Quinn Has Come A Long Way Since That Cold Day

Nobody told Brady Quinn he was going to be making his first career start that Saturday four years ago at Purdue. He didn't hear any confirmation from head coach Tyrone Willingham or offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick. The blue-chip recruit from Dublin, Ohio, could tell things were different by the amount of reps he was getting in practice compared to the weeks before.

With that, Quinn decided he had better call home and tell his parents to change their weekend plans.

"I was like, wow, I guess I'm starting," he phoned. "I mean, you guys should probably come to this game if you can"

"But no, I mean, honestly, that's how I remember it," he continued. "There was never really any conversation per se about the situation. It was just the next week I was taking the reps here. We kind of moved on with it."

Now a senior, a Heisman Trophy candidate with his name all over the Notre Dame record book, Quinn's journey started that cold afternoon in Ross-Ade Stadium.

Rewind again, and there was young Quinn before he was a heartthrob (he was still a physical specimen), trying to get the Irish back on track after getting blown out by Michigan and losing a tough one to Michigan State the following week. A blue-chip recruit, Quinn, who jumped Chris Olsen immediately on the depth chart, gave the ND faithful a reason to believe in him following brief appearances in the team's first three games.

Incumbent starter Carlyle Holiday didn't resemble at all the guy he was the year before in helping ND to a BCS game, opening the door for Quinn.

"It was kind of weird going through the whole week of practice, being like, wow, this is it basically," Quinn remembered. "I'm going to be starting. This isn't just like practice. This is actually going to happen. This is what's going to go through this Saturday.

It's weird to look back at that whole situation, how the game unfolded and the rest of that season and look to where we're at now."

It would have been tough to predict the amount of success Quinn has had, judging from his first game or really his first two seasons of trial by fire, but you couldn't deny the poised strong-armed kid had heart and potential. Quinn absorbed a lot of hits back in those days, including being welcomed to college football by a Boilermakers' defense that sacked him five times and knocked him to the ground on several other snaps.

"He took some shots," stated classmate Chinedum Ndukwe, Quinn's high school and college teammate. "I remember he was on the ground a lot. He took some punishment but that really set the tone for how he is. He's not afraid to take hits, he stayed in the pocket no matter what. He still kept positive throughout that entire game."

It wasn't just a tough game for Quinn, but for everybody in a 23-10 loss. The Irish fell behind early and couldn't muster any kind of rushing attack between Julius Jones and Ryan Grant (sound familiar). Quinn was actually the team's leading rusher, gaining 25 of the team's 49 yards.

Quinn did his best to lead a comeback, completing 29-of-59 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown. He stayed focused despite taking so many hits and throwing four interceptions against one of the country's best defenses that year.

"You know, I really think I learned a lot of things," Quinn said. "You know, playing on the road, it's a lot tougher than you think. In high school, it wasn't much of a big deal. Now it makes a big difference. Obviously, being able to deal with all the distractions, whether it's on the sidelines, on the field, whatever it may be, you know, you end up being able to decipher everything out that you don't really need."

The 59 pass attempts is still the most throws Quinn has made in a season.

"I realized it obviously once we kind of got down by a decent margin, we had to start coming back," Quinn explained. "I mean, you just got to kind of throw your way back into it. It's funny to think about it. My first start, still never really accumulating that amount of throws since.

"People look at the stats about that, that particular stat, I think you'll find any time you're throwing that much, it probably isn't a good thing," he continued. "I think it's probably better that we're throwing less."

Quinn took his lumps those first two years while accumulating decent numbers. Then the arrival of offensive mastermind Charlie Weis changed everything. Weis certainly deserves credit for Quinn's development, but it was Quinn's drive for perfection that has allowed the Irish quarterback to break over 30-school records including completions (732), yards (9,422) and touchdowns (69).

"He's always been the same guy, real relaxed, real hard working," Ndukwe said of his roommate and best friend. "He is not afraid to put in long hours of film. He has always been a guy to go the extra mile, and that's really why he is in this position today."

Weis has been dubbed the savior of Notre Dame football before. If it wasn't for Quinn being in the right place at the right time, that calling would probably have been held until down the road. Weis needed a guy like Quinn, his qualities and game, to run the complex offensive scheme effectively.

A lot of things have changed as Quinn prepares for the Boilermakers this week, but one situation is similar. For the second straight year, the Irish enter the Purdue game coming off a great offensive half the game before. Last year it was against Washington. The team rolled into West Lafayette and continued it's rhythm offensively for the rest of the season.

"It's weird how things are pretty similar, same records coming into it," Quinn said. "Obviously, the same kind of situation where you kind of got in a groove there towards the end of the game.

"I try not to look at too many of the similarities between the two. Like I said before, it's a new situation. Hopefully we can just take the momentum we've had from that past win and carry it into this week, have a good week of practice, really go into Purdue feeling good, hoping to start fast."

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