Shaquille Quarterman woke up knowing the day had finally arrived. He had watched the first two days of the 2020 NFL Draft with excitement but trepidation. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had told him he’d likely be drafted on day three.
So that Saturday morning, Quarterman’s family woke up in their Jacksonville home, his aunt made breakfast, Shaq had what he described as “a little pep in my step” and everyone sat on the couch a little more excited than they had been the day before.
The picks rolled through the fourth quarter and Quarterman had felt his name getting closer and closer. Finally, his phone rang. It was a 904 number, “and I just thank the Lord before I answer. I say, ‘Thank you, Lord’ and I pick up the phone.”
Then, “I tried to make sure not to press the wrong button on my phone when trying to answer the phone call. So as soon as he said he was from the Jaguars, I almost started crying already.”
Quarterman played high school football 26 miles from the Jacksonville Jaguars facility and Everbank Field. He went to Oakleaf High School in Orange Park, a newer school that opened in 2010. He’s the first alumni of the school to be drafted to the NFL.
“Being the first one from our school and from my area to make it, it speaks volumes, because all I ever wanted to do was rep the brand. That’s all. I just wanted to make sure that everybody knew that North Florida had a lot of football talent too. When everybody talks about Florida they want go down south, but I just wanted to be one of those who put North Florida on the map as well. There’s no slouches over here.”
Quarterman was also the first Miami Hurricanes player taken in the 2020 Draft and he plans on representing that brand as well.
“It’s my part to keep Miami, not only afloat, but to keep them as who they are and represent that logo… I plan to go the distance, you know, to rep their brand to the best of my abilities. People aren’t gonna say what school Shaquille Quarterman went to, they say Shaquille Quarterman represents the U, you know, he’s up there with the Ray Lewis, Jon Beason, BJ Williams, Jon Vilma. Not just because I went to the school and graduated but because I deserved to be there and that’s been my goal since going to Miami, since I committed to Miami. If I do what I’m supposed to and I’m amongst the names on that list, I did something right.”
Shaq Quarterman did a lot of things right, to the tune of 356 career tackles including 46.5 for loss, 13 sacks, 14 passes defended, two forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. But the most impressive stat Quarterman leaves Miami with is 52. Through his four years, he played in—and started—all 52 games, the only Cane player in Miami’s long history to accomplish that feat.
“I had worked so hard year after year, like the body and work put together in those 52 games. It’s so quickly said when you read it off a screen, read it off a piece of paper, but that took 52 games. That took 4 years and that took more time to prepare to be able to last 4 years.”
It was something that stood out to Jaguars Director of College Scouting Mark Ellenz, creating what he called a “warrior mentality.”
“This kid’s a four-year starter, productive, smart, tough, all-about-ball, alpha male, leader, locker room guy. Kind of a guy you don’t mess with there, he’s been running the show since a freshman.”
On the Jaguars current 75 man roster (plus free agents), there are 15 with six or more years of experience. There are 50 with three years or less experience. The young team will be looking for leadership. And though Quarterman readily acknowledges that as a rookie he’ll be back on the bottom of the pecking order, there will still be a hole that Ellenz knows Quarterman can fill. As for Quarterman himself, he’s ready for that responsibility.
“It only takes one guy, in a lot of scenarios, to get a group of guys going. It just takes somebody to maybe say something and I’ve learned that that’s just the role that I have to play. I’ve been blessed with talent on and off the field, but even more so as a person. I’m not too cool to tell my teammates that I love them and that I need them. And doing things like that go a long way more than most people actually know.
"Most people think you have to be provocative, that’s not the case. When you stand on the side of winning and your teammates know that, then they respect you much more. You don’t have to do all the extra to try to gain respect. That’s why I just plan to come in and show them I came to work. I’m going to be here whether you like it or not because I came to work.”
This is the kind of passion Shaq Quarterman brings to everything he does and it’s more than just a company line. It was something Ellenz saw in action during Miami’s bowl game when the Canes were losing to Louisiana Tech. Camera’s panned the sideline and caught Quarterman, standing in front of a bench of his teammates and laying into them.
“I asked him what he said and why,” recalled Ellenz.
“I can’t really repeat a lot of the stuff that he said, but that’s just kind of him trying to rally the troops and trying to get back into the game.”
When Quarterman talked to head coach Doug Marrone after the pick was in, he echoed the mindset and it stood out to Marrone.
“He’s ready. He said, ‘Coach, I’m just telling you now when my cleats are on the grass, I will do whatever you want me to do. I’m going to play.’ Those are the kind of things you feel good about.”
When the Jacksonville Jaguars do finally reconvene for the upcoming season, it’ll be Shaq Quarterman and his “warrior mentality” that will help them grow into the team Doug Marrone wants to field. Until then, he’ll sit just down the road and revel in the turn his life has taken.
“I heard the news that I could stay home while I was home and that was just different. It’s just different.”