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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quigley’s crash course

Senior leans on mom’s support in transition to LB

Kansas running back Angus Quigley flexes after scoring a touchdown against South Florida in this Sept. 12, 2008, file photo in Tampa, Fla.

Kansas running back Angus Quigley flexes after scoring a touchdown against South Florida in this Sept. 12, 2008, file photo in Tampa, Fla.

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Kansas University senior angus quigley is pictured in this file photo before the 2008 season. Quigley, through ups and downs on the football field, has remained close to his mother, Tammie, who initially was uneasy with Angus playing football for fear of injury.

Not long ago, as he sat slouched in a chair in the Parrott Athletic Center on the Kansas University campus, Angus Quigley was talking about his mom.

It was an interesting discussion topic for the 6-foot-2, 222-pound KU football player — not just because such subject matter seldom finds its way into the machismo world of college football — but because, at the time, there was so much else to talk about.

In a couple weeks, the KU football team would begin its summer workouts, the official start to its quest for a first-ever outright Big 12 North title, and Quigley, a fifth-year senior who spent his first four years in the program playing running back, would be standing in a new position.

But at the moment, he was talking about Tammie Hemlee, who raised Quigley more or less alone in the small Texas town of Cleburne.

In Quigely’s eyes, just about everything starts with Tammie.

Tammie’s been there through just about everything. Through the scholarship offers that dried up when college coaches became concerned Quigley wouldn’t be academically eligible after his senior year of high school. Through a gruesome hip injury that, during his red-shirt freshman season at Kansas, left him wheelchair-bound for three weeks, alone in his dorm room while the Jayhawks’ 2006 season carried on without him.

And through his current and sometimes difficult transition from running back to linebacker, an experiment the results of which will not be known for at least another two months.

And so, yeah, during a 30-minute interview intended to focus on football, Quigely was talking about his mom.

“She’s my world, dog,” he says, leaning forward in his seat. “She’s my world.”

A calculated risk

It’s fall of 2000, and Angus Quigley is a man with a secret.

Against the orders of his mother, who has made a point of keeping her only son out of football for fear of injury, he has begun showing up at eighth-grade football practices while Tammie is at work, trying to learn the nuances of the game in the afternoons and attempting to disguise his exhaustion when he slinks home at night. Things are going well, too. He’s emerging as one of the top players on his team, despite playing against kids with years of organized youth football experience.

He knows he can’t keep quiet forever — not from a woman who serves as a parole officer in charge of, among other things, counseling former criminals — and so when it comes time to admit his guilt, he is systematic in his surrender.

“I figured if I waited until the night before the first game to tell her,” he says now, “she wouldn’t keep me from playing.”

And so on the eve of the team’s first game, he approaches Tammie and states cheerfully, “Hey Mom, I have a football game tomorrow. You gonna come?”

Tammie looks down at this waif standing before her, all elbows and kneecaps, the boy who won’t even sit with her while she watches football on Sunday afternoons in the fall, and is, well ... confused.

Football? Her son?

“But Mom,” he says, “I’m the best player on the team!”

She shakes her head and rolls her eyes, but is intrigued enough to agree to watch the following day’s game.

Before the start of the first half the next day, she makes her way to the concession stand, and on the way back to her seat — on the very first play of the game — she sees her son break free into the open field. Not content to watch such an event transpire from the bleachers, she runs screaming all the way down the fence, leaving a trail of popcorn in her wake.

By the end of the evening, Quigley has scored four touchdowns and rushed for more than 300 yards, and when it is over, Tammie sits in her seat in the stands and thinks to herself, “Well maybe this kid can play.”

Kansas comes calling

Yes, he can play.

By the time he enters high school, he’s playing all over the field. Receiver, running back, cornerback, kickoff returner, gunner — sometimes all in the same game. Anything to get on the field and carve himself a path out of Cleburne, which is what he’s decided he must do after watching countless friends and classmates fall victim to the town’s seedy temptations.

Despite a rough final two years at Cleburne High — the Yellow Jackets went 1-9 in Quigley’s junior year, 0-10 during his senior season — he does enough to catch the attention of a number of college recruiters. He goes to camps at Texas and Oklahoma. He gets letters from colleges from all over the country.

Except a scheduling mishap means that Quigley has a lot of work to do in his final year of school — a lot of math, his worst subject — and when the colleges learn about this, they begin to sag back. TCU, which according to Rivals.com made an offer, calls an audible, suggesting Quigley go to junior college for a semester before enrolling at the school.

And suddenly, Quigley’s options have dwindled.

Then one day at school, Quigley is informed that he has a phone call from the head coach at Kansas University. Well, Quigley does not know who the head coach at Kansas University is (or anything about Kansas University, for that matter), but he takes the call, and someone named Mark Mangino begins telling him about a wonderful place called Kansas, where the Jayhawks regularly line up against teams like Texas and Oklahoma.

Unsure what exactly to do, Quigley goes to the one person he can talk to about such matters.

“If they’re willing to put themselves out on a limb for you,” Tammie tells him, “then that’s the school you need to go to.”

And so the two of them pack the car and head to Lawrence, and Tammie promises her son she won’t cry when it’s time for her to drop him off, but that promise proves to be about as strong as a wet paper towel.

“She was putting her stuff in the car,” Quigley says, “and she got all teared up.”

Riding the roller coaster

From the start, things don’t go well for Quigley in Lawrence. One by one, the roadblocks materialize, each a little more disappointing than the one before.

Here comes the hip injury during his red-shirt freshman season that lands him in a wheelchair for three weeks, crutches for four more.

Here comes the daunting rehabilitation process after surgery in Miami, as he tries to regain his old form.

And after he’s worked his way back into uniform, after he’s spent a year backing up Brandon McAnderson during the Jayhawks’ magical Orange Bowl run in 2007, after he’s put himself in prime position to battle for a shot at a starting running back spot in ’08, now here comes Jocques Crawford, a running back transfer and former junior college player of the year at Cisco (Texas) Junior College who’s supposed to be the team’s answer to the departed McAnderson.

He talks to Tammie. She tells him to have faith. She also tells him to remember what it feels like to not know anybody, to be the new guy on campus. And so he makes a point to welcome Crawford with open arms, even though Crawford’s arrival represents an obvious hurdle in his quest to start at running back for the Jayhawks.

“It was hard, because he had always been the star,” says Tammie. “He was always voted Most Likely to Succeed, prom king. It was hard for him, but I said, ‘God’s not going to put you through anything that he can’t bring you out of.’”

And sure enough, a couple games into the 2008 season, he gets his chance.

After four games, he’s leading the team in rushing, part of a three-man running back platoon that includes Crawford and Jake Sharp. And before KU’s biggest nonconference game of the season, a Friday night, nationally televised matchup with No. 19 South Florida, it’s Quigley’s picture that runs alongside the USA Today story hyping the game. A team featuring Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Darrell Stuckey, and Angus Quigley is the story.

It doesn’t last. A couple of bad games here, a couple of costly fumbles there, the emergence of Sharp as a viable No. 1 back, and Quigley is back on the bench, his fate as a running back for the Kansas football team winding to an unceremonious close.

At some point during the latter stages of the ’08 season, though, on the rare occasions Quigley still sees the field, Mangino sees Quigley’s big body whipping across the turf, sees the ferocious manner in which he collides with defenders, and has an idea.

He knows he’ll be losing all three of his starting linebackers following the ’08 season. He knows a body like Quigley’s could better serve the team on the field.

How about playing linebacker, he asks.

Tackling a new position

So that brings us to today.

Entering a 2009 season that seems to represent Kansas’ best shot to date at an outright Big 12 North title, this is Quigley’s challenge: Reinvent himself in a single offseason.

It won’t be easy, but there is reason for Kansas fans to hope. For one thing, Quigley is under the tutelage of a distinguished linebackers coach — a vocal, energetic man named Bill Miller who counts NFL all-pro Ray Lewis among his former pupils. For another, it’s impossible to look at Quigley’s frame — 6-foot-2, 222 pounds — and not be struck by the possibilities.

“Not to have a man-crush on Angus Quigley,” says Sharp, KU’s starting running back, “but his physical stature, his lifts, his speed ... he’s an excellent asset to our team.”

There is still plenty to be done in the next three months, of course. Playing linebacker in the Big 12 is difficult enough with years of experience at the position. Quigley is starting from scratch. He’s currently in the not-so-simple process of wrapping his head around the position’s many nuances — spacing, route concepts, run schemes. And he still smiles sheepishly when asked about his pad level, which regularly drove coaches crazy when he played running back.

“Still gotta work on pad level,” he says, shaking his head. “Just like at running back.”

Like always, Tammie has been there for guidance, talking to him during their Sunday phone calls, offering encouragement where necessary.

“He just had to have faith,” says Tammie. “You can come back from anything if you want to come back from it. It might be a little off the loop, but you can come back from it.

“He’s really buying into it,” she adds of the move to linebacker. “When I talk to him, he’s like, ‘Mom, I feel like a natural at it.’”

So yes, Quigley was talking about his mom as he sat in that Parrott Athletic Center office last month. He was talking about the support and the bond (”I’m a big momma’s boy,” he said) — and before he got up to leave, he smiled and offered up an old cliche that — in the context of the moment — sounded like something a bit more.

“If it wasn’t for my mom,” he says, “I probably wouldn’t be here.”

Comments

rasta_meta 4 years, 10 months ago

Very nice story and well written too!

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Frankenhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

I've been a big fan of The Beef for a long time now. Seeing his big frame smash through defenders as a running back was great, and he has suprising speed really. He always gave 100% despite the fact that it seems mangino was bound and determined to keep him off the field, only putting him out there when the boos and jeers from the crowd about the stagnant running game became too loud. I personally think he would still be the best running back we have (who cares how high he carries his pads, the guy is 6'2" for crying out loud), but I am infinitely excited about his potential at linebacker, especially in a year when we are pretty much starting from scratch at that position, moving from big lumbering tanks to (hopefully) speedy and sure tackling cruisers. No matter what happens though, we can be sure that The Beef will give 100%of himself on every down, and in the end thats really all anyone can ask for.

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Kman_blue 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm in shock! Another really good story about the KU football program/players in 3 days!

This is a great story! Keep them coming!

AQ is definitely one of my favorite players on the team and I'm really pulling for him! I also think he deserves to get that medical red-shirt. It's nice to learn more about the man he is off the field as much as it is to learn about his football career on the field. I think if AQ can make this transition successfully, he's got a real shot at making it to the next level as well. He certainly has all the tools to make it there IMO.

Go KU! and Go AQ!

Rock Chalk Jayhawk

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Rick Arnoldy 4 years, 10 months ago

Lighten up, rivethead. He asked a question and we answered it. I knew it wasn't 3000 yards. I just didn't have the cob shoved up my you-know-what to rip on him because he got his message across. Shall we run all posts by you as the self appointed editor?

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Kit Duncan 4 years, 10 months ago

He can do it. A few years ago a first string Safety from the University of Kansas moved to QB and promptly put KU on the map running the second best wishbone in the nation (only OU was better statistically). The player? Nolan Cromwell. Highlight of that 1975 season? KU 23, OU 3 !!!

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Rivethead 4 years, 10 months ago

Yes, he blew up a true freshman safety when we played UT (that was at home, not at UT).

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Dirk Medema 4 years, 10 months ago

Angus' development at LB is one of the things I'm most looking forward to this season, especially with a few team, NU, CU & maybe even MU, appearing to be more run oriented this year than the conference trend was last year.

Wasn't it Quig's that blew up the S at UT last year? It would be nice to see that in reverse a few times this year.

Nice to know he is learning from Coach Miller, Lewis' mentor. Angus' development this year could be the key not only to our team success, but also to many profittable years away from Cleburne for him and momma.

Rock Chalk

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hawk316 4 years, 10 months ago

Terrific piece. Good work, Doogie. You gotta root for Quigley after what he's been through. I'd love to see him succeed, and even excel, at linebacker. To do so would be a great accomplishment considering how late he's making the switch. Good luck, Angus!

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97jhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

Nice work Dugan. This was a great article!!

We, the KU faithful, love reading about our players so that they seem more like people and not just student-athletes.

I take back all those negative Missouri grad comments about you. Well, almost all of them....haha!

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Rivethead 4 years, 10 months ago

Joques NEVER promised to do anything. He made a personal goal of rushing for 2000 (not 3000) yards last season and made the mistake of talking about that goal publicly. Personally I have no problems with kids aiming high and I'm not sure why anyone else would either. But ignorant message board posters quickly turned Joques comments into a "promise" and once he didn't keep that "promise" they were quick to point it out..........

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number1jayhawker 4 years, 10 months ago

I remember reading a very similar story on AQ a couple of years ago. Don't remember if it was on here or JAYHAWKSLANT or PHOG.net. I remember that his mom was real important and special in his life. GO AQ!

ROCK CHALK!

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BPSkelly 4 years, 10 months ago

We have to hope it works out because our LB core is thin as it is, and im sick of seeing our Safeties get tackles even when our LBs are good.

Physical skill and talent are great, but if he hasnt put it together at this point carrying the ball maybe being the guy who's hitting the carrier of the ball is a better idea. This move (RB/FB to LB) happens ALL THE TIME in college. If the depth chart fills in one area, move talent to places that are thin. You still want your best players out there, regardless of position.

Kerry Meier ring a bell? Charles Gordon taking snaps at WR?

This move speaks to our weakness at LB as much as it does anything else as well.

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Patrick Leiker 4 years, 10 months ago

This is REALLY nit-picky, but for a KUsports writer, writing 'Kansas University' should sound like nails on a chalk board.

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tdub 4 years, 10 months ago

Too bad this all had to happen to Angus. He deserves a RB spot more than Crawford.

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truefan 4 years, 10 months ago

I was so excited when Quigley committed, but things just have not worked out so far. I hope his transition to linebacker proves to be the answer because I would love to see him on the field more often.

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Rick Arnoldy 4 years, 10 months ago

That was Jocques - before he realized the Big 12 is a little tougher than JuCo ball.

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ttoulouse 4 years, 10 months ago

Good stuff - more football!!!

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Daniel Rojas 4 years, 10 months ago

Great Story!!! Was it Angus or Jacques that promised 3,000 yards last year? If it was Angus i think that attitude will be well served at LB!

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Joe Baker 4 years, 10 months ago

What a wise mother and it speaks volumes that Quigley is open to what she has to say. He definitely wants to learn and has the desire to succeed. He has the talent and ability to play almost any position. He has a great attitude that is open to what is best for the team.
Good luck Q and stay focused on that end prize. You have a chance to make a huge contribution for a championship team.

RCJHKU

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mdfraz 4 years, 10 months ago

Very good story, and like the other posters, I hope Angus has a good season, not just for the sake of the team, but for himself and what he's dealt with here (especially the hip injury). I hope he's watching film every day because with his size and athletic ability, he really could be a good linebacker for us, espeically with our new nickle scheme.

Dugan, I know people have been/are critical of you sometimes, and I've been guilty of it as well, but this is a really good story, and I hope we continue to see more and more football articles as we approach the start of the season. Keep it up.

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troutsee 4 years, 10 months ago

Quigley ran the ball like a beast. He is not afraid of contact. He's fast and he has football savvy. He has the potential to put fear into the minds of running backs. I've been pulling for this guy throughout his college career. Here's hoping he has an outstanding senior year. He certainly has the physcial tools. If he can master all of the nuances of line backing, look out. The Quig has smoke coming out of his nostrils.

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Jim Baker 4 years, 10 months ago

Great story! But from the picture attached to the headline I was afraid Quigley had switched from RB to womens basketball.

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Dyrk Dugan 4 years, 10 months ago

we need him to play well at LB....sounds like he's got the right attitude. one thing about it, this is it for him....his senior year. best lay it out there.....give it all you got. go Angus and go Jayhawks!

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kupopp 4 years, 10 months ago

Outstanding story. The kind we need to see more.

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Jonathan Allison 4 years, 10 months ago

Anguschristopher Quigley, go out there and show 'em what you're made of. I really hope that this guy succeeds at linebacker. I hope he's a starter. He's really gonna blow up some running backs this fall.

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MichJayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

I read virtually every story on the LJW's basketball and football site, and this was my favorite read EVER! Thank you, and best of luck to Quigley--what a fine young man. Hang in there and continue to persevere--it will carry you far not just in football, but in life in general.

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skc47 4 years, 10 months ago

Great story, hope to hear a lot from him this fall and in 2010 if he gets a medical RS

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