September 23, 2015

Southern University's Willie Quinn has already accomplished his dream of making ESPN's SportsCenter.

When the electric, 5-foot-5 all-Southwestern Athletic Conference performer turned in a masterpiece against Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 10, he earned numerous honors - including being named STATS FCS special teams player of the week.

This week, he faces a major challenge against No. 7 Georgia of the FBS.

Quinn delivered highlight-reel plays to score on a 39-yard punt return and a 90-yard kickoff return against MVSU, mixing in an 89-yard touchdown pass on a trick play as a wide receiver for good measure in a 50-13 rout.

"I think he's an exciting football player and an outstanding young man," coach Dawson Odums said. "He understands how to play the game. When the football is in his hands, he believes that each time he touches it he has the ability to score points."

That performance earned Quinn not only a spot on SportsCenter's Top 10, but a separate segment on ESPN as well. And it meant the world to the Miami native.

"Everything has been going great," Quinn said. "It was a blessing to make the SportsCenter Top 10, not just get nominated once, make it twice."

Quinn's return moves are unparalleled, as he juked past numerous hapless defenders on his two scores.

Yet his pass may have been his most impressive feat. Taking a pitch from quarterback Austin Howard, the right-handed Quinn rolled to his left and uncorked a perfect spiral that traveled about 45 yards in the air for an easy TD to Randall Menard and a 33-0 lead.

Quinn, who says he also was recruited by Miami, Marshall and Western Kentucky, says that his return skills are instinctual. He says he does watch pro returners like Devin Hester, Tyler Lockett and Antonio Brown and admires their passion for the game.

The 145-pound Quinn says his size isn't a disadvantage.

"Just me getting the ball (with) everybody taller than me, they've got to go down to tackle me, I've got the advantage," he said.

Quinn's exploits this year already include a 100-yard kickoff return for a score in the opener at Louisiana Tech and a 43-yard TD catch last Saturday as Southern put up 50 points for the second straight week with a 50-31 rivalry win over Jackson State.

It's why Georgia coach Mark Richt called Quinn a "stick of dynamite right now" ahead of the diminutive sparkplug's biggest challenge yet - a Saturday matchup in Athens with the Bulldogs of the SEC.

While Odums joked that he wants to return to Baton Rouge with the same number of players that he will take to Georgia, he's not too worried about how one of his smallest players will acquit himself.

"I think he'll be nervous at first but he's nervous before any game," Odums said. "But once the ball gets kicked off, the butterflies will go away, he'll settle down and play the kind of football we're used to watching him play."

The Bulldogs rank 90th in the FBS in allowing 22.5 yards per kickoff return, and they likely won't shy away from kicking to Quinn.

Quinn leads the SWAC in all-purpose yardage with an average of 172.0 and his three overall return scores lead the nation. He led the Jaguars with 62 receptions and 892 yards a year ago.

"We move him around, kick returns, punt returns, slot receive him, try to find ways to get playmakers the football," Odums said.

And while Georgia is trumpeting the halftime performance of Southern's famed 'Human Jukebox' band, its coach knows that the Jaguars have a player also worth watching.

"He is so quick, fast, good ball skills," Richt said. "He really is a dynamic player. He's just not a big player, but he plays big."

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