Quinn rebuilds lives through ‘3rd & Goal’
Mary Green | Friday, September 4, 2015
When you’re the starting quarterback of a top-10 team and thousands of fans are cheering, jeering and wearing your No. 10 jersey on Saturdays in the fall, blending in isn’t exactly easy.
But when Brady Quinn walked the Notre Dame campus as a student, he just wanted to fit in with his classmates.
“Go to class. Go to the library and study. Live in the dorms and get to know my roommates. Grab a quick bite at the dining hall whenever I had time,” Quinn said of his to-do list.
He even recalled how he sported “long shaggy hair with a nice flow bucket coming out the back of my helmet, which I guess was cool at the time.”
While some of his classmates might’ve had similar hairstyles, they weren’t two-time Heisman finalists. They didn’t win the Maxwell Award in 2006 as the country’s best overall player, and their jerseys weren’t for sale in the bookstore.
But that didn’t stop Quinn from taking part in typical student activites, like joining clubs like Iron Sharpens Iron, holding on-campus jobs and lacing up for Bookstore Basketball.
The Dublin, Ohio, native still stood out on the bookstore courts, though, where he played with Irish teammates Jeff Samardzija, Adam Fitzgerald, Chinedum Ndukwe and Dan Stevenson and won the tournament twice.
“I still remember playing other students in bookstore basketball and hearing the trash talk from people in the crowd,” he said. “It made me realize that just because these students were fans, it didn’t mean they were your friends.
“So we kicked everyone’s ass in bookstore basketball and did our best to do the same to everyone on the football field and hoped the student body would join with us.”
Along with the bookstore championships, he guided the Irish to a 19-6 record in his final two seasons, the first two under former head coach Charlie Weis, and Notre Dame earned BCS bowl invitations in both those seasons.
Even with such a football-filled résumé today, Quinn still ensures the game isn’t the end-all, be-all of his life.
He’s played in the NFL and delved into the world of sports broadcasting (he just signed a two-year deal with Fox to serve as an analyst for college and NFL games), but Quinn devotes much of his time to 3rd & Goal, the foundation he and his father founded in 2011 to help veterans in need and for which he currently serves as Co-Chair.
“A title is a title,” he said. “I do everything that I can, whether that’s hand writing out thank you notes or running to grab something for an event. We don’t pay anyone a salary with our foundation. Our help is provided out of the goodness of our staff and volunteer’s hearts.”
With the foundation, Quinn still dishes out touchdowns, but this time, they don’t yield six points. Now, a “touchdown” is a term used for a veteran’s rebuilt or remodeled home, and it counts for a revamped life and a fresh start.
By his estimate, Quinn says they’ve helped over 25 families since the foundation’s inception, mainly in Indiana and his home state of Ohio, but as far away as South Florida and Seattle.
“Any type of home re-modification to help soldiers wounded in combat adapt to their transition when they come home,” Quinn said of the group’s work. “We also help our veterans who are deemed at risk to experience homelessness by funding housing. This allows the individual to get back on their feet and save money to afford their own home.”
Quinn participated in community service activities while at Notre Dame but said his father, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, helped inspire the work for the foundation.
“ … The idea for 3&G was something that was rooted in me,” he said. “I come from a family who has had multiple generations of men who have served in this country. Knowing this has always made me desire to find a way to serve as well.”
He co-chairs 3rd & Goal with possibly one of the few people to outrank him in terms of accomplishments: his wife, Alicia (Sacramone) Quinn, the captain of the 2008 American Olympic gymnastics team and the most decorated U.S. gymnast in world championships history.
“I couldn’t have found a more incredible woman to be my best friend,” he said. “I feel truly blessed to have bumped into her at a charity event and that we would one day end up together.”
Though his résumé looks a little different these days — along with his haircut — Quinn’s presence can still be felt on Notre Dame’s campus, and not just from fans who still wear the familiar No. 10 on game days. This year, 3rd & Goal is working with the University’s residence halls to involve current students in its mission.
“My experience while in school and playing football had a profound impact on my life and future endeavors,” he said. “The one common denominator amongst everyone who is a part of ND is that they want to do good. They want to make the world a better place, so it only makes sense to involve such intelligent well intentioned group of people on board. We also feel it’s important that today’s youth realizes the importance of our military and their contributions to keep our country safe.
With the book on his football career still not closed — he said he today feels “the best I’ve ever felt mentally about football” — and his work as an analyst secure for the next two years, Quinn said he and the rest of the foundation are ready to tackle whatever challenges veterans will face in the future.
“I would like to see us help as many soldiers and veterans as possible across the country,” he said. “We will be flexible and adapt to whatever their needs are, so I look forward to the unknown and changing with the times as our foundation continues to grow.”