Detroit Lions safety Glove Quin represents the intersection on the team’s defense where talent meets leadership.
With defensive stars DeAndre Levy and Ziggy Ansah maintaining more of a reserved personality and core leaders such as Stephen Tulloch and Reshean Mathis representing talented contributors but not Pro-Bowl-type players at this stage of their career, Quin is the player on defense the Lions can count on to rally the team both on and off the field.
Still, Quin has largely flown under the radar throughout his career. A relatively quiet free-agent signee from Houston in 2013 the former fourth-round pick didn’t truly breakout until last season when he was finally given the chance to occupy a true free safety role in the defense with the departure of Louis Delmas and the arrival of a new defensive scheme.
He was able to turn heads by hauling in seven interceptions. Of course, the picks perk attention but his every-down play is what drives league-wide respect.
“That’s not all he does,” said Vikings’ safety Harrison Smith, referring to Quin’s interceptions during NFL Network’s announcement of Quin being ranked at No. 88 on the league’s top 100 list for 2014. “He really patrols the field back there and he’s a great tackler.”
2014 put Quin on the radar but if he wants to ascend to be considered one of the league’s true elites, he has to do it again this year. Something that the team is counting on him for.
“We anticipate that he’s going to have an equally great year this year because he is one of those guys. In every single thing that we do he’s absolutely trying to get better,” said head coach Jim Caldwell. “From our meetings you can see that he wants to be out in front. Does a great job of leadership, but then also even in our walk-throughs he’s as intense in our walk-throughs as anybody that we have. So, when you have that kind of intensity along with that kind of talent, along with the approach that he has to the game, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Quin does admit to his intense focus during training camp and throughout the season, where he uses the time to prefect his technique and understanding. Rather than focusing on football during the offseason, he simply concentrates on getting in the best shape possible.
“So much of my game is mental preparation, I try to go through each rep mentally as if I’m playing the game,” said Quin. “When I’m in walk-through, I’m locked in, I’m focused. I’m trying to make every call that I would make in the game, I’m trying to see everything that I would see in the game, I’m trying to think about every angle I’d take in the game, every step I’d be taking, the proper footwork, technique.”
The meticulous Quin takes no rep for granted and gets the most out of every moment on the practice field. He understands some plays will be hard to come by in practice – as he puts it, in games where he’d be trying to “go through guys”, he opts to let up in practice – so he makes sure that he’s completely prepared when the time comes on the field.
That discipline is part of Quin’s success, ensuring he stays in position on defense, knowing when it’s time to pounce and when it’s time to be patient.
“That’s why you have to be strong enough to understand; this right here is not my play right now,” explains Quin. “When they call your play you have to be able to see it and not be afraid to pull that trigger. That’s where I feel like the mental preparation comes in because that’s when you see it in your brain and you thought about it.”
That’s not to say Quin doesn’t deviate from the exact structure of a play. He has freedom in the defense and is able to make calls to put the team in a better position at times. There is no denying his ability to tackle, his athleticism or any other physical attribute he brings to the table. However, Quin’s biggest asset may be his grasp of the game and knack for making the right judgement calls.
He credits an unexpected move to the nickel as a rookie in helping him forge that skill.
“It was tough for me my rookie year because I had never played nickel, I had never played inside a day in my life,” he said. “My first day of OTAs, they put me inside and I’m sitting here like ‘what in the world’. I think that’s what helps me as a safety right now because I’ve played corner, I’ve played nickel and I’ve played dime. So I know what those guys are going through in there, I know what those guys are going through outside.
“So when I’m seeing the game and thinking about the game, when I make calls it’s to help those guys. I don’t really make calls to help myself, I make calls to help those guys because I know the strengths that they have. When I line up, when I see a formation, I’m going to say OK, he’s got some stress right here, I’m going to give him some body help. I know I’m not supposed to be over there but I know what it feel like for everybody to be over here and for you to be backside and nobody is around you.”
If Quin is able to replicate last season’s success, the defense should have a formidable secondary. Entering his seventh season, you can be sure that the physical and mental preparation is there.
Another thing you can be sure of is his competitive fire. He wants to win and he wants to be the best.
When asked who the best safety was during an interview that aired on NFL Network, he was honest.
“This year,” he asked before pausing and replying. “Me.”