UPDATE: Johnny Quinn has been selected to be a part of the push team for one of the two four-man sleds entered in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Federation announced on Sunday (Jan. 19, 2014). He will be a part of the sled piloted by Nick Cunningham. Another Texan, Justin Olsen of San Antonio, will join Quinn on that four-man team.
All U.S. Olympic Team nominations are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), but that is generally a mere formality.
In addition to the selection on the four-man team, Quinn has a chance to also serve as a brakeman for one of the two-man bobsled teams. The brakeman will be selected from the pool of six push athletes named to the four-man squads, and the U.S. will be entering three two-man teams.
A number of components were considered when selecting the 2014 U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team push athletes, including combine test and U.S. National Push Championship results, U.S. National Team Trials finishes, driver input, proven international experience with a history of results and team combinations working well together, trend of push times, start rank and velocity, and current season results.
The Olympic bobsled events will be held in a four-heat format over two days of racing. The men’s two-man bobsled competition will take place Feb. 16-17, followed by women’s bobsled Feb. 18-19. The men’s four-man bobsled competition will be one of the last events of the Olympic Games, taking place Feb. 22-23.
Learn more about Johnny Quinn
His official Team USA profile page
Quinn's official website
Click on image below for the City of McKinney's page about Johnny Quinn
Former McKinney High football star Johnny Quinn, 29, is still quick as a cat – even years after his brilliant career at the University of North Texas, where he became the school’s all-time leading receiver. He still explodes off the line, a churning blur of motion – even years after his brief pro football career ended with injury.
Johnny Quinn (Click here to view a larger version of this photo).
Sure, it takes work – lots of it. But Quinn welcomes that, as he always has. These days, he’s a member of the U.S. National Bobsled Team with a goal of representing the USA at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
“I’ve had a humbling professional career,” says Quinn during a recent workout at McKinney’s Michael Johnson Performance Center (MJPC). “I was cut three times by the time I turned 26, blew my knee out. To make this Olympic team ... to wear that red, white and blue in Sochi, it would be unbelievable.”
Now in his fourth year as a bobsledder, Quinn has toured the world with Team USA Bobsled and appears poised to seize this opportunity. His head coach, Brian Shimer, a veteran of seven Olympic Games, calls the 6-foot, 220-pound Quinn “the whole package.”
“Other than our top team, Johnny is probably one of our veteran guys now, one of our leaders,” Shimer says from his off season base in Naples, Fla.
Olympic bobsleds often exceed 80 miles per hour on high-walled ice tracks perhaps 1,500 meters in length. High-G turns pop up 15 to 20 times along the way.“Bobsledding is a bit of a controlled wreck going down,” Shimer says, “... and that just doesn’t seem to bother [Quinn]. He’s got that football mentality.”
Quinn was an All-State receiver for the McKinney Lions over a decade ago. During his senior season in 2001, Quinn led all Class 5A receivers in Texas with 80 receptions.His 15 touchdown catches that year ranked second.
Shawn Pratt, now Director of Athletics for McKinney ISD, coached Quinn for three years at MHS before becoming head coach at McKinney North. He remembers Quinn as “extremely hard-working and hard-nosed.”
“You always knew, even when he was a young kid, the way he would work, that he was going to end up being something special,” Pratt says.
Many were surprised when Quinn, with his stellar numbers, was almost completely ignored by college recruiters. UNT finally stepped up, just two days before national signing day, and offered Quinn his only Division I-A (now FBS) scholarship.
Quinn went on to become UNT’s all-time leading receiver and was part of a program that won four-straight Sun Belt Conference championships. “We had a really good team, a good nucleus of guys,” he says. “We had a great coaching staff, a lot of fan support.”
Olympic bobsleds often exceed 80 miles per hour on high-walled ice tracks perhaps 1,500 meters in length.
While with the Mean Green, Quinn amassed the most receiving yards in school history – 2,718 – and his 187 catches rank second all-time. Quinn was a first-ballot selection to the school’s athletics Hall of Fame in 2011 and, this year, he was named to the program’s All-Century Team.
Also a sprinter for UNT track, Quinn anchored a 4x100 relay team to the third fastest time in school history. (He actually credits track as a bigger factor than football in easing his transition to bobsledding.)
Quinn graduated from UNT in 2006 with a degree in pre-law studies.
He signed as a free-agent with the Buffalo Bills after being bypassed in the NFL’s 2007 draft. Cut by the Bills, he was picked up by Green Bay in 2008, where he made it through preseason to the final cut before being released.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League signed him in 2009 and there he found some success, til a torn ACL in the season’s last game effectively ended his career. With nothing on his football horizon, Quinn’s agent – who also represented an Olympic bobsledder — sent some of his workout tapes to the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York.
“I wanted to continue to compete,” Quinn says.
In October, Quinn got a surprise call from veteran bobsledder Cory Butner, who asked Quinn if he would fly to Lake Placid to compete in team trials the next day. (An over-weight team member required quick replacement.)
Quinn, who had never touched a bobsled, hopped a flight to New York and after a few turns in a push-sled – a practice-sled on wheels – was competing on ice as a brakeman, or pusher, on a four-man sled. They took third place.
Says Shimer, “This is probably the quickest I’ve ever seen anybody actually come out, get introduced to the sport and be in a national team trials race the next day.”
The four-man sled is more difficult for novices than the two man, as more razor-sharp spikes must enter the sled at once at the start. “We knew that this was going to be quite a feat if he actually got in, and got in without any issues,” Shimer says, “but he did.”
Shimer says a bobsledder must possess “explosiveness, strength and speed,” mainly for the critical first 50 meters of the race, when the sled is pushed.
The starting point at World Cup Park City – at Utah Olympic Park.
Quinn, who has those qualities, says with increased experience, his technique has greatly improved. “I’m starting to understand some of the intricacies, really, where you find one-hundredths of a second.”
During the off-season, Quinn trains at the MJPC, where he says he enjoys not only superb equipment and instruction, but a professional environment. (When you’re looking to shave one-hundredths of a second, everything matters.)
He’s also founder and CEO of The Athlete Watch, a leadership course intended to assist students, parents and coaches in navigating the college recruiting world. Quinn says he knows he should have been more proactive in selling his high school achievements, rather than expecting to get noticed. That’s partly why he founded this enterprise.
Quinn is engaged to be married later this fall and is also an MBA candidate with the Keller Graduate School of Management. He’ll return to Lake Placid in October for team trials then it’s on to the World Cup, a series of seven races across the U.S. and Europe. In mid-January, 12 members from the current 15-man team will be selected to represent the USA at Sochi in February.
“I think it’s awesome,” Pratt says of Quinn’s Olympic dream. “It’s just neat to watch him, and for that kind of person to have opportunities that he’s getting. It’s well-deserved.”
Quinn says his pro football experience taught him that competitive sport careers can end quickly. Armed with that knowledge, Quinn seems well-prepared for whatever lies ahead. His favorite Bible verse – Philippians 1:29 – helps him too: “For He has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for Him as well.”
“For me, as a Christian athlete,” Quinn says, “there’s more to life than sports.”
About the author: Rick Atkinson is McKinney-based freelance writer and cartoonist. Quinn helped UNT stomp his beloved SMU Mustangs in 2006 at Denton’s Fouts Field — but Atkinson bears no hard feelings.