On the first day of Montana Tech's fall football camp, Quinn McQueary got mad. Like really mad. I don't remember what it was exactly, but practice hadn't gone particularly well for the team and after it was over, McQueary peeled out of the parking lot.
From that point on, I knew at some point I'd want a chance to do a profile on him. What I found was a deeply intelligent and nuanced person who is statistically one of the best quarterbacks to ever play on Bob Green field. From high school star at Manhattan to frustrated Montana State Bobcat to star Oredigger quarterback, this is Quinn McQueary. -- Jordan Hansen
BUTTE — Quinn McQueary gives himself 10 seconds to let things go.
He actually used to get 10 minutes. When the Montana Tech quarterback was younger, he was a talented junior breakaway roper.
So good, in fact, he won the NRA saddle and as his dad — Dale McQueary — says during his second to last year in the junior ranks the competition, “wasn’t even close.”
But there were times where he would get frustrated. He wanted to win. Badly. It’s in his blood.
Quinn has two cousins who played at Tech — Cal and Clay. The leaves on his family tree hate to lose, which tells you where he gets his competitiveness.
So, he has a rule. Quinn was given 10 minutes to cool off; 10 minutes to vent his frustration. As he got older and into football, the 10 minutes had to be cut down to 10 seconds — there’s not a whole lot of time for the star quarterback to be angry.
He has to be the leader, the person everybody else on the team looks to.
“You have to be that guy that’s under control 24/7," Quinn said. "You have to have that fire but you also have to be under control and be able to focus.
"That’s the biggest thing my Ma and Pa taught me, you have 10 seconds to let things go, but you can be mad for them 10 seconds.”
If you watch Quinn for a few minutes, it’s not hard to see that competitiveness oozing out of him.
During practice, he dictates the offense just the same as he would during a playoff game. Everything has to be perfect and if things aren’t the way the self-described control freak wants them to be, someone’s getting an earful.
It’s never menacing and he has the utmost respect for his teammates but he wants things done correctly. His father, who happens to be Montana Tech's tight ends coach, describes Quinn as a coach on the field. Dale added that Quinn has been this way since his days as a quarterback at Manhattan High School.
“I need to be in control all the time,” Quinn said. “(Offensive Coordinator Pete) Sterbick is my boss, but I’m kind of the manager of this whole thing.”
Not being the boss was what drove him from Montana State, where he started his collegiate career. The Bobcats wanted him to play wide receiver and he wanted to be quarterback.
He wasn’t in line to start at quarterback anytime soon and he didn’t want to call plays from the sideline. Quinn wanted to be in the middle of the action. He wanted to hit someone.
Which is kind of strange, really, considering football wasn’t something one of the best quarterbacks in Tech history loved when he was younger.
“I was a basketball guy, I was a prima donna dude,” Quinn said with a laugh. “I didn’t really much care for the contact. It came my sophomore year. I gained 30 pounds and I actually really liked playing safety a lot. That’s where the contact part of it came in. That's why I like running head down and taking them hits.”
His sophomore year was the first time he got to start at quarterback full time. During a tough freshman season at Manhattan, Quinn’s team went 2-6. His dad was the head coach of the team and slowly started to insert him for spot-duty at the quarterback position.
Dale let Quinn start the last game of Quinn's freshman season. The Tigers won. He said they only lost two or three games the rest of Quinn’s career.
Quinn got to play both ways and was a talented safety, which he considers is more or less quarterbacking the defense.
His efforts didn't go unnoticed. After watching tape of a game between Manhattan and a very good Ronan team, a coach from Deer Lodge told Dale that he had never seen a player control the game on defense the way Quinn did.
Prior to that Ronan game, Dale thought his team would have to play better than it had all season for the game to be close. Manhattan won 25-0.
“I always felt sorry for whoever was carrying the ball or if they threw to his side, because if (Quinn) made a mistake on offense, he would take out his frustration out on a defensive play,” Dale recalled. “He’s under control, he likes to be in control of the game.”
Montana Tech head football coach Chuck Morrell gave Quinn the reigns to the offense shortly after the Montana State transfer became a member of the Orediggers' program. He started five games and appeared in six as sophomore, but got hurt and missed a large portion of that season. Last year, he played in 11 of 12 games, missing the finale against Reinhardt.
Morrell knew about Quinn early on, mainly because the world of football in Montana football is fairly small. There was a lot he liked about his style of play, but it went deeper than that.
“He’s hyper-competitive, very athletic," Morrell said. "If I could point out one thing, it would be his competitive edge, it’s just incredible. He wants to win. He wants to do his best every snap.
"It doesn’t matter if it’s a Monday-morning fall-camp practice or a playoff game, his mode of operation is always the same.”
When Morrell learned that Quinn was looking to leave the Bobcats program, he didn't hesitate. A visit was arranged — quickly — and Quinn was impressed from the early moments of meeting the coaching staff.
It didn’t take him long to sign the transfer papers.
“I took some visits to other colleges and they seemed satisfied with being .500 or just winning and losing a few games,” Quinn said. “But not here. That’s not the mentality. They’ve never been satisfied with just winning a conference championship. There’s always a bigger goal.
“I think that’s the biggest thing coach Morrell has instilled in us.”
There are national championship aspirations in the Tech locker room this year. Last season was cut short after Quinn and star running back Nolan Saraceni were both injured before the team’s quarterfinal game against Reinhardt.
Quinn calls the Orediggers a “plus-2 team” which basically means he views this team as having two extra playoff games tacked on to its schedule.
Getting to and winning the national championship is the only goal the team has.
“We’ve come up short the last two years and I think we’ve had teams that could have made big runs and pushed to the national championship,” Quinn said. “We’re not here to just beat Carroll College. We’re not here to just win a conference championship. We’re here to take this all the way.”
A lot of that responsibility rests on Quinn’s shoulders. He’s been working on ball security, a major personal point of emphasis during the offseason.
McQueary rushed for 361 yards last season and is a dual-threat quarterback but he is aware that he doesn’t carry the ball well. Getting two hands on it has been something stressed to him by his father and Sterbick.
Throwing 26 touchdowns last year was impressive but he was also picked off eight times. He wants to show off his improved pocket presence and the fact he’s been working on going through his reads better.
Staying healthier will be important, too. That equates to taking fewer chances when running the ball, or merely running it less often. He averaged 7.2 carries per game last season and had five in Tech's season-opening win over Carroll College.
“He needs to get out of bounds to live another day,” Dale said. “He’s got the defensive mentality — he’s going to try and run over you. The couple times he’s slid I’ve gotta say, we were all pretty shocked.”
Whenever the season ends, Quinn admits there might be a stray tear or two in his eyes. Football has meant absolutely everything to him and being able to play for Tech with his dad as a coach has been a special experience for him.
Once he’s finished with football, he’ll graduate with a degree in Applied Health. He’s thinking hard about being a trainer or maybe even opening a gym.
That’s in the future, however, and right now there’s just one singular focus. Football. It’s something he can control.
“I’m not thinking about the end right now, I’m just trying to stay in the now,” Quinn said. “I’m just trying to stay focused on this season. I’m enjoying it, enjoying my family and enjoying all my brothers around me.”