Every Sunday, NFL fans migrate to local stadiums, sports bars and man-caves to watch their beloved teams do battle on the football field. Fans spend the other six days of the week watching football highlights and interviews, reading related articles and debating with both friend and foe about their teams. With the constant exposure and analysis, fans can feel as if they know their teams and its players exceedingly well. For players like former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Quinn Early however, studying film and analyzing statistics will only get you so far. To know Early, you have to go way back, generations in fact.
Life of a Saint: Quinn Early
Quinn Early had an early love for football. He started playing the game at around seven years of age. However, it wasn’t until his high school years where he really felt that he created some separation in talent from his peers. “I was a little bit bigger and faster than everybody else and I could jump out of the gym”, Early recalled. While he did participate in gymnastics, track, basketball and a little lacrosse throughout elementary school and high school, the road led Early back to football.
The path of the New York native would lead to the University of Iowa. Why? Early explained, “When I went for a visit, I really liked the school. I was an artist, and they had a good art program there. There were a lot of East Coast kids going to school there, I liked that. And then, growing up, I was a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan and Iowa had those Pittsburgh Steeler-like uniforms. When you’re 18, that’s huge!” Early would take advantage of the opportunity and put together an outstanding college career which ultimately opened the door for him to play in the NFL.
Quinn Early Drafted
Early was drafted in the third round of the 1988 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers. The 6’0” wide receiver recalled the draft. “I was at my mother’s house. She had invited some people over to watch the draft. The first round went by and I kinda got a pit in my stomach. As the second round is coming to a close, now I’m in my room thinking, ‘Am I ever going to get drafted?’ I believe I was the first pick of the third round to the Chargers and I was really excited. I gave everybody a hug. Then I ran down to one of my buddy’s house and high-fived and celebrated. It was a good day.”
Early in the Big Easy
After three 6-10 seasons in San Diego, Quinn Early found his way to a New Orleans Saints team on the rise. Early’s first year in New Orleans just happened to be the Saints first year winning the NFC South, though he won’t take any credit for that. Early jested, “I don’t know if I can take any credit. I was just happy to be there. To go to a winning program and be a part of that was just amazing.”
Quinn Early on the Dome Patrol
Despite the success of Early, along with fellow receivers Eric Martin and Floyd Turner, the talk of the town in the early 1990’s was still the Dome Patrol. Pat Swilling, Vaughan Johnson, Rickey Jackson and Sam Mills had made up the storied line-backing corp. When asked about playing with and practicing against the elite group of linebackers, Early shared, “Earlier today, someone asked me ‘Who was the best player?’ and I told them, hands down it was Sam Mills. He was the general of the Dome Patrol. He got those guys going if we needed the football or a sack.” Early continued, “I would have to say that they were the best line backing corp. in the history of the NFL.”
Despite the success and overall admiration for the Dome Patrol and that defense, Early didn’t feel the offensive unit was overshadowed. “You win with defense. They did a great job of stopping people. A lot of times, we’d have a short field. People forget too, we had Morten Andersen. If you got that ball on the 50 yard line, that’s three points. He was automatic. So, I think it was a combination of all things that made us such a good team. But I would definitely put the Dome Patrol at the top of reasons we were so successful”, Early recalled.
Surely, with all of the talent in the NFL during Quinn Early’s career, he must have been taken back by someone, right? His response to the question came with no hesitation. “Barry Sanders.” Early explained, “Usually what would happen during the game is once the offense came off the field, we would gather around and go over our strategies for the next series or what we’re gonna do throughout the rest of the game. But when we were playing the Lions, I would listen to what the coaches would have to say but then hurry up to go see him run the ball. He would just make people look ridiculous.” Early jested, “It was almost like somebody released a squirrel onto the field and told everybody to go catch it.”
The Art of Football
Quinn Early was an artist. On the field, his artistry was on display for the nation every Sunday. His passions off the field include performing arts and martial arts. While the performing arts may not translate well into the NFL, martial arts played an important role in Early’s success. Early explained, “One of the biggest factors why I lasted as long as I did in the NFL is due to my martial arts training. It’s the hardest thing, physically, that I’ve ever done. The conditioning, discipline and the flexibility I got from it helped. Once I became flexible from doing martial arts, I could do things on the football field that I could never do before. Also, what martial arts taught me was how to stay calm in the ‘eye of the storm’ and keep that relaxed energy.” Early is also viewed in the martial arts community as an expert at teaching Kung Fu and is also a published author in Inside Kung Fu magazine.
Not unlike a route tree, Quinn Early’s post-NFL life would take him in many directions. For instance, Early was and continues to be a very successful Hollywood stuntman. How’d that happen? “One of my college teammates and best friends, Bill Perkins, did really well on Wall Street and his passion was movies. He became a movie producer and called me one weekend. He said, ‘I want you to be in my movie.’ Next thing I know, I was hanging out of the back of a truck shooting a machine gun”, Early recalled. He laughed and continued, “And then they paid me for it, and I was like, ‘serious?’ So I then became friends with the stunt coordinator and he gave me the blueprint on how to do this as a professional. I worked hard at it. It took me a few years but now I work quite often. It’s a lot of fun. And I’ll tell you what’s great too is my oldest son is a stuntman also. I get to work with him sometimes. It’s a lot of fun to be able to hang out with him on set.”
Ann L. Patterson Early
While the football, martial arts and stunt acting is more than most people may accomplish in a lifetime, especially at such a high level, Early’s perseverance has found a new passion: his mother’s book. Ann L. Patterson Early was the most influential person in Quinn Early’s life. One could still hear the emotion as Early recalled his mother’s influence. “My parents divorced when I was 13 and it was primarily me and my mom from then on. I had two older brothers but they were raised and gone. She was a housewife and she went back to school and got her undergraduate degree, master’s degree and PhD. She basically showed me that if you want something, you have to go get it. She had a huge practice and did really well. She was such a role model for me.”
Bryant Acres Realized
“This is pretty emotional for me”, Early mentioned as he recalled his mission to get his mother’s work published. “My mother wrote this book and when she originally wrote it and tried to show it to me (still during Early’s career), I was more worried about the rims on my car and things like that. But then, in 2008, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We got to spend a lot of quality time together. Even though it’s a horrible disease and it was hard watching her go downhill, I still cherished the time I got to spend and talk to her. We laughed a lot. It was an amazing time.”
Early then remembered revisiting the book with his mother as the Alzheimer’s progressed. “She took that book out and she asked me to have it published for her because she wouldn’t be able to do it now. I told her that I would. Then I took the book home and put it on the shelf. She passed away in 2013. It was too emotional for me to go near the book. I kind of left it just sitting there. About two years ago, I picked it up and I couldn’t put it down. When I got to the end, I cried like a baby. It’s one of those books and not because my mom wrote it. It’s just a great story. Right then, I actually started writing a screen play for it. It has become my passion.”
The book, Bryant Acres - a true story of Early’s great-grandfather seven generations removed, is available now at https://www.bryantacres.com/ . You can also find the book on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Bryant-acres-Ann-Patterson-Early/dp/1928762034 in both paperback and Kindle versions. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated directly to Alzheimer’s research.
While the book launch has already taken place in San Diego, plans are being made to visit New Orleans and assist the local Alzheimer’s Association in November.
For Quinn Early, the publishing of this book, was yet another opportunity to demonstrate the perseverance that has seemingly been passed down from generations prior. Whether it was Sherrod Bryant, Ann L. Patterson Early or any one of the generations in between, Quinn Early has used this history of behavior as motivation to overcome all of the naysayers on his own journey.
Be sure to follow Quinn Early on Twitter and Instagram @quinnearly