If Tennessee fans thought it was strange when they heard former Pepperdine Volleyball scholarship athlete Woody Quinn committed to Tennessee after one season of junior college football, they can imagine the surprise when Santa Ana College football coach Geoff Jones got a phone call about Quinn, who had only played one season of high school football, as a freshman.
Jones, who is in his 11 season at Santa Ana, had never heard of such a story when a coaching friend contacted him about the unknown 6-foot-6, then 230-pound prospective athlete.
"About a year ago last January I got a call from a guy that coached me when I was at Santa Ana College," Jones told InsideTennessee.com. "He told me that he had a player that might have some football left in him. He told me the kid played one year in high school as a freshman and didn't play ever again after he got a volleyball scholarship. I was clearly a little bit hesitant, but this guy is always sending me good recruits."
However abstract Quinn's story may have been, the second the San Juan Capistrano, Calif., native walked through the door Jones knew he had stumbled across what could be one heck of a player.
"Woody walked through the door and I just thought wow — this is what great prospects look like," he said. "He was a full 6-foot-6, we sat down and talked and he had a great head on his shoulders and a great family. Obviously with what is happening in the NFL with the Jimmy Graham's of the world and guys coming out of no where I thought heck yes — lets give this kid a shot."
At the time, Quinn was fresh off the indoor volleyball court and weighed in at a slim 230 pounds, but all that was about to change.
"The first thing he had to do was put on some weight," Jones said. "He was about 6-foot-6, 230 pounds at the time so I had to send him to do some power lifting. He did some real football lifting for the first time and he put on the 25 pounds that I asked him to put on."
After all that work, it had still yet to be determined if the now 6-foot-6, 250 pounder could even play a lick of football. After all, besides throwing the ball around with some friends Quinn hadn't touched a football since he was 14-years old.
"I didn't even know if a football would stick to the kid," Jones said. "I needed to know if he could catch it or not. So we went and I threw some balls at him. It was pouring rain down in Newport Beach and it was very cold. The wind was blowing sideways and the kid was catching everything."
And while his true passion rested with the pigskin, it was Quinn's loyalty that still left him in question on whether or not he would put down volleyball or not, but with some convincing the ball got rolling in the right direction.
"He was kind of inconsistent on whether he wanted to play or not" Jones said. "He was very loyal and didn't want to give up his volleyball scholarship because his team was counting on him, but I just fed him about his future. I told him he has a legitimate future in football. Then he finally said he was in and came out to practice and got better every day."
For Santa Ana, Quinn was an abnormal mix of brains and brawn that is rarely seen at the junior college level.
"He was a very rare find for us. He has a great head on his shoulders and did everything you asked of him on the football field," Jones said "That is just not something you see all that often at the junior college level. The length and the work ethic that he brings is just awesome.
"Usually in junior college we are missing one or the other — academics or athletic ability. Woody has them both. His thing was he just hadn't played. Probably if he would have played all along he never would have come to us because he would have gotten a big-time scholarship out of high school. It was just a cool situation. Just watching it go from an idea to a legitimate offer to an SEC football school."
Quinn, who finished his only season with Santa Ana with 15 catches for 252 yards and one touchdown, has a lot more potential to bring production to the passing game then one might think.
"He really stood out early and caught like six balls our first week and then everyone had that film," Jones said. "Everyone knew who he was and the goal was to get him more of that, but we had a option-style quarterback so we ran a lot of pistol so he didn't get the ball as much as we would have liked. He definitely stood out though and opposing coaches were all over him. He definitely has the ability to be more productive in that area."
Stay tuned for more Tennessee football recruiting updates from InsideTennessee.com.
You can see highlights from Quinn's 2012 season below: