North Texas Daily

Former UNT football star turns focus to bobsledding

Former UNT football star turns focus to bobsledding

Former UNT football star turns focus to bobsledding
October 10
10:00 2013

John Lugo / Staff Writer

When the Mean Green football team won its last conference championship in 2004, one wide receiver cemented his legacy at UNT.

Johnny Quinn, a 2011 North Texas Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, holds a school record with 2,718 receiving yards in his career and was a three-time, all-conference selection from 2004 to 2006.

But Quinn is focused on building another legacy since graduating from UNT seven years ago, setting his sights on participating with the Team USA bobsled team in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Once his football career at UNT came to a close, Quinn tried to establish himself in the NFL but was unsuccessful.

After going undrafted in 2008 and signing with the Buffalo Bills that year, Quinn was part of the first group of players that didn’t make the cut. He signed with the Green Bay Packers the following year but again was waived before the regular season.

He played a season in the Canadian Football League but his football career ended for good when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the final game of the year.

“I always dreamed about playing in the NFL and then getting cut three times before 26, my football career was very humbling,” Quinn said. “Once I got cut, my agent had a difficult time finding a football team but knew I still wanted to compete.”

With football out of the picture, Quinn focused his energy in another direction – bobsledding.

Bobsled is a sport in which two or four athletes work together to navigate a curvy ice course in the shortest time span. Four-man teams consist of a driver, a brakeman and two side pushers.

After getting into contact with an athlete at the Olympic Training Center, Quinn sent in a video of his speed and acceleration to showcase his skills. Two days before four-man race trials in 2010 in Lake Placid, N.Y., Quinn was notified he would get an opportunity.

His team finished third in that trial, impressing head coach Brian Shimer with his abilities and mentality. Quinn is a 2014 Olympics hopeful and Shimer expects him to take on a bigger role as a leader going forward.

“He absolutely fit that mold [of a bobsledder]. He certainly had that demeanor that you need as a bobsledder when you’re getting ready to hurl down the ice up to 90 miles an hour,” Shimer said. “It’s kind of that coach’s dream where he’s doing everything he can do every day to get better.”

For Quinn, there are some similarities between football and bobsled. He said bobsledding compares a kickoff in football in terms of extremity and the high level of toughness needed. Quinn also participated with the track and field team while at UNT, a sport with qualities that translated well to bobsledding.

“Walking onto the track team at UNT and sticking and running Division I-A track taught me about linear speed movement,” Quinn said. “I understand how to warm up properly, so having that knowledge really comes back from track and field.”

Quinn said he has has meshed very well with his teammates, and his teammates find him a joy to be around. It’s common for bobsledders to come from a background of multiple sports such as football and track, but someone with an NFL history isn’t as frequent.

“I love to talk to him because he has been there and it’s fun to hear his NFL stories and how hard it is to make it at that level,” teammate Nick Cunningham said. “You have to fight for your job to keep it, day in and day out. It’s like that in bobsledding here. He has that competitor mentality. He never takes a day off, he knows he has to bring it every day.”

Though his NFL dreams may be over, Quinn never saw it as an end of being an athlete.

“I never anticipated being a bobsledder, so it is a sound example in my life of God closing one door and opening another,” he said. “Now I have the opportunity to represent America on the biggest scale.”

Even though the football team won just five games in his final two seasons, Quinn soaked in the experiences over the four years he spent in Denton and shaped them into life lessons.

“North Texas has prepared me for all the obstacles that life will throw at you,” he said. “I learned a lot of valuable tools and information at North Texas that have really set me up for success as I pursue my athletic venture.”

The criminal justice graduate also helps in the financial aspect for the bobsled team since Olympic teams are self-funded. He runs a store on his website and is the founder of The Athlete Watch, a program that helps student athletes become proactive in the recruiting process to get noticed by other teams and universities.

The stops in 2013 for the bobsled team include Canada, Latvia and Austria.

US Olympic bobsledding hopeful and UNT graduate Johnny Quinn has a diverse history in sports. He ran track and played football at UNT, then he had brief appearances as a Green Bay Packer and Buffalo Bill, and now he is competing to be on the US Olympic bobsledding team for 2014. Feature photo courtesy of Johnny Quinn

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