Former Hawk finds new passion in the classroom
For most athletes, the dream of making the big leagues is what they strive for, what they fight and train every day for.
But sometimes, like for Wilfrid Laurier University graduate and 2005 Vanier Cup champion Peter Quinney, they run into something that makes them re-evaluate that dream, like teaching.
“I’d always been attracted to the teaching field and I think that’s because I’ve been affected by so many teachers in my time” he said, “Every teacher that was ever around me, even if it was one I didn’t particularly like, still made me learn a lot from them.”
Those ideas he learned are what inspired Quinney to get into education.
“I think that I really appreciated the role they had in a child’s life and the fact that I could potentially be that person for someone. Just someone to help them along, provide them an insight they hadn’t thought of or just push them to the next level,” he said.
But teaching wasn’t always his first choice of career.
Quinney began his university football career in 2005 when he joined the Golden Hawks playing fullback.
“Laurier felt like a very tight knit community, the kind of place where it’s small enough that you can see a friend every day and big enough to see someone new every day,” he reminisced. “People seem to take care of each other here which really resonated with me and I was extremely happy with my choice.”
After four years at Laurier, Quinney was drafted to the CFL by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2009. The Blue Bombers released Quinney after training camp and he would return to Laurier to play his final year of eligibility in 2009.
But Quinney would get another shot at the pros when he was signed as a free agent by the Toronto Argonauts in the winter of 2010. Quinney would play most of the 2010 season with the Argos, before getting released in April of 2011.
“When you’re playing university ball and you make a mistake they’re not going to bring you your bags and say, ‘hey good luck with life’. They’re kind of like family,” he said. “When you go to the next level it’s awesome to be around some great competitors and phenomenal athletes, but it’s a much more elitist place where everyone is very driven to one goal and you’re only as good as ‘what you’ve done for me lately.’”
Despite his tenure in the CFL, teaching began to become a bigger part of Quinney’s life at the same time.
“I was released from the CFL for three weeks because some NFL players had come down and they ended up bringing me back for the very last game of the season,” he said. “But what was interesting was I accepted my first teaching position, which was going to be starting the day after the game. So I was playing in Montreal on Sunday night and then I’d be teaching in St. Jacobs the next morning.”
As he tried to balance teaching, while still playing for the Argos in the spring of 2011, a busy schedule made Quinney begin to think about which he felt was more important in his life; football or teaching.
“I made kind of a silent effort to commit myself to teaching because it was a stable field with job security that I’d been building towards for a very long time,” he added. “Playing in the CFL as great as it is, is a very stressful field where there’s a lot of not knowing if you’re playing or getting paid or where you’ll be next week or the next day”.
But that doesn’t mean his football days are entirely behind him.
“If someone came to me and said they wanted me to suit up I would still make an effort to do that, although I’m not sure I’d really be willing to give up my teaching position for that.
There are two major factors behind Quinney’s success on and off the field; hard work and inspiration.
“I was very disciplined during school, very committed to my training and my diet and being a part of a team I was working with others to get a championship and not just a touchdown,” he said. “I do think hard work is a huge element, it’s possible for anyone you just need to commit yourself.”
Alongside that, he was helped along the way by many inspiring figures.
“I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by inspiration, first and foremost being my family who were the ones that dropped me off at 6 a.m. and picked me up at 11 p.m. every day.”
But they’re not the only ones.
“Working under Gary Jeffries and the coaching staff at Laurier, being part of the 2005 Vanier Cup team and knowing what it takes to win, I was surrounded by people I was able to count myself lucky for all the time.”
So what does the future hold in store for “Mr. Quinney?”
“It’s interesting when I’m not playing football that I’m not so driven for that next play or that next game which is interesting for me to adapt to,” he said. “I’m much more career-oriented, I’m looking at long term stuff and I can see myself changing my teaching assignments up. There are so many avenues in education that I’m just trying to find the one that’s best suited for me.”
It is safe to say that Quinney is hoping to inspire many young minds for the future, on the field and in the classroom.