the Mustangs a semblance of respectability in just over six seasons in charge. But when Jones departed after an 0-2 start in 2014, the team finished 1-9 under interim coach Tom Mason.

Morris’ crew wasn’t much improved at 2-10 in his first year. Progress came the following season – one Quinn sat out due to NCAA transfer rules –  as the Mustangs climbed to a 5-7 record.

When he finally took the field for SMU in 2017, Quinn flourished. He totaled 114 receptions for 1,236 yards and 13 touchdowns – good for national rankings of first, 11th, and tied for fourth, respectively. Alongside future second-round pick Courtland Sutton, the dynamic receiving duo helped SMU to their first bowl game since the 2012 Hawaii Bowl.

“I trusted him, he trusted me and he had the perfect offense to do something with me and it definitely was for the better being with the numbers and, I guess with the year that we had as a team, last year was perfect,” Quinn said.

On Dec. 6, 2017, after contributing some much-needed upward trajectory for the program, Morris left SMU for the greener pastures of SEC football, becoming the head coach at Arkansas.

A little more than three weeks later, following the Mustangs’ loss to Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl, Quinn was also on the move.

In a Dec. 29 Instagram post, he revealed his decision to forego his final year of college eligibility with the caption “thank y’all, God Bless.”

On the photo, an action shot of Quinn catching a touchdown pass, was a letter. In the short note, Quinn thanked his supporters, receivers coach Justin Stepp, Morris, and God. He closed the message with a nod to the Mustang faithful: “Pony up!”

“The two experiences were unique and different from each other but they were awesome to be a part of,” Quinn said of his two college destinations.

The one-time gridiron castoff was headed to the NFL Draft.

***

On June 16 around 9:45 West Coast time, Quinn had concluded a spin class with his mother at GRIT Cycle in Costa Mesa, California.

“I’m a better human being right now than I was an hour ago because of that class,” Trey boasted.

Angie, perhaps a little more exhausted than her middle-child, said, “My legs were done after the spin class.”

The festivities were just getting started for the Quinn family.

Joined by his parents and siblings, Trey spent June 16-19 in the Newport Beach, California area for Irrelevant Week XLIII. The weekend is an annual ode to that year’s Mr. Irrelevant. The festivities included surfing, throwing out the first pitch at a Los Angeles Angels game and deep-sea fishing.

For the Quinn’s it was also a chance for some much-desired family time.

“It’s been jam-packed with stuff and I mean honestly, although we were very, very busy it’s been one of the best times of our life,” Angie Quinn said. “You know we had the whole family here, my husband and my three kids, and we don’t get to do that very often with them all grown up now, you know?”

Since being drafted, things have moved quickly for Trey. He reported to the Redskins practice facilities in Ashburn on May 11 for three days of rookie minicamp. Three sets of three-day OTAs from the middle of May through the first week of June followed. Last was mandatory minicamp June 11-13.

With the end of Irrelevant Week, Quinn heads home to Lake Charles for some well-deserved rest. He’ll return to the DMV for training camp in Richmond that runs July 26 through Aug. 14. Washington’s first preseason game against the New England Patriots is Aug. 9 in Foxboro.

As it stands, Quinn has a chance to make the Redskins 53-man roster. With a depleted receiving corps outside of top-three targets Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson Jr., the LLWS star turned NFL hopeful could figure into Washington’s offense this season.

“Cool as hell,” Quinn told The Sports Capitol of the feeling he gets suiting up at Redskins camp. “I swear I walk in the locker room every day and I’m like, ‘Damn I’m about to put on a Redskins helmet,’ which is freaking awesome.”

In what has become anything but a simple narrative, from the baseball fields of Williamsport and the Friday night lights of Lake Charles to the thunderous exuberance of Death Valley and a renewed hope in Dallas, the NFL’s 2018 Mr. Irrelevant is shaping up to be more than relevant.

“You know it’s every kid’s dream, whether it’s one sport or another,” Quinn said of playing a professional sport. “Man, I’m living it right now.”

Touchdown photo courtesy of SMU Athletics

Ben Portnoy is a summer intern for The Sports Capitol. A rising-senior at Indiana University, he has covered the IU football program extensively as a beat writer for the Journal Gazette in Ft. Wayne, IN. His work has also appeared with The Naples Daily News, The First Week in April and Más+Menos – a Spanish-language magazine in Seville, Spain. Ben co-hosts “The Takeoff” on 99.1 WIUX and does on-air commentary for Big Ten Network-Student U. Follow Ben on Twitter at Bportnoy15.

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