By Kevin Coughlin
Long before he became a coach in the Super Bowl, Dan Quinn was a star athlete and and standup guy at Morristown High School, according to classmates.
“He’s the same guy he was in high school,” his friend Chris Johnson told Morristown Green in 2015. “Dan was always a student of the game. I always felt he would be a coach.”
Quinn, 46, will lead the Atlanta Falcons against the New England Patriots on Feb. 5, 2017, in the 51st Super Bowl.
It’s his third trip to the big game; the prior two were with the Seattle Seahawks as defensive coordinator. Other NFL coaching stops included San Francisco, Miami and the New York Jets. Atlanta is his first head coaching job in the league.
The youngest of six kids, Quinn grew up in Morris Township playing baseball and football.
At Morristown High School, where he graduated in 1989, he captained the football team for two years, playing center and linebacker and winning all-conference honors as a senior. He also did shot put for the track and field varsity.
“Danny was very intense and into football,” former classmate Paul Nodoro told MG. “He was very competitive, from lifting to cross country.”
Yet Nodoro also remembered Quinn as “a grounded person. One of the reasons he leads well is that he can deal with people. He gets on with anyone he meets.”
Quinn was popular enough off the field to be named Homecoming King, and tough enough on it to excel despite a neck injury sustained as a junior.
His college ball was played at Salisbury State (MD), where he was two-time co-captain as a defensive lineman. He also set the school record in the hammer throw, and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2005.
But his career would involve chalkboards, not crunching tackles.
“I always knew I wanted to coach,” Quinn told The Seattle Times in 2013. He started out as defensive line coach at William and Mary in 1994, moving on to the Virginia Military Institute and Hofstra University before reaching the pro ranks.
Slideshow photos courtesy of MHS, copied by Berit Ollestad
In 2005, he and his wife Stacey established Quinn’s Corps, a charity that provides military families stationed in the U.S. with tickets to games and sends care packages to troops overseas.
Last Friday, in the run-up to the Super Bowl, banners at Morristown High wished their famous alumni well, and some students wore Falcons red and black.
“I think there is a great deal of pride, among staff and students, that a Motown alum has reached this pinnacle of success,” said Principal Mark Manning.
Morristown Green reached out to more Quinn acquaintances, who referred questions to his family. Family members said they were told to refer media to the Falcons. The team could not be reached for comment.