In addition to being named the Irish's Most Valuable Player at Notre Dame's annual team banquet on Friday night, Quinn also won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award given to the nation's best senior quarterback. This year, he's thrown for 35 touchdowns and over 3,200 yards to only five interceptions. Quinn owns 35 school records and his teammates, who voted on the award, thought highly of the tri-captain's performance in 2006.
"Obviously, this a tremendous honor," Quinn said. "Anytime you're voted the best player on the team by your peers, it means a lot. With this award, I can't really take a lot of credit for it. I'm fortunate to have a great cast."
The feature speaker at the banquet, held at the Joyce Center, was none other than former Notre Dame head coach Gerry Faust. In his five years with the Irish, he complied a 30-26-1 record, including a victory in the 1983 Liberty Bowl. Right at the beginning of his speech, he praised current head coach Charlie Weis as the best coach in college football. Faust joked that his granddaughter was already giving him grief in comparison to Weis's quick success.
"She knows your record," Faust said. "She knows mine. In two years, you've lost five. In one year, I lost six."
He had more kind words for the current Notre Dame team.
"You have a great coach and a great staff," Faust said. "The team displayed great character, great confidence and great commitment. Dan (Santucci) said we had a good year. Dan, we had a great year. Well done, 2006 football team."
Faust recounted the story of how he came to Notre Dame. In 1977, he let Father Joyce know that if the Irish head job ever came open, he would like to be considered. After Dan Devine left, Joyce remembered the overture and allowed Faust to make the jump from Moeller High School in Cincinnati to big-time college football at Notre Dame. Several times during his speech, Faust got emotional and was on the verge of tears. It was sign that he truly loves being part of the Irish football family.
"All of you played with your heart this year," Faust said about the team. "And that's why you're always winners on and off the field. Congratulations on your character and let's get a bowl victory."
Weis was the last to speak. The Irish head coach has been on the recruiting trail the past week and will be leaving again after tomorrow's practice in search of more prospects. In attendance were at least four potential recruits. Weis seemed to be talking to them at times about the virtues of playing football at Notre Dame. The inspiration: the 2006 Irish football team, who Weis greatly appreciates.
"When I got here, people said, ‘Give him time and wait five years until he gets his guys in here,'" Weis said. "'Just wait until Weis and his staff get their guys in there. When they get their guys in there, they'll be playing for championships.' I can tell you this: there isn't one guy on my staff who doesn't think that these guys are our guys.
"These guys have been through a lot, trials and tribulations, ups and downs. But no team or group of guys have shown more perseverance than this group."
Quinn wasn't the only winner on Friday. Senior offensive tackle Ryan Harris was presented the Guardian of the Year Award as being the top offensive lineman. He's a four-year starter at left tackle and been part of a group that allowed Darius Walker to run for over 1,000 yards the past two years. Senior defensive end Victor Abiamiri captured the Lineman of the Year Award by totaling 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Senior Travis Thomas won the Nick Pietrosante Award given to the player who best exemplifies courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride. Pietrosante was the Irish's leading rusher in 1957 and 1958 before becoming a two-time All-Pro in the NFL with the Detroit Lions. He died in 1988 from cancer.
Senior tight end John Carlson won the Westwood One/State Farm Student-Athlete of the Year Award by accumulating a 3.596 GPA and catching 46 balls for 621 yards and four touchdowns this year. Rounding out the winners was Dan Santucci, who received the Knute Rockne Student-Athlete Award. He has a GPA of 3.359 and earned a degree in marketing while starting all 12 games at left offensive guard.