Quinn: "Beat S.C.!!!"

SOUTH BEND - Taking a lap around Notre Dame Stadium one final time, Brady Quinn branched off from his Notre Dame teammates, stopped in front of the band in the north end zone, and took aim at the fans behind them. A request he heard from some of the faithful on his walk around the field, he led in unison with teammates.

"Beat S.C., beat S.C.!!!"

So it has begun. Publicly, attention can finally be turned to the third-ranked Trojans, who privately, the fifth-ranked Irish were already preparing for this past week. Notre Dame (10-1) still wasn't looking totally ahead, disposing of Army (3-8), 41-9, Saturday afternoon.

"Beat S.C., beat S.C.," Rhema McKnight and Quinn chanted, now leading the student section from atop the set of NBC's post-game show.

"They could have been louder," head coach Charlie Weis said, always demanding a better effort from his guys.

Quinn then hopped over to the wall in front of the students, slapping hands, soaking in his final moments as a player inside the historic venue. It seemed like he didn't want to leave the field. While players were filing into the media room, reporters were told that Quinn was still wearing his jersey in the locker room, and that it was going to be awhile before he came out.

At first, Quinn was going to try and handle this weekend's Army game as just another game. But an email from his uncle, David Slates, who is one of the biggest people responsible for Quinn playing football, helped the quarterback put things into better perspective. Slates wrote to his nephew, that this in fact was not just another game.

"That email helped remind me realize this was a special moment where you don't have to many opportunities to play your last game in Notre Dame Stadium," Quinn said. "Take that walk from the Basilica and play with these senior guys. I did my best today to try and take it all in. I was taking more mental pictures than anything else."

Weis ran his starters onto the field during a media timeout in the fourth quarter, allowing Quinn and his classmates the opportunity to be cheered one final time. The student section started chanting, Brady Quinn, Brady Quinn.

McKnight and tailback Darius Walker had to walk over and raise Quinn's hands for him, rousing an another ovation from the students.

"It's kind of a tough situation, how do you react to something like that," Quinn said. "Rhema, he's more of the energetic type, he's got a lot of charisma. So, he was trying to help me out and loosen me up a little bit, when I was just trying to take in the moment."

"I can't sit here and tell you what it felt like, you have to be in my shoes," Quinn later said. "I feel sorry for anyone who can't be, because it's a great feeling. Especially when you come off of a win like that."

Quinn, as usual, was a big factor in the win, completing 22-of-30 passes for 218 yards and three scores.

Owner of 35 school records, Quinn continues his climb up the NCAA record books. He now has 92 career touchdown passes, ranking 10th all-time in Division I-A history. His 11,340 yards passing ranks 13th all-time.

With Troy Smith having a great day in leading No. 1 Ohio State over No. 2 Michigan, Quinn's Heisman hopes are put to rest. That means that Quinn will become the greatest Notre Dame player that never won a Heisman.

Because of Quinn's production and the classy way he carries himself, most of the 80,795 fans in attendance stuck around to cheer Quinn until he finally walked down the tunnel and out of Notre Dame Stadium as a player for the final time. They got one last look at greatness.

"It's hard to really understand, kind of, your impact on the University, the fans and everything," Quinn explained. "You're so intertwined into your school schedule and football, you never really get a chance to see the appreciation that your fans can give you and the support they give us. This was a special moment when you look up into the stands and everyone is pretty much still there.

"It's just a special moment and you start to realize how special this place is when moments like that occur."

Quinn has a chance to provide a couple more special moments. The win over Army was his 29th as a starter, tying him with Tom Clements and Ron Powlus for the most in school history. Number 30 against USC next Saturday would be his biggest win.

If the chips fall correctly after that, Quinn could help Notre Dame snap it's eight-game bowl losing streak by beating Smith and Ohio State in the National Championship game.

Quinn wasn't thinking about any of that as he made the final rounds around his home field. He saw his two best friends from back home sitting in the first row and leaped into their arms. He gave out a lot of hugs before reluctantly heading to the locker room.

"Brady really enjoys being part of the experience and enjoys being part of the student body," said Weis, who shared a long hug with his signal-caller. "For a guy that's of his stature, he could very easily, very easily act like a prima donna, and he doesn't have one ounce of that in his body. I think he wanted to share that moment with the fans, especially the student body at the end.

"He's really a special person."

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories