From NFL star to little league coach, Lions' Glover Quin loves to teach, lead

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It's after practice on a Wednesday inside the Detroit Lions' facility and defensive players are piling into their meeting room. They are tired, but this meeting is important. After the first real game-planning day of the week, they are reviewing practice. No coaches are present -- only players.

There's no slacking in this 30-40 minute session. That's mostly because of the man leading it: Glover Quin. For this small stretch each week, Quin transforms from a player who thinks like a coach into a virtual coach understanding everything his peers are trying to do.

Quin is a Pro Bowl-level safety. To the Lions, he's more. He has been the unquestioned leader for a while -- the Lions' last protection against opponents and their defensive emotional center. In this meeting, he's also the instructor and idea-cultivator.

"He's almost like [defensive line coach] Kris [Kocurek] with the rewind button, rewinding, rewinding, rewinding," defensive tackle Akeem Spence said. "It takes us a good little minute to get through the film sometimes because he's so detailed."

The meeting is mostly positive. Quin asks different positions questions and encourages suggestions. Sometimes ideas in the forum end up presented to the coaching staff, all to make sure Sunday goes as smooth as possible.

Quin might be a peer, but he's the man on the defense every player looks up to. He's a big brother to the rest of the secondary and a safety valve for everyone else.

"We're the ones that's on the field, so I felt like if we're the ones that are going to be out there, we need to be the ones out there having meetings, because sometimes things happen on the field that it don't look like that in the meeting room," Quin said. "So I need to see what are your thoughts when you see this, how are you seeing it? How are you planning on playing it? Do you know what your responsibility is? Do you know what the game plan is for this week?

"Do you need somebody to tell you this, or do I need somebody to tell you this so that we're all on the same page."

The role fits, the bridge between player and coach. He has been analytical his entire life, believing he saw football differently before he even started playing organized football in seventh grade in Summit, Mississippi. When he played with friends in the backyard, he always felt he understood concepts faster than others. And it's where everything for Quin began.

Annie Quin always believed her son was destined for something, even before she knew she was pregnant with her youngest child and only boy. She knows some people might not understand it, but she said she had a vision before she discovered her pregnancy. In it, she saw the face of a newborn and then a grown man shining in a bright light. Then she found out she was pregnant. It was a boy. Glover.

"I told him he was chosen, and chosen people can't do stuff that everybody else does," Annie said. "You can't be like everybody. You have to be different from everybody. You have to be an example of everybody who looks up to you, and so he kind of, I guess, put that in his heart, that he's different, and it's not because of his choice but because he was chosen to be different."

Quin, himself a very spiritual person, believed the vision his mom had. He focused on it. Since he was young, Quin was convinced he'd be famous. He initially hoped he'd be in the NBA.

In elementary school, Quin took a piece of a paper, made 12 small squares and autographed each one -- handing them to teachers, telling him to save them and that he'd be famous one day. When he signed the back of his annual photo for classmates, he wrote "Keep this, it's going to be famous one day." To this day, he sometimes receives screenshots of the signed pictures.

"He was just practicing his name," said his father, also named Glover. "How he would be signing, how he wanted to sign his name. It took him a while to get his [signature], but as he went on, he got it before the time came for him to do it."

The basketball dreams -- he didn't plan on playing football as a freshman at North Pike High School -- eventually gave way to football. At North Pike he played almost every position possible -- rushing for 2,552 yards, making 224 tackles and intercepting 13 passes. His senior year English teacher, Janellyn Boyd, had him write a letter to himself, but four years older, describing where he thought he'd be. Boyd gave the letter to his father.

The letter was almost spot on. He would go to college, play football, play in Division I, have a shot at the pros and get a degree.

"The only thing I had wrong was the school that I went to, because I wanted to go to Mississippi State," Quin said. "So I thought I would go to Mississippi State. And I think that was about it."

Instead, Quin started at Southwest Mississippi Junior College before transferring to New Mexico. It was in those three places where one of his most well-known traits -- his ability to play through almost anything -- grew. And the vision he always had remained.

In high school, Quin injured his ankle during a game and played through it. The next day, the doctor told him he chipped it -- much worse than the sprain the other quarterback on his team suffered that kept him out.

At Southwest Mississippi, Quin came to the sidelines during the second game of his first year, thinking his arm was sore. He played the second half through the pain and practiced a few days the following week before telling coaches and going to the doctor. "It was broken," Quin said. He missed the rest of the season.

His junior year at New Mexico, he played two weeks with a groin injury before having surgery. He came back and had the first two interceptions of his career in his last game of that season. He saw his name on draft boards. His senior year, he played through a partially torn meniscus, making 53 tackles with 16 passes defended and 5 interceptions. He knew he couldn't sit out. His future -- the one he planned on from when he was a kid -- depended on it.

"I couldn't afford to get it fixed," Quin said.

Houston took him in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. After missing one game, Quin has started every game for Houston and Detroit since Week 14 of his rookie year -- a streak of 135 games including four playoff games. He has played more than 1,000 snaps in four of those seasons. He has also turned into one of the league's premier free safeties with 621 tackles, 24 interceptions and 40 passes defended during the streak. He knows that as a fourth-round pick who switched positions from cornerback to safety, the odds of him producing like he has -- in terms of health and performance -- were definitely against him.

But Quin has always believed he's a little different.

He has played through elbow, ankle and groin injuries. He suffered two concussions with the Lions and managed to play in the team's next game. He was cleared both times, including being helped by a well-timed bye week after his concussion this season.

"Coming from where I came from, all the things I had to go through to get to this point, but then making it to the NFL and all of the things that I went through and all the positions that I played to be nine years here, all the injuries that I went through, that I played through early in my life, probably helped me here," Quin said. "All the things I went through early in high school probably helped me as I got older -- just got to fight through it.

"All those experiences that I had I felt like prepared me to be in this spot because every one of these guys I can relate to in some type of way."

When Quin speaks, younger defensive backs gather around to listen. He'll offer advice on life and football, having seen and experienced almost everything in the sport except a Super Bowl.

When Darius Slay was preparing to have his girlfriend move in, he asked Quin for advice. When another defensive back was looking into purchasing a house, he asked Quin what to do. Safety Roland Milligan heard Quin stretched in the weight room after practice, so he started observing him -- and then incorporated it into his own plan.

The advice he gave Slay heading into his second year in the league helped shape his life. Quin married soon after he entered the league and had children, giving him a different perspective.

"He said like, 'Man, this is your job, and you need your job to take care of your family, you know,'" Slay said. "It was just for me, I got kids. I had a kid. A lot of people my age, they are probably like, 'Huh?' They don't have no kids. But he had kids, too, so I was like, 'Maaan.' He just sat down and said, 'You ain't just doing it for yourself. You're a prime example for your family.' He let me know that."

It's why, in those Wednesday meetings, no one wants to disappoint Quin. They pay attention, come in prepared and listen when he speaks, because no one wants to be in the direction of a Quin clap.

Quin is usually the calm, collected face of the Lions defense. It has helped him reach this level. But players know when he's angry, because he'll start shaking his head. And then ...

"That clap. He might be like 'Yeeaahh,' but you see him go, saying 'Come on, need you,'" Slay said. "Then he started pointing somewhere. The faster the clap, the madder he is. So he's sitting there clapping at one mile per hour, he might be like, 'Yeah, I like that.' Two miles, well, you might stay nice.

"Four claps in a row, you're on his bad side right now and you better make a play next play."

Once, Slay received 20 high-succession claps his second year in the league against Minnesota. The Lions had the game won, but Slay let up on the final drive. In successive plays, he missed a tackle, took a penalty and allowed a catch.

As Slay kept failing, the clapping intensified. The lesson stuck. Slay remembered it this season, when he intercepted a pass in the end zone against Cleveland to seal the game. He might not have gotten that had Quin not clapped at him years earlier.

"I don't curse out on the field, so that's just my 'Let's go,' mode. Like, 'Come on,'" Quin said, before clapping fast. "I've done it enough that I don't even have to say anything now. They know what it means. And like I said, it only happens when there's a play that I feel that was our play and we didn't get it."

The origin, Quin thinks, came "probably from my kids," but he isn't sure. It is part of his evolution as a player and a coach -- something else his kids have had a part in.

Quin signed up his son, Dacquan, to play little league baseball in 2015 in their offseason home in Texas. Dacquan played up in age and was assigned to a team coached by Jehramy Forks, who saw Glover Quin's name. Forks thought it might be the same guy.

Then they met. Their kids hit it off and wanted to play together the following season. There was only one way to guarantee that: Quin would have to become a coach, too. At first, he didn't think he could do it. He would go back-and-forth to Detroit for offseason workouts.

"He's like, 'Bro, I'll handle it. I just want the boys to be able to play together,'" Quin said. "We didn't know how they were going to go, but they were friends and wanted to play together. So I was like, 'Cool.'

"Once I started doing it, I kind of fell in love with it."

Soon, Glover Quin, Pro Bowl safety, became Glover Quin, assistant little league coach. After watching early practices, he drew up detailed practice plans akin to NFL workouts, with individual periods, team periods and situational periods with infielders and outfielders. He timed everything to the minute, focusing on fundamentals.

When he'd be in Michigan, he'd be working on plans and searching for ideas. He went to the baseball games of Christian Williams, the 16-year-old son of safeties coach Alan Williams and asked for advice on fungo bats, gloves and scouting. During warm-ups at offseason workouts, the baseball team came up in conversation. He'd ask teammates for ideas, too.

"He's into it," safety Tavon Wilson said. "He's not just out there coaching. He's coaching to win."

In 2016, his Giants team was the No. 1 seed and had what Quin called a "very, very, very sickening" loss in the semifinals.

Quin has been in front of rooms of professional athletes and the most amateur of amateurs. He might coach high school football one day. The level of prep might be different, but the feeling of winning and losing, it's the same. And Quin is just trying to do everything he can to make sure his teams are as ready as possible.

"In an NFL game, when you lose, you feel a certain way because it's your job and you're trying to win, trying to win a Super Bowl," Quin said. "This is your job, you have to take it very seriously. But losing in little league, you feel bad because you lost, but I feel bad for the kids.

"You know, because I know how hard they worked. I know how much they put into it. I knew how bad they wanted to win and then they lost. You do feel like, 'Man, we let these kids down.' I felt really bad for the kids."

This year, it wouldn't happen again. In the 8-year-old division of Lamar Little League, Quin's Pirates went 11-3 this season. They won the championship.