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February 27, 2011
The Mighty Quinn: UNC defender aces media event

Saturday was a study in contrition contrast. In quick succession, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn took to the podium in Indianapolis. All three players have been connected to college transgressions and were hammered with character questions. All three handled those questions differently.


It was like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Combine Edition." Mallett was too defensive. Newton was too polished. But Quinn? He was just right. Quinn missed the 2010 season along with UNC teammates defensive tackle Marvin Austin and wide receiver Greg Little for receiving improper benefits from an agent, namely travel accommodations and jewelry.

He talked at length about being kicked off the team as well as dealing with a benign brain tumor that first appeared when he was a senior in high school. I spoke with a number of reporters after the session, and the consensus is that Quinn came off as sincere, forthcoming and very likeable.

Here's Quinn talking about rumors of a carefree attitude after his suspension:

"I definitely cared," he said. "Watching the whole season, especially when UNC played LSU and I went down to support them, seeing our guys run on to the field, in the middle of the game I was about in tears in the stands. I made a selfish mistake and couldn't be out there. That's never my mindset. God gave me a talent, and second he can take it away from me."

And on learning he had a brain tumor:

"I won't say it was scary, it was more heartbreaking when they told me I wouldn't be able to play sports no more. At one point they told me I should have been brain dead. It was kind of that Booby Miles moment when I looked at my mom when they told me I wouldn't play sports again, and I became that big old baby and busted out in tears. It was just heartbreaking. But it didn't slow me down. And three, four years later, I'm still going."

Quinn said he has an MRI every sixth months to monitor the tumor but has been symptom free in the five years since it was discovered. He said the MRI sessions have become routine. "I'm usually asleep two seconds when I get in there," he said. "I'm asleep going in and I'm asleep coming out."

Quinn measured in at 6-4, 265 pounds and said that some teams are looking at him as a DeMarcus Ware-like outside linebacker. He admits, however, than he almost never was out of a two-point stance when he was at North Carolina.

For what it's worth, the 49ers had formal interviews Saturday with quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Newton.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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