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Quick Working to Catch Up Fast

Posted May 25, 2012

Nearly 30 minutes after Wednesday’s Organized Team Activity, rookie wide receiver Brian Quick remained on the practice field tirelessly running routes and catching passes from quarterback Sam Bradford.

Quick and veteran Brandon Gibson took turns catching passes with Bradford and Gibson helping get the rookie up to speed after he missed a pair of OTAs last week because of a mandatory rookie event in Los Angeles.

Getting Quick up to speed as fast as possible ranks as one of the top priorities for a Rams team that is in serious need of play makers on the outside. After using the first pick of the second round, No. 33 overall, on Quick in last month’s NFL Draft, the expectation is already in place that he’ll be able to make a difference sooner than later.

“We expect him to play and be a big part of our offense,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “We don't think about it any other way than that. That's why we drafted him, and we expect him to do it. It's a long time between now and the opener, so we feel like he's got a chance to continue to develop and become more comfortable with what we're doing.”
 
Every extra route the Appalachian State graduate can steal with Bradford on the practice field or with receivers coach Ray Sherman in the film room will be vital to his development.

Although Quick comes to the Rams from a small school, the realities of the NFL and his draft position don’t come as paragons of patience.

“I am excited about playing but like I said, we are going to take it one step at a time,” Quick said. “Who knows what is going to happen? I hope for the best. I hope I get to play but I’ll have the right attitude about it and I’m going to do all we can to help us win games.”

FINDING FOOTBALL

One of the most commonly used adjectives to describe Quick in the buildup to the draft was “raw.” That was usually followed up by other descriptors that included words like upside, potential and promise.

In other words, Quick was widely regarded as a player with all of the physical tools, intelligence and desire to become a big time receiver at the NFL level. Inherent in those descriptions, though, was the implication that it would take him a while to reach that vast potential.

Quick doesn’t necessarily like to view his career arc that way because he has every intention of making a difference right away. But he does allow that he’s really only scratching the surface of his football ceiling.

“I’ll be able to take it how far I want it to go,” Quick said. “At the end of the day, you still have to come out here and work just like the other guys do. If you look at other guys that have been successful, I try to follow in their footsteps.”

Of course, to understand why Quick is really only starting to feel comfortable in the game, you have to understand where he comes from.

Growing up in Columbia, S.C., Quick was all about basketball. He always enjoyed the idea of football in his mind but he didn’t really have the body to reconcile what his brain was telling him.

Finally, in the summer between his sophomore and junior year at Ridge View High, Quick hit a long awaited growth spurt. His interest in football was piqued and after he hit another small growth spurt the following summer, he had suddenly grown to an imposing 6’3 and some change.

Armed with the body to hold up to the rigors of football, Quick opted to play football for the first time since Little League as a senior. He finished with 885 yards and 11 touchdowns and drew the attention of Appalachian State.

“I just felt like it was for me,” Quick said. “I was always smaller than everybody else growing up then I had my growth spurt my 10th grade year and I always wanted to play. I just felt like this was the sport for me and I made the best of it.”

Quick went on to set every major record in Appalachian State history for receiving, posting 202 receptions for 3,418 yards and 31 touchdowns in four seasons. To have such a talented player at his small school, even one with the rich tradition of the Mountaineers, was a stroke of great fortune for coach Jerry Moore.

“I will never forget the tape,” Moore said. “I was thinking here is a guy that wasn’t highly recruited and it’s unbelievable. He did all the little things that fine receivers do. He had great work habits.”

Quick’s success left him poised to be the highest drafted Mountaineer in school history. The only question was how high could he climb?

A DAY TO REMEMBER

Entering the draft season, the consensus among the pundits and wannabe pundits was that a few receivers had set themselves apart from the pack. That group included Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd and Baylor’s Kendall Wright.

After that trio was a cluster of wideouts ranging from the athletic freaks such as Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill to powerful guys like South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery to speedy and smooth players like Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins.

A solid performance at the Senior Bowl moved Quick into some of those conversations but in the eyes of the talking heads, his name still hadn’t quite risen to the level of that second group.

That’s not how the teams viewed him, though. To the NFL talent evaluators, the guys actually doing the drafting, Quick had all of the tools you could possibly want in a future No. 1 wideout. He had size, he had speed, he had hands, he had desire, the only question was how he’d be able to adjust to the higher level of competition.

New Rams general manager Les Snead had actually had his eye on Quick long before coming to St. Louis. He’d seen Quick in person four times and again at the Scouting Combine and was impressed each time. Quick had also taken a pre-draft visit to St. Louis and felt comfortable immediately.

The week before the NFL Draft, a Rams contingent including Snead, Fisher, Sherman, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and backup quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Tom Brandstater boarded a private plane to go see five wide receiver prospects in the span of two days.

The whirlwind trip took them to see Blackmon, Wright, Floyd, Jenkins and Quick. All of those names were leaked to the media except one: Quick. He had made such an impression on every member of the Rams contingent that the contingent only clued Bradford in on just how impressive Quick was.

“They all came back raving about Quick,” Bradford said. “They said he might have had...actually I know they said he had the best workout of any of the receivers that they worked out. I was extremely excited to see him when he got here last week and he had the opportunity to get on the field. It was pretty exciting just to see him out there moving.”

Working in the 80-yard Sofield Family Indoor Practice Facility at Appalachian State, the workout consisted only of Clemens throwing and Quick running and catching. Snead, Fisher and Brandstater watched intently as Sherman put Quick through the paces.

Before Quick even began working out, something had already jumped out to Brandstater.

“To me, what struck me more than other guy was that he was just so excited to be there,” Brandstater said. “He was happy to work, he had a great attitude and you could just tell from the get go that he loves football and wants to get better.”

The workout started with what Clemens calls a “bad ball” drill meant to test Quick’s hands and get him warmed up and to see how he does catching balls that aren’t thrown perfectly.

After the warm-up, Sherman put him through a script asking Quick to run 15 to 20 routes spread out over short, intermediate and long distances. Despite not running anything close to a full NFL route tree in college, Quick showed the athletic ability to adapt quickly and get in and out of breaks in smooth fashion.

Quick caught nearly every pass thrown his way, including a pair of balls Clemens said he misfired and thought no receiver let alone a draft prospect would be able to track down.

“You saw a very, very quality wide receiver,” Clemens said. “He was a very good player with all of his stats at App State and he really impressed us with what he did at the workout and then you are just left salivating at what he could be. I mean, the upside is, well the sky is the limit for that kid.”

In some ways, the workout also tested Quick’s conditioning but Clemens said the Rams actually had to get Quick to back off a little because he was so enthusiastic about getting back to the line and running the next route.

For as striking as the physical talents were, Clemens and the Rams came away equally struck by Quick’s hunger for the game, an unteachable trait they believe will help him reach his vast potential.

“He’s an impressive young man,” Clemens said. “He could have a very, very good career in this league. You want to see a guy that has some ability but even more important has the hunger to take it to the next level and be an elite player. In throwing to him and getting to know him in that short hour and a half, two hours, it was fairly clear to see this kid was hungry and excited. He didn’t have any ego which you run into sometimes especially at that position.”

As the Rams party departed to head back to St. Louis, the group came away with a unanimous opinion that Quick had the goods to fit the bill as the receiver that could become Bradford’s primary target.

Likewise, Quick came away with the feeling that the workout was more than just good exercise but a day he’ll remember forever as the day that changed his life.

“That got me excited,” Quick said. “You’ve got to live life to the fullest and then you get an opportunity where they took the time to come to you, that was something big for me. So I wanted to show them what I had and I wanted to be there with those guys. I loved the coaching staff when I came on the visit. I felt something. This was what I wanted to be a part of.”

LEARNING ON THE GO

When the first round of the NFL Draft came to a close on April 26, Fisher, Snead and the Rams scouting department had a little celebration. The receiver they had ranked just a hair below Blackmon had fallen to the second round.

The Rams had the first pick of that round and needed almost no time to pull the trigger. Quick was their man and they turned in the card without hesitation.

Quick arrived in St. Louis with his rookie teammates on May 10 for the rookie minicamp. He had a solid showing that weekend as Fisher noted his progress from day one to day two.

Last week, Quick participated in the first Organized Team Activity on May 15 but then departed for the Rookie Premiere Event, costing him the second two OTAs of the week.

Upon his return, Quick wasted no time getting back in the meeting rooms and watching film to ensure he hadn’t fallen too far behind.

For now, Quick’s focus is on a little bit of everything but by his own admission, it’s route running that he’s putting an emphasis on sharpening.

“It’s different,” Quick said. “It was very basic where I was at. Now it’s coming in and out of breaks, double moves, sometimes triple moves. You have got to practice those things. It’s not hard; you just have to work at it. You have the athletic ability to do it but you have got to be disciplined in those routes and listen to the coaches and what they try to tell you so you can be successful.”

Coming from an offense that essentially asked Quick to just find openings in the defense and catch the ball, Schottenheimer’s offense is far more advanced than anything Quick has done before.

Missing two offseason practices certainly won’t make or break Quick’s development in his rookie season but he acknowledged that he didn’t enjoy missing the time. By Friday’s practice, he believed he was already caught up on what he missed.

“I’m a rookie so I have a lot to learn,” Quick said. “I am good at learning. I know everything I can so far. I am learning every day. These guys come out here and already know it. We go into the meeting rooms and I learn it and then I come out here and I’m on it. It’s a learning process for me.”

The sooner the better.

“We wouldn't have taken him at the spot where we took him were we not convinced that he was one of those guys that could learn fast and help us very early in the season,” Fisher said.