As devout fans and followers of all things Ohio State Buckeyes, each one of us has seen our share of both success stories and those of, shall we say, a different nature. I hesitate to classify the flipside of the success stories as failures, because to me failure denotes a certain amount of finality. They are more of a setback that one can learn from, or not, at the complete discretion of the individual involved. If you allow it to be failure, then you have already accepted defeat.
What is paramount of importance is that the individual can identify the source of the discord and correct it before too much damage has been done. Too often the person involved has no idea that anything is wrong or off with them, so they eschew the very help that they may so dearly require in order to get themselves right.
Recently, I had the great opportunity to “sit down” with Quinn Pitcock, former All-American Buckeye and current Defensive Tackle for the Arena League’s Orlando Predators. Most of our readers will recall Quinn’s unique story among professional football players. Just one year after being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the 2007 draft, Pitcock opted to retire from the NFL in great part to recurring bouts of depression and video game addiction.
We talked about a wide range of topics, from his time at Ohio State to his daily battle with addiction as well as his aspirations to once again play football at the highest level of competition. It all started with a meeting in a living room in Piqua, Ohio with a certain John Cooper.
“It was a no brainer. Ohio State was all pros and no cons. I wanted to play for the same Head Coach and the situations at Notre Dame and Penn State (the other two of my top three at the end) had just undergone coaching changes or had situations where the longevity of the head coach was suspect.”
(It should be noted that when Quinn got to Ohio State, Cooper had been replaced by Jim Tressel.)
“I was very close to committing to Penn State, but we just weren’t sure how many years Coach [Joe] Paterno had left in him. The coaching fiasco at Notre Dame with [George O’Leary and] Tyrone Willingham weighed large as well. Coach Willingham honored the original offer I had from the University, but after the visit, my family and I felt snubbed by him and the staff.”
Once Pitcock got to Old Columbus Town, however, Tressel immediately had an impact on him, via The Winners Manual he had brought with him from Youngstown State. “I truly enjoyed, and miss now that my Manual has been lost in several moves, taking 10 minutes of silence before meetings to read sections out of the book. To those that have never read it, it is quite the comprehensive binder of quotes and ‘feel good’ stories that Coach Tressel has collected over the years. I still remember several of the quotes and post them to Twitter (@quinnp90) to share with my followers what motivates me and keeps me sane.”
The Winners Manual, from what I have gathered, guided a majority of the young men that Quinn shared the field with in his Freshman year, all the way to Tempe, Arizona to play the mighty Hurricanes of the University of Miami in what can be considered one of the all-time greatest college football games ever played. Pitcock had the unique opportunity to be a part of both the 2002 Championship team as well as the 2006 team that lost the lopsided game against the Florida Gators and their Head Coach Urban Meyer.
“The (Fiesta Bowl) game and overtimes felt like that movie scene from Project X where the action is in slow motion but with fast beat music. I was just a Freshman at the time, yet I was contributing to a team and family that accomplished miracles no one said we had in us. That season was truly a life blessing. When you fast forward to 2006, Florida had us figured out from the word ‘go.’ They put in formations that forced me to be the lone 5/6 tech, a position I was rarely in all year. You would think that returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown would take some of the juice out of the Gators, but Florida was the better team on the field that day. They deserved the title of National Champions.”
In 2012, Quinn was joined on the Orlando Predators by the Florida quarterback from that 2007 BCS National Championship game, Chris Leak. “A great man, a great player, and one of the most humble guys you will ever meet. I was waiting for some snarky remarks about that game, but they never came. He was the consummate professional and I respect him in all areas of life.” Leak may have moved on, but with just two more sacks, Pitcock will become the all-time team leader in the category for the Predators. If you watch or know about the AFL, sacks are a tough commodity.
“The AFL is 95% or more a passing game. The ball comes out of the QB’s hands much quicker and you really need to get on your horse to make a play. You get more hits and knockdowns in the AFL than you do in the NFL, but I feel that it has done nothing but help me improve my pass rushing skills tenfold.”
This is tremendous, and to be honest a bit shocking, coming from the 2006 Consensus First Team All-American, First Team Walter Camp, and First Team Big Ten player. “I’m always very hard on myself with the game film. If I’m not making a play every down, then I give myself a negative for the play. I felt I had a decent year [in 2006], but not worthy of those lofty recognitions. Without the other 10 men on the field, I wouldn’t have even been considered for these personal glories. I realize that I’m a part of a whole that did my contribution on each play. I thank my team for everything.”
Quinn has had opportunities to break back into the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions, but just couldn’t seem to make the roster. There was always that thought of hanging up the cleats nagging him in the back of his mind.
“I dodged the AFL and CFL (Canadian Football League) for many years when I had offers from teams in both leagues. I felt then, as many players do, that when you go to the AFL that the NFL will never happen for you. It is true, to a point, but we are seeing more and more players from both leagues each year making NFL rosters. The difficult thing is coming in for a month (for training camp) and trying to beat out guys that the franchise spent draft picks on or that they have already invested years into.”
That hasn’t deterred him from continuing to strive towards his goal of seeing the NFL field again.
“I just wanted to play a full season of football and I decided the Predators were the best choice for me at the time. I am happy playing the game I love and I know that if I continue to do well that an opportunity will come. As long as I can stay healthy and have a great season, I’ll be invited to camp in the fall once again where I aim to prove I’m still an NFL caliber with a lot to contribute to a team if I can just make the roster.”
That was the mentality of another setback story, Maurice Clarett. Pitcock and Clarett both played on that championship team and both fell from NFL graces only to turn their lives around and contribute in meaningful ways. “We speak a lot through Twitter (I still owe him a phone call) and his rises and falls have been tough for me to watch as a fan and a friend. I know that he has moved on from playing football and is focusing his energies into community service through his website and I know that he has found his calling. I am proud of him and his dedication. Even with all of his past transgressions, he is still truly an inspiring man.”
Quinn aims to follow in Maurice’s footsteps to bring light to the very real issue of addiction, whatever form it may take, and how it affects even professional football players. Those players who battle with it, such as Duron Carter would do well to look upon his life and try to glean some insight into how he manages to get through each and every day.
“No video game consoles in my home. I traded them for a mini bike, a shotgun, and a go-cart (all of which are now gone). I will always be a Recovering Game Addict and I will always have that itch for completion on a game. I have had slip ups here and there, but nothing so extreme as I was once burdened. Words With Friends doesn’t help, but it is nowhere near the level of the Call of Duty sessions I once went through. My mentor, Kevin Roberts has really helped me throughout the years. His book ‘Cyber Junkie’ has been by my side at all times during my recovery. I try to refocus my energy into working out, getting better at football, and cooking and it is part of my recovery to spread my journey to others so that they can learn from my mistakes instead of making their own before it’s too late.”
Others will call Quinn a “cautionary tale” of what can happen when someone loses focus and allows themselves to be distracted by outside influences that then bring down their dream. I prefer to look at him as a success story. Sure, he didn’t win a Super Bowl (yet) or win a Defensive MVP award (yet) or even make it into the AFL playoffs. What he has done, however, is to identify the source of his discord and taken steps to mitigate and prevent it.
That makes him a winner, regardless of the achievements on the field.
Our thanks to Quinn Pitcock for sitting down with us for this interview.
Follow Quinn on Twitter (@QuinnP90)