Wednesday, May 15, 2013
At Barbe, Quinn bucks baseball-first trend
By Gary Laney
LAKE CHARLES, La. -- If one drives down West McNeese Street in Lake Charles, a town of about 75,000 people in Louisiana's southwest corner, you can't help but notice the "Brag Board" at Barbe High School's baseball field.
It mentions the six state championships the Bucs have won in Louisiana Class 5A, all since 1998. It talks about the program's numerous national rankings and its distinction of being named one of the nation's 10 best programs in the 2000s by Baseball America Magazine.
Cross the street to Barbe's football field and you'll see a beautiful prep facility, but it lacks that brag board.
Barbe, you see, is a noted baseball power, first and foremost.
That's what makes the story of Trey Quinn, Barbe's ESPN 150 wide receiver who's rated the No. 3 wideout in the nation, so unusual. Not only is Quinn a football star at a noted baseball school, he's the rare two-sport Buc football-baseball player who has pushed baseball aside to pursue football.
Unheard of at Barbe.
"Rare," admits Barbe football coach Mike Cutrera, whose son was once a two-sport (quarterback-center field) star for the Bucs. "But his heart was really with football."
Before making the football-first commitment, he did his part in helping transform the traditional baseball bully to new heights on the football field. After helping lead Barbe to its sixth state title in baseball in the spring of 2012 -- Quinn was the starting center fielder and Cutrera said he was pegged by scouts as one of the top 50 prospects for the 2014 major league draft -- he led Barbe to a football run in the fall historic both for its team and individual accomplishments.
Barbe reached the state finals for the first time in 32 years, losing to Metairie's Archbishop Rummel in the state title game. In the process, Quinn put together one of the most prolific seasons by a receiver ever in Louisiana, catching 111 passes for 2,094 yards with 26 touchdowns.
He opted to not play baseball in his junior season and instead focused on football training and full-time track, turning in an eye-popping personal record 10.4 100-meters at a meet in Lafayette, La.
"Track is good," said his father, Dave Quinn, "because it ties in to football speed."
At Barbe, the focus on football is such a rare notion because history has so many examples of Bucs' two-sport stars who chose baseball, but never football.
Go back to 1991 and you'll find running back Chad Cooley, who opted for a baseball career as an outfielder for some of Skip Bertman's powerhouse LSU teams. The Barbe baseball program really took off in the mid-90s when wide receiver Joe Lawrence was a football star but, ultimately, a first-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays as a shortstop. Then there was all-state cornerback Josh Prince, who played college baseball at Tulane and recently saw his first major league action with the Milwaukee Brewers.
"We've always encouraged it," Cutrera said of the baseball experience. "The thing about these guys, is they've played in big games."
Lake Charles has sent four teams to the Little League World Series -- all since 1992 -- and most of those players brought their big-game experience to Barbe. The last time Lake Charles reached Williamsport was in 2008 when a team featuring Quinn and Barbe's current quarterback, Kennon Fontenot, made the U.S. finals.
While not as strong as its baseball program, the football team has made the Louisiana playoffs 21 straight seasons and has produced its share of college prospects. Running back Justin Vincent went to LSU and was the MVP of the 2003 SEC championship game as a freshman. Brothers Ryan and Mike Miller starred at LSU and Baylor, respectively in the late 2000s. In 2013, LSU nabbed ESPN 150 tight end DeSean Smith from the Bucs' roster.
Smith, Fontenot and Quinn formed the centerpieces of Barbe's wide-open spread offense in 2012. Smith emerged as one of the nation's most coveted pass-catching tight ends while Fontenot, who recently committed to Oklahoma State as a shortstop, led Louisiana in passing yards. Barbe hasn't always been a pass-first team, but Cutrera said the Bucs couldn't help but be that last season.
"You have to go where your talent takes you," he said.
None were more talented than Quinn, whose production was met with skepticism early in his career as he skipped the football camp circuit in the spring and summer to focus on baseball.
Last summer he camped at LSU, coming in with a reputation for being a solidly skilled pass catcher, if not an elite athete.
Quinn promptly ran a 4.38 40-yard dash for LSU's coaches. Asked to run it again, Quinn repeated his time. He left camp with an LSU football scholarship offer -- not a two-sport offer, but a straight-up football scholarship.
At that moment, the centerfielder who also helped Barbe's football team became a football prospect, period.