- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On June 7, 2016
- 0 Comments
- author, dealing with failure, football, motivation, never give up, Olympics
Former NFL and CFL player and Olympic bobsledder Johnny Quinn details the struggle of realizing his life’s dream, a career in the NFL, then having it snatched away…only to discover a new dream of chasing Olympic gold, and the lessons he learned along the way. Plus, get the inside story on the viral moment that made Johnny a social media sensation overnight.
Johnny Quinn is a professional speaker, former professional football player and United States Olympian in the sport of bobsled. He spent time with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL, and competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Johnny travels the globe to inspire audiences by delivering thought-provoking and action-packed messages to businesses, schools and organizations. He is also the founder of The Athlete Watch, an online pro-active leadership course that helps student-athletes and their families search for scholarships, as well as author of the book “PUSH: Breaking Through The Barriers”.
The Action Catalyst is presented by the Southwestern Family of Companies. With each episode, the podcast features some of the nation’s top thought leaders and experts, sharing meaningful tips and advice. Learn more at TheActionCatalyst.com, subscribe below or wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to leave a rating and review!
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(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
Host: Johnny Quinn is a cool dude. Johnny is a, uh, he’s a professional speaker and he inspires audiences all, all over the place. But he is, uh, a former NFL player. He played with the Buffalo Bills, the Green Bay Packers, and then he also. Is a United States Olympian and he competed in the 2014, uh, winter Olympics in Soshi, which we will talk about. He ended up getting to be on, uh, the American Ninja Warrior and has just done some really cool things. Uh, he’s also the founder of a company that is called the Athlete watch.com, which helps kind of families and student athletes do research for scholarships and scouting and stuff like that. And so anyways, Johnny, thanks for being here.
Johnny Quinn: Thanks for having me on.
Host: Talk to me about one of the programs that you do is about dreaming big again, and you tell the story about like going after your dreams and in your case, You have sort of an interesting story in that your dream was to play in the NFL and then it happened, but it wasn’t exactly the dream come true.
Johnny Quinn: You know, growing up in Texas, I played Texas high school football. So from a young age, I knew I wanted to play in the NFL one day, but there was a problem with that because I’m only five 11 and seven eight, so I’m, I’m not even six foot, the, the scouts wouldn’t even give. The six foot. And so I knew it at a young age that if I’m gonna play in the NFL or go after my big dream, I’m gonna have to start out working some people.
And so I, I found one scholarship to the University of North Texas two days before signing day. You know, I, I just got in. And I had a very fortunate college career. I left as the school’s all time leading receiver, and so my college career went very well. And so when it was time to turn pro, my family, we interviewed eight different agents and we found the agent that was right for, for my family and I, I remember when the NFL draft came, I did not get draft.
And I was confused because I was always told if you produce, you get rewarded, right? I mean, if you, if you make all the plays, you get rewarded. And so I had a very successful college career, but nobody wanted to draft me on draft day. And so shortly after the NFL draft, I had my first. Free agent contract come in from the Buffalo Bills.
I’m 22 years old. I sent a three year deal for 1.2 million. I am fired up to be in Buffalo. If you’re tracking with me, you know I’ve got a chance. And I remember getting to Buffalo, getting all of my N NFL gear to see my name in an NFL locker room. It, it was. Believable. We get out to practice. I’m day three with the bills, running routes, and snap.
My hamstring goes and I’m thinking, you’ve gotta be kidding me. Day three into my childhood dream coming true a, a hamstring injury. And so, you know, the nfl, we, we joke around and say, Hey, it stands for not for long. And boy, they had me on a flight back to Texas so quick I was out of there. But that was the first time that somebody sat me down.
They, they looked me in the eyes, crossed the table, and they said, Johnny, you’re not good enough. We’re not gonna keep you around. We’re not gonna let you rehabilitate your hams. We do not think you can help us win today. We are cutting you. And when I heard those words, I, I didn’t know how to process that cuz I had a very successful high school career, very successful college career.
I get to the pros and suddenly I’m not good enough. And so I, I came back to Texas. My agent found, uh, a new team the following year with the Green Bay Packers. And so I, I get to Green Bay when Brett Farve retired. The first time , and I’m 23 years old, I sent a 1.4 million contract. I’m, I’m excited to be in Green Bay.
Things are going good, you know, finally, I’m back on track. I get selected as offseason performer of the week. We get into the preseason, I have my first N L FL reception on Monday night Football. Historic Lambo field. It was incredible. And then three weeks later, they cut me and send me home. And so this this emotional rollercoaster that I’m on.
I mean, I was, I was on the top of my game Monday night football, Lambo Field first NFL reception three weeks later. Johnny, you’re not good. Today we are cutting you. And so at this point, my agent says, Johnny, I, I can’t find a team in the nfl. Do you wanna play in the. Cfl, the Canadian Football League. I mean, I didn’t even know they played football in Canada at the time, and he sends me north to the Canadian Football League.
I’m with the Saskatchewan R Riders and I make the roster. I earn a starting spot on the team. We’re back. Things are going good, you know, on this little detour, but it’s only a matter of time until my agent gets me, you know, back in the NFL where we’re back on. And I remember I, I scored my first professional football touchdown and that feeling was remarkable.
And then one week later, I blow out my knee torn acl. I joke, you know, I’m on some random field in Canada, minus 29 degrees with a blown out knee trying to figure out what is going on. You know, why is this? Ha, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to go. And I re, I remember having this conversation with a general manager.
He goes, Johnny, go back to Texas. Rehabilitate your knee. Right? Come back up here next year, re-earn a spot on this roster. And he goes, I believe, and you, and, and just to hear that, you know, this is the first time I’ve heard that’s at the professional level. It, it took. Like a burden off my back to hear that I had somebody believing in May, and so I came back to Texas.
I rehabilitated my knee, if you’re familiar with, with acls, it typically takes six months, nine months, in some cases a year recovery. I get medically cleared in five and a half months, two weeks before training ca, I mean, two weeks before I get to continue to go after this dream. And then I get a phone call from the general manager and he goes, Johnny, we are worried about your knee.
We are cutting you. And so, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m grabbing all my medical documents saying, wait a second, I’m, I’m clear, I’m healthy. Wait. And so at first I was, I was angry. I was confused because six months ago you, you said you believed in me and, and now you’re going back on your word and, and you haven’t even seen.
Healthy. Now, you know what, why did this guy lie to my face? And, and so I’m angry, I’m confused. And, and then it turned to a, a motivator, well, you know what? I’m gonna come back even stronger. I’m gonna come back even healthier. I’m not come back and show you that I, I can continue to play, but unfortunately, Professional football, after getting cut three times and having a blown out knee, I look like damaged goods on paper.
So now I don’t have an opportunity to play and go after my big dream. And this was an issue because see, my identity was tied up into my career, my, my football career. And so getting cut from a football team was more than just getting cut. It was a direct assault on my, I. In Matthew chapter seven, Jesus talks about building your house on sand versus the rock.
And I was building on sand, and when the storm came, everything came crashing down and, and here’s where I got a little bit confused, because I would watch tv, I’d be on social media, right? I’m on Instagram, I’m on Facebook, I’m listening to the radio. And do you know what I would see? I would see everybody.
Success after success and my career has been an absolute train wreck. And so I, I’m left with nothing.
Host: So now take me to, how do you go from there to the Olympics?
Johnny Quinn: That’s right. My, my agent is telling me, Johnny, I, I can’t find a team for you. Um, nobody wants to bring in for a tryout. It looks like we’re done here.
And he goes, do you want to try Bob? And I said, bobsledder. Are you talking about cool runnings? The Jamaican Bob Sled team. I mean, that’s, that’s all I knew. He represented a Bob Sluder back in the day. He goes, yeah, Johnny, they, they look. For former football players with a track and field background. I, I also ran track in college.
You said, I think you’d be a good fit. As a matter of fact, the first person to do it was a guy by the name of Herschel Walker. And so at that point I was like, yeah, I mean, if Herschel did it sign me up, how do you, how do you do this thing? And, uh, really interesting start. I, I get in touch with a driver, they call him pilots, Bob SL pilots at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, and he goes, Johnny, why do you come out here in a couple months?
Push up Bob SLT around, see if you like it. I said, all right, but if, if my agent finds a football team, I’m going football, I’m outta here. And true story, one month before I’m supposed to go try out Bob Sled, I get a phone call from this driver. He goes, Johnny, one of my guys has showed up overweight. Do you want to come up now and compete in the US four man team trials?
I said, well, when’s the race? He goes, it’s in two days. You know, you gotta be kidding me. I’ve never pushed a Bob sled in my life. And he goes, I remember like it was yesterday. He goes, well, all you have to do is get into the sled.
And so I’m thinking you, this guy’s lost his mind and, and, uh, but I, I went True story. He flies me in the night before team trials. My first time ever on ice was at the US four man team trials and we took third place. No. It was unbelievable. Unbelievable.
Host: Now you’re suddenly in the Olympics after one day.
Johnny Quinn: Well, it set in motion this new journey because I started this Bob SL journey, um, in 2010 after the 2010 Winter Olympics. And so that gave me a great start. But it was a four year journey until they named the Olympic team in 20. Where the games were held in Sochi Russia. What, what happened after?
You know this? This unbelievable experie. We’re talking about God opening a door. You know, one thing I struggle with is pride. I’m, I’m very type A, I’m very, uh, a self starter. I’m a motivator. And so I struggle with pride. And when Bob SL came on my plate, when you grow up in Texas and don’t have any snow and you think nfl, you, you can’t take any credit for, for Bob SL when that came, but this, this new journey to become a united States Olympian. It allowed me to dream big again. Set in motion this new dream.
Host: I love that. I mean it, I think. People think of you, you know, make your dream come true. Make your dream come true as if you only had one dream or you were only allowed to have one dream. It’s such a great story. So then you make the Olympics. Can you just tell us really quick what happened in Soshi? Cuz you became a social media phenomenon. Like literally overnight you end up getting on Good Morning America and CNN and cbs. What happened exactly?
Johnny Quinn: It was the days after opening ceremonies. Uh, I get stuck in my bathroom. I’m, I’m taking a shower, you know, we’re getting ready for an interview with the Today Show.
Later that afternoon, I get out of the shower and I, I can’t get the door open, the bathroom too far. And my roommate, he was still in the weight room, so nobody was in, you know, I didn’t have a roommate to help me try to open the door. I started banging on the kind of side of the bathroom where my other two teammates were to see if they, they could hear me like a, a distress call.
And turns out I find this out later. They thought it was construction. Uh, so they put their iPods in thinking that, uh, they’re gonna drown some of the construction. But I, I, um, I get stuck. I’m, I’m in there for about an hour. And in the Olympic Village, all the, the rooms, it’s very similar to kinda like a college dorm where you have a long hallway.
And so I, I get the bright idea, Hey, I’m gonna start banging on things in the bathroom that run parallel with the hallway to see if I can create some noise. And so I, I, I get back to the bathroom door, I break down this door, I, I get out of the bathroom and I take a picture of it. You know, I’ve got a pretty good sense of.
And so I, I put it on social media. I’m thinking, you know, hey, maybe get a couple funny comments, maybe some retweets, but oh my goodness, in 24 hours, it got 28,000 retweets seen by an estimated 10 million people around the world. It went crazy.
Host: You did not just like break the door. I mean, you like Hulk style, punched the hole in this door. It’s pretty amazing.
Johnny Quinn: Well, as you know, as Bob Floaters, we’re typically bigger guys, so I had to, I had to make sure the hole was big enough to, uh, to, to get out of there.
Host: Well, I do have one more question for you, but before we take off, where, where do you want people to go to connect with you, Johnny, and get plugged in with all that you’re doing.
Johnny Quinn: They can visit my website, Johnny Quinn usa.com. I put together a free think guide on how to think like Ann Olympian. It has some of my favorite books, some of my favorite podcasts, some of my favorite blogs that I subscribe to, to kind of give your audience an idea on how I think how I prepared for the Olympics and what I do now to mentally train.
And so that’s for. At my website, Johnny Quinn usa.com, and then I’m obviously on all social media platforms and that handle for all of them is at Johnny Quinn, usa.
Host: You’ve become a professional athlete, really like five times. What do you think is the difference, or this is what it takes to develop the kind of mental toughness to compete at the professional level? What do you think you would boil that down to?
Johnny Quinn: Well, we learned this at such a young age, and I think this is true across the board. I, I, I remember hearing this as a youngster. It, it’s, it’s a very simple concept. Give up. And so I think that was probably the biggest takeaway as I moved from professional football to Olympic Bob Sledding, is carrying that attitude, this never give up attitude.
Host: Awesome. Well, Johnny, thank you so much for being with us and we wish you all the best.
Johnny Quinn: Thanks for having me on.