On the golf course, the Broncos’ backup QB has more game than most starters.
As a kid, his dad mowed a lower cut in the back yard so he could chip and putt. Then dad put a driver in his hands.
Of course, the back-yard range lasted only until Brady Quinn smacked it beyond the houses and into the road. ”I don't think I hit any cars, but I hit our house once and broke a window,” he says. Fast-forward nearly 20 years.
Though football and workouts prevent him from playing as much golf as he'd like, Quinn has come a long way from those days in Columbus, Ohio, where he graduated from back yard to a neighbor’s country club. He has a handicap in the teens now, and can hit it extremely long—just not always straight.
But after three difficult seasons in Cleveland, the real breakthrough the former Notre Dame star is hoping for will be as an NFL quarterback with a new team.
“It feels good,” Quinn says of coming to Denver via a March trade. “It feels like fresh start.”
Quinn entered training camp as the man in the middle, behind incumbent Kyle Orton and ahead of first-round draft pick Tim Tebow. He knows it's up to him to step up to another level if he wants to earn the starting job.
“My first couple of years in college were tough, too,” he says matter-of-factly. “I think sometimes in life you go through adversity in order to help make you stronger, build character and prepare yourself for something else in life.”
At 25, Quinn knows this is the time.
There’s no question his body is ready, what with 100 percent attendance at the Broncos’ 55 off-season workouts, then his own two-a-days with a private trainer in Florida before returning to Colorado for training camp.
“He loves to train. He loves to work out. He sees the importance of it,” says Rich Tuten, the Broncos strength and conditioning coach. “He likes the feeling of being in great shape.”
Quinn weighs in at about 246, with less than 10 percent body fat. The stats he'd like to see get better are on the football field, where he had a 52.1 completion percentage, with 9 interceptions and 10 touchdowns in 12 career wins with the Browns.
With so much competition on the field, don’t expect to see him on the course very much—though he managed to play in a couple of charity events in the Midwest this summer and get in a round at Lakewood Country Club with Steve Irwin.
“He’s an extremely gifted athlete,” says Irwin, whose father, Hale, was a two-sport star at the University of Colorado. “Brady probably could pick up about any sport in about five minutes. He’s got a good swing and can hit it a country mile when he wants to.”
Irwin has seen his share of football players on the links, noting that there are plenty who look like they’re trying to strangle every club they hold.
Not Quinn. “Like a lot of guys who are big and strong, he tends to get a little quick,” Irwin says. “But if he keeps it simple, he plays pretty well.”
Quinn, who says the short game is where he excels, credits Irwin with helping his putting. “He had me try a new grip—more of a paintbrush grip with my right hand. It keeps my wrist locked.”
Having just arrived in Denver, Quinn hasn’t played many courses here—he played Lakewood as Irwin’s guest—but he hopes to stay around long enough to have a regular game. “He’s a fun partner,” Irwin says. “He has that competitive nature.”
Articulate, with model looks, Quinn provides a thoughtful response when asked to name his dream foursome.
He starts with JC, short for Jesus Christ.
“Then you gotta take Tiger. He's ridiculous, an amazing golfer,” says Quinn, who also has Nike in his bag.
“Then I'd have to go back a little ways and say Albert Einstein just to make the group a little diverse.”
And he'd be able to talk to all three of them?
“Oh, yeah, definitely. You'd ask questions of each of them. How could you not?” says Quinn, who has been penning a different Biblical verse beneath his autographs each season since his freshman year at Notre Dame.
“Jesus Christ for all your questions about life and your spiritual journey. Tiger for all your golf questions and Albert Einstein for everything you want to know about everything else.”
For a guy who tries to shape his shots, there’s no question he’d have some physics questions for Einstein.
So would Irwin, who was feeling good after launching a 310-yard drive off the 16th tee at Lakewood Country Club this summer.
That is until Quinn stepped up. “The ball took off like a missile,” Irwin recalled. “It was hard to track it. It was amazing.”
Irwin estimates Quinn's golf ball sailed 380 yards before finally coming to rest in the fairway.
Now, if only Quinn can find his groove in a Broncos uniform.