A day after his Seattle Seahawks fell just short of earning defensive coordinator Dan Quinn a second Super Bowl ring, the Atlanta Falcons on Monday announced the former Salisbury defensive lineman as their new coach.
The foundations for that success were evident in the early 1990s, when Quinn was in the midst of a playing career that earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame at a school he still fondly supports.
"I couldn't sit there and tell you, 'Yeah, he was going to be an NFL head coach,' but he had those leadership qualities," said Salisbury associate head coach Robb Disbennett, who was on the staff while Quinn played. "You could see that in Dan as a player here, his work ethic, how he interacted with his teammates, even how he respected the coaching staff. You saw it in him."
Quinn's teammates elected him captain for his final two seasons at Salisbury, capping a career in which he had 145 tackles and earned three letters, in addition to starring in track and field. He made 135 tackles, forced two fumbles, and had an interception in his final three seasons.
Salisbury coach Sherman Wood met Quinn shortly after he took the job in 1999, and he said Quinn's ascension is one of the program's greatest achievements.
"For a Division III football player to be the head football coach in the NFL, I don't see what else could beat those odds," Wood said.
Quinn's Seahawks barely missed out on a second straight Super Bowl title Sunday when they fell to the New England Patriots, 28-24, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Under Quinn, the Seahawks have allowed the fewest points and fewest yards in the NFL for the last two seasons.
Atlanta was the NFL's only remaining head-coaching vacancy. The Falcons had to wait until Quinn's season with the Seahawks finished to make the hire. The two sides reportedly reached agreement on a five-year deal.
Quinn, 44, began his coaching career at William and Mary in 1994 before a year at Virginia Military Institute in 1995, then coached at Hofstra until 2000, where he was a defensive line coach and defensive coordinator.
He joined the San Fransciso 49ers' staff in 2001 as a defensive quality control coach for two seasons, then jumped to defensive line coach for two seasons before two years each as the defensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and the Seahawks.
Quinn was Florida's defensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012 before returning to Seattle as defensive coordinator. During his return to the college game, Quinn found a spot for a fellow Salisbury graduate as a graduate assistant at Florida, Disbennett said.
Through the years, Quinn also has donated trips to wherever he is coaching as a raffle prize for the school's golf tournament, and supported the pending stadium project. His wife, Stacey, is also a Salisbury graduate.
"There was no doubt that when he was here, it was very evident that he was a great leader, a great role model, and a true, class, quality individual," athletic director Dr. Michael Vienna said. "Watching him grow through his professional career, I'm not shocked that he's achieved this tremendous level."