'Hungry to succeed': Quinten Dormady's expedition through adversity, and how he found Central Michigan


Central Michigan quarterback Quinten Dormady drops back to throw a pass at spring practice April 13 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Tom Brady, Brian Griese and Drew Henson.

When former Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord was asked about Quinten Dormady's style of play, those were the names he used to make a comparison.

Brady is 6-foot-4; Griese is 6-foot-3; Henson is 6-foot-4. All three were mainly pocket passers, didn't fully shine until their final season and played for Michigan in the late 1990s when DeBord was the offensive coordinator under Lloyd Carr.

Dormady is 6-foot-4, works as a drop-back quarterback, has immense knowledge of the game and has faced adversity up to this point – his final season.

"I could keep looking at different guys where things didn’t always go their way, but they made the last year their best," DeBord said. "That’s what Quinten will do. He will take everything and give his best year of football."

But Dormady hasn't ever been a Michigan quarterback nor is he at Tennessee with DeBord anymore. Rather, he's in Mount Pleasant, home of the Central Michigan football team. 

He's the first mate of a ship that's captained by nationally recognized coach Jim McElwain.

Dormady, 23, has had three college coaches, four offensive coordinators, multiple brand new offensive schemes to study and a lot of time to reflect on his game. He's also the son of a Texas high school football coach, has been married for over a year and is working toward his master's degree in administration.

All of those moments in life have combined to build the current makeup of Dormady, a mature quarterback with a burning desire to finally find success.

“I think he’s got an opportunity to have a really special year," said Mike Dormady, Quinten's father. "Having all those guys around him, at each of the stops, they’ve made him better and given him more tools for his tool belt.”

With an abundance of tools came hardship, a concept in which Dormady is quite familiar.

Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady (12) warmups before an NCAA college football game against Georgia Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

'You only grow through adversity'

Dormady's route seemed simple. 

He was a four-star quarterback from Boerne High School in Texas with offers from Tennessee, Alabama, Houston, Kentucky, TCU, Vanderbilt and Indiana, among others. He threw for 3,123 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior and was a locker room leader for his team.

The quarterback committed to Tennessee over Alabama. The original thought was for him to learn under starter Joshua Dobbs for a year or two, eventually take over the position and get selected in the NFL draft. The rest would be history.

Dormady watched Dobbs throw for 5,237 yards and 42 touchdowns across the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He sat behind, appearing in seven of those 26 games. He passed for 357 yards, and his lone touchdown was a 24-yard strike to Preston Williams.

Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord walks off the field after his team defeated Georgia 38-31 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Focusing on Dobbs, now a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, gave Dormady a sense of what was expected from him. He learned the correct way to game plan at the SEC level and how to execute it. He enjoyed the pressure of competing and pushed Dobbs to his limits in practice.

The coaching staff fully trusted him, DeBord said, handing him the backup role.

"We believed in him and were preparing him for the future," DeBord added. "He sees the field well and has a great presence in the pocket. Josh just had more experience."

Dormady got his chance as the starter in 2017, beating out Jarrett Guarantano in fall camp. At that point, he proved to coach Butch Jones that he deserved to be next in line, sipping from the gold cup Dobbs left behind.

Everything was going as planned.

“I think, at Tennessee, the biggest thing he learned was how to compete," Mike Dormady said. "You can’t live in your little bubble and think, ‘If I just do my thing, it’s good enough.’ You’ve got to know what those guys around you are doing and how important it is to elevate those guys."

In Tennessee's 42-41 2017 season-opening win against Georgia Tech, Dormady completed 20-of-37 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He was the only quarterback the Volunteers used that night.

He and Guarantano shared time the following week in a 42-7 takedown of Indiana State. Dormady was 13-of-18 for 194 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His teammate was 4-of-12 for 41 yards one touchdown. 

All good.

The third week of the season was the start of the downfall.

While he threw for 259 yards and a touchdown, Dormady turned the ball over three times by the way of interception in a 26-20 loss to Florida. The Gators were, at the time, led by McElwain.

Down to Florida's final play of regulation, with the score knotted at 20 apiece, Feleipe Franks threw a 63-yard Hail Mary touchdown to Tyrie Cleveland for the win. 

"It was nothing to do with me," McElwain said to reporters after the game. "Sometimes things like that are really special. I've got some burned images in my mind that I will carry for the rest of my life."

Well, Dormady also remembers it vividly.

"A lot of them just happened to be at Tennessee, so that brought back memories. We kind of take jabs and mess with each other," Dormady said of watching McElwain's Florida film. "That one brings back bad memories for me and good ones for him, so it is what it is."

Even though Guarantano never touched the field against Florida, the result began closing the gap between the two quarterbacks.

Dormady started the following week against UMass. He was 17-of-27 for 187 yards, one touchdown and a lost fumble before being pulled in the second half for Guarantano. He later returned and finished the game. The Vols won, 17-13.

"He was as straight of a competitor as anyone on the field," DeBord said. "That won’t change."

The lifelong plan was beginning to falter, and it only got worse as Tennessee hosted No. 7 Georgia just a week after squeezing by a team that was 0-4 coming into the game.

On the first play from scrimmage at Neyland Stadium, Dormady's pass was intercepted by Tyrique McGhee. His opening drive of the second quarter also ended in an interception, this time by J.R. Reed. Lastly, his first drive of the third quarter concluded in a fumble as his receiver, John Kelly, couldn't hold onto the ball after making a catch.

Dormady played one more unsuccessful drive. He made his final throw as a starter with 6:42 left in the third. It was incomplete to Tyler Byrd. For the next series, with the score at 31-0, the show belonged to Guarantano. 

Dormady never started again, and the old plan needed to be reworked. Tennessee finished 4-8.

"You only grow through adversity," Mike Dormady said. "When things are always great, it’s tough to learn and figure out what you need to do. Through that whole process, he refined his skills and figured out how to handle adversity when it sets in."

It had been four weeks from being benched when Dormady learned he would officially need season-ending shoulder surgery. He already had spent a couple of days in Chicago the week before Tennessee took on Alabama to have tests done, and the results weren't positive.

Central Michigan quarterback Quinten Dormady played for Houston in 2018 under offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. He was the backup to D'eriq King. (Houston Athletic Department)

'He knows how to play'

Due to the recovery time and overall situation, Dormady transferred to Houston. During the middle of spring, the coaching staff figured they'd need another quarterback. Looking at several recruits, second-year coach Major Applewhite wanted Dormady, who then showed up in the summer.

"We had some guys in the room that hadn’t played a lot of snaps at the collegiate level, so we needed to bring in a grad transfer," said former offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. "We developed a really good relationship with Quinten."

There was one concern from Briles, who is now the offensive coordinator for Florida State. He never got see Dormady throw in-person due to the shoulder injury, but the staff ended up taking him.

Briles remembered him from well before then.

When he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Baylor, Briles kept a distant eye on Dormady in high school. The Bears never extended a scholarship offer.

"I knew him and his dad, so we knew he was a Texas high school football player, and his dad was the coach," Briles said. "He knows how to play, and that was very intriguing for us.”

The only thing standing in his way of starting was D’Eriq King, and it turns out he had himself and exceptional fall camp. Meanwhile, Dormady wasn't even 100 percent healthy.

Dormady's father, Mike, said not having any prep for a new offense held his son back when competing for the starting job in fall camp.

The answer, for everyone on Houston's staff, was simple.

Houston Cougars Offensive Coordinator, Kendal Briles watches his offense on the field during a University of Houston spring football game on Saturday, April 7, 2018 at TDECU Stadium in Houston Texas. (Will Thorne/The Chronicle)

Start D’Eriq King.

"We had several talks – D’Eriq was playing at too high of a level," Briles said. "It’s well documented. We weren’t able to take him off the field because of the way he was playing."

King paced the Cougars to an 8-5 overall record, American Athletic Conference West Division co-champion honors and an appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl. Dormady completed 2 passes for 8 yards.

Central Michigan offensive coordinator Charlie Frye, who went to Akron and played in the NFL, said taking a backup role in back-to-back seasons made Dormady the player he is today.

After all, learning comes from experience and failure.

"It teaches you more than anything in a classroom or that I could tell him," Frye said. "It's a position where you learn from those experiences and become a better player."

Just like he did behind Dobbs at Tennessee, Dormady prepared like he was the starter, Briles said. He showed maturity in the way he remained a "good teammate" despite the crushing circumstances.

Toward the end of the season, Dormady began to make every throw he wanted in practice. His shoulder finally allowed him to do so. It impressed Briles and others on the staff.

"He’s a smart guy that’s going to get you in the right play," Briles said. "He doesn’t have the biggest arm, but he does have a strong arm and is accurate. I’m sure it’s even stronger now that he’s moved even further from surgery."

Since King was just a junior, Dormady was forced to ask himself the toughest of questions.

To transfer or not to transfer.

'I think he’ll have a great year'

Dormady and McElwain are no strangers, which is why it was that much easier for the double graduate transfer to pick the Chippewas when he decided to leave Houston.

McElwain was the coach at Colorado State when Dormady was lighting up the scoreboard in high school.

"He was recruiting Quinten," Mike Dormady said. "He was one of the first guys to get on Quinten’s radar, actually."

Dormady committed to Tennessee on June 9, 2014, and he enrolled in January 2015. By the time McElwain got to Florida for his next gig in December 2014, Dormady was nearing his enrollment to attend school in Knoxville.

While McElwain couldn't nab him away from larger programs during his tenure at Colorado State, he might've had a chance if he was at Florida from the start.

"Had we of been there earlier, we probably would've gotten on him earlier," said McElwain, who did not sign a quarterback to the Gators in the 2015 class.

Nevertheless, it was the beginning of a relationship – one that is now returning to fruition.

Dormady transferred to play for McElwain and the Chippewas Dec. 11, immediately putting himself in position to start. After a spring and fall camp that impressed, he locked himself in as the guy set to run McElwain's RPO, spread offense.

DeBord said McElwain's offensive style shouldn't throw Dormady any curveballs.

"The RPO game is something he should feel comfortable with," DeBord added. "Jim is a great football coach, and I’m sure he will put the type of throws and offense around Quinten to be very successful."

As McElwain has attempted to keep the fine-tuned details of his offense from the public ear, Dormady's done the same. The only hint he gave was that it'll look much like the way McElwain ran things at Florida – focusing on getting the ball to playmakers and letting them go to work.

"I guess you'll have to wait and see," Dormady said.

The coordinators involved in Dormady's life expect success from him in 2019.

Frye: "I'm excited for him. He shows great leadership. We define leadership by making others around you better in a positive way. He throws the ball well and is accurate. I think he's going to be very successful."

DeBord: "He’ll define who he really is and what he’s all about as a quarterback. I think he’ll have a great year. He’s not going to be looking for next year because nothing is guaranteed. Quinten is going to be hungry to succeed."

Briles: “I think CMU is getting a guy who is well-established. He’s going to be a great ambassador for the program. To the fans and people up there that want the team to be successful, just know they got the right guy. I’m sure he will be able to fit anything they want him to do. He’s versatile enough to do it. I expect him to play at a high level.”

His teammates feel the same.

Wide receiver JaCorey Sullivan: "It feels good to have a quarterback that knows every position on the field and how he reads defenses. The energy he brings and gives off to us and we can learn from him, too." 

Running back Jonathan Ward: "We click. It's good to have a guy come in that knows the game already. We're just building trust with him Going through spring and fall ball, I know I can rely on him."

Tight end Bernhard Raimann: "First and foremost, Quinten's a great leader on and off the field. He does a great job leading the team, calling the plays, making the right decision, being patient in the pocket and putting the ball right on the money.

Center Steve Eipper: “He prepares like nobody I’ve ever seen. Quinten’s the first one in and the last one out, and he’s all for the guys.”

Safety Da’Quaun Jamison: “He’s very coachable, and when he came to the team, he adjusted with us very well."

Safety Alonzo McCoy: "Quinten Dormady – He's ridiculous. When he came in, he was already taking the leadership role and getting everyone alive. We needed that on the offensive side."

Dormady's father, Mike, hopes his son produces and achieves greatness in the only season that truly matters – the grand finale.

There isn't much to lose anymore, but everything is to gain.

"Play with no fear," Mike said of his expectations. "Go out and attack it. He’s done the preparation, training and knows what to do, so just pull the trigger and execute.”