walking on to GLORY
By: Steve Kornacki
Terrence Quinn isn't a player most University of Michigan football fans remember from the 1997 national championship team. He made two tackles on special teams that year and seven tackles during his four-year career while also handing out some punishing blocks.
However, his head coach, Lloyd Carr, and teammate, Marcus Ray, recall Quinn's spirit and contributions quite clearly.
Carr said: "I'm reading a wonderful book right now called 'Grit,' and it's about passion and perseverance. She (author Angela Duckworth) did research at West Point to find out if they can become able to predict who is going to quit and who is not going to make it. Her thought seems to be that it's not about talent. Some of those with the highest test scores quit. It's about perseverance, and I was reading it this morning, and Terrence came to mind.
"Terrence was a guy who had talent, but he was not the most talented. But he succeeded because he wanted to play four years; he wasn't in it for the short term. And as a result of that, he was a contributor on special teams, a contributor in practice, a contributor on campus and off the field, and as a leader. He was an outstanding contributor in the locker room.
"He's one of those guys who, we say, 'I coached him,' because he's out there making a difference in his community. He's a hell of a kid."
Quinn founded the TGQ Law Firm in Ann Arbor in 2008 and now also has offices dealing in wills and trusts in the Flint and Grand Rapids communities. He does TAQ Travel Reviews with his wife and is an associate pastor of New Christian Love Fellowship International in Ypsilanti.
The law firm title comes from his initials, Terrence Gordon Quinn, while the travel reviews combine his first name and the name of his wife of 15 years, Adrienne. They have son Titus, 10, and daughter Jaida, 7, whom he notes are avid Wolverines fans. His own father raised him to love Michigan.
Ray, a defensive back on those Wolverines teams, said Quinn deserved the "Demo Heisman" in 1997 for his work on demonstration teams in practice.
"He gave us an unbelievable look in practices," said Ray, now a Big Ten Network studio analyst with a weekday show on WTKA (1050 AM). "He was a very tough wide receiver, smart, never talked trash. He gave me that work at the line of scrimmage. T Quinn made me a better player.
"I didn't even know he was a walk-on; I thought he was on scholarship. He outworked people. He was extremely strong. He could bench press 225 (pounds) 20 to 25 reps. He was always a team guy and you knew he'd grow up and do something with his life."
Quinn, now an attorney working in an office a short distance from Michigan Stadium, was told by a high school coach that his dream of playing for the Wolverines would never be realized.
But he received a trophy as a standout receiver at Michigan's summer football camp after his junior year and, despite not having an impressive senior season, was invited to the team with no scholarship attached once admitted as a student in 1993.
He took a pounding on the scout team, portraying the opponent's best player in practice each week, and was told that playing before 100,000-plus roaring fans was highly unlikely.
Many chapters of Quinn's story channel directly into "Rudy," but others don't. He got to play in most games over three seasons, landed a scholarship, and earned a Big Ten championship and national championship ring.
Then he gained admittance to his "dream" law school after playing for his "dream" football team and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School.
If you want an example of great success through tremendous odds with persistence and belief, Terrence Quinn is your man.
Quinn's dream began with his father, Thomas, a teacher, instilling in him a love of the Wolverines, and the constant push for academic excellence came from his mother, Olivia, who didn't want her son "to become a statistic" in a city where success was infrequent.
"My father was a Big Ten wrestling champ at Michigan," said Quinn of the 1971 conference champion at 158 pounds. "They used to have his picture up in Crisler (Center). He brainwashed me to like Michigan as far back as I can remember -- loved Michigan. My earliest memory is of seeing No. 4 running around at quarterback. And that's when I remember loving Michigan football, when Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback. I loved Jamie Morris. My dad got me into a practice and I met Bo Schembechler!
"One day, watching a big game on TV, I said, 'DAD! I AM GOING TO PLAY MICHIGAN FOOTBALL!' I went to Flint Northwestern. After one of our games my junior year, an assistant coach said, 'Hey, Quinn, what do you want to do for college?' So, here was my chance to share my dream of playing football for Michigan. He threw his head back and laughed and said, 'That will never happen.'"
Quinn said that "for a second" the dream's "bubble burst," but then his parents' belief in him came to mind and he found the resolve to hold on to his goals.
He ended up impressing Wolverines receivers coach T.J. Weist enough in that summer football camp that he remembered Quinn when he called on Dec. 9, 1993, the day his letter of admittance to Michigan arrived.
Weist said, "We'd love to have you," adding only that there would be no scholarship.
Quinn remembers the intensity and demands of practicing for coach Gary Moeller's team and the day All-America cornerback Ty Law called him out.
"Ty Law didn't appreciate how hard I was going at practice," said Quinn. "So, he busted on me: 'Quinn, why are you going so hard, man? This is practice, slow down!' He's a superstar to me and I don't know the ropes, so I wondered if I was going too hard.
"After practice, Steve King, one of my good friends who has passed away, came to me and created what I call 'The King Rule.' He said, 'You keep doing what you're doing. You're a walk-on. Ty is an All-American. He already has his; you've got to get yours.'"
That is a scene straight out of "Rudy," the story of Notre Dame's Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, who went as hard as he could in Fighting Irish practices.
"But practices were my games," said Quinn. "I wanted to see how good I was. Could I get open on Ty Law?"
He believes he was given the scholarship after his freshman season because of how hard he practiced.
"It was an easy decision," Carr said of giving Quinn a scholarship. "He proved himself, and you know when a guy has something special. And yet the odds of a walk-on player earning a scholarship are not in your favor."
Quinn played on punt return and the kickoff return units as a sophomore, and after blocking for electric Amani Toomer on a punt return in his first game action against Memphis in 1995, Quinn thought: "I'm playing! I've been dreaming of this forever."
"I have to give Jim Herrmann a shout-out because he was the guy who gave me a chance to play on special teams," said Quinn of his special teams coach, who now coaches linebackers for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Wolverines were undefeated in 1997, winning the Rose Bowl game with Washington State, and finished No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.
"My uncle, John Alexander, told me after we'd just won that we didn't understand what we'd just done," said Quinn. "He said, 'Twenty years later, you'll get it.' And he's exactly right."
Quinn discussed coming back as a fifth-year senior in 1998 with Carr but took the coach's words to heart: "You probably should move on with life now."
Quinn smiled wistfully, adding, "Looking back at it now, I'm glad I did because of how life transitioned from there. I wasn't going to the NFL, and I won a national championship. What was there to come back for?
"I did then, and I do now, appreciate Coach Carr. If I needed anything from Coach Carr, to this day, he'd help me."
Quinn earned his English degree in four years and was on the student-athlete advisory council. He interned for an Ann Arbor law firm and applied to seven law schools. Dennis Shields, who mentored him at Michigan, had encouraged him to apply at Michigan, and Quinn was accepted.
"That's a very challenging law school, a great law school, and they attract the best students," noted Carr.
He studied estate planning and probate to get a certificate to practice in those areas after graduating, and he found his calling.
"I loved it," Quinn said. "I put plans in place that keep families from too much chaos and make sure their assets are taken care of appropriately if they get sick or they leave. I've built my practice on wills and trusts.
"I get to sit down with families and hear their stories, and I love meeting with retired people on up. They've lived life and know what I'm trying to do. They are looking for someone they can trust to do the right thing and open their whole lives to me to advise them. About 90 percent of the people I council, once we finish talking, breathe a sigh of relief and say, 'I am so glad I got this done.'"
Quinn found his niche and is thankful for the road he traveled.
"My whole football experience was about how I had to fight while I was on the team," said Quinn. "It was training for life. But it was stressful and harder than I ever thought it would be. Still, I would do it all over again. Going to Michigan was one of the best experiences I ever had."
Quinn accomplished more than he ever envisioned.
"Everyone in college football wants to make it," said Carr, "and Terrence made it in spades."