Shelton Quarles Interview

Shelton, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Your story is very inspiring. You signed with the Miami Dolphins as a free agent after you graduated from Vanderbilt. You were cut and then played in the Canadian Football League. You did well there and received a tryout with the Bucs. You took advantage of that opportunity and wound up a few years later with a spot in the Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl ring. Did you ever in your wildest dreams that you would have such a great career?

I had no idea that my career would end up this way, once I was released from the Dolphins, I thought my career in football was over. It was probably the lowest point in my life because I went from being the big man on campus, in my opinion to a man searching for answers to life. I was born to a single mother, who had me at an early age, 15. My father was a drug dealer and he was killed when I was 3. Being raised by her without a male influence, forced me to look for positive things in others, and I tried to incorporate those things into my life. I never had anyone to look up to that was christian so I grew up lost.While in Canada, I found the Lord and that changed who I was as a person. Also, my background and my academic success through study habits formed at Vandy allowed me, in my opinion to excel at the next level, the NFL.

Don’t you also hold the record for longest play in Tampa Bay history?

I do hold the record for the longest play from scrimmage for Tampa, a 98 yard INT for a TD against Bret Favre during the 2001 season.

I did a little research for the interview and I initially wanted to just ask you about your IMPACT Foundation but I had no idea that you had been to Afghanistan on a USO tour and you were a spokesman for the American Heart Association. How did you get involved with all of these wonderful causes?

I currently do a lot of things in the community of Tampa Bay. I appreciate all the support that we as a team have received from the community and I thought I should show my gratitude by getting involved for the betterment of the community. My wife thought we should find a way to give back and that is why we started the foundation. We have had a lot of different programs that we have done, golf for inner city kids, back to school programs, where we give school supplies to children when they start a new school year, holiday food giveaways, football camps, annual golf tournaments, and our biggest thing that we do is that we give away homes to single mothers because I was raised by a singe mother.

Our slogan for the foundation is Tackling the problems of families in need, and I think we have done a good of picking good causes that need attention. I currently sit on a few boards here in Tampa, the board for the Florida Aquarium, the board for All Childrens Hospital in St. Petersburg, and I was a past board ember for Tampa General Hospital. I have been on several committees, there are too many to name. I was recently appointed by the Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist. I am the chairman of a regional transportation board called TBARA (Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority). I have 5 mayors under my advisement and the rest of the board is comprised of county commissioners. It covers seven counties and is probably the most powerful board ever assembled in the history of Florida. I have also been involved with the American Heart Association for 6 years and was a big brother with Big Brothers and Big Sisters for 6 years. I had the great opportunity of visiting our troops in Iraq and Russia last March and that was truly an eye opening experience, one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

If anyone wanted to donate or help how can they reach the IMPACT Foundation?

Donations to the foundation can be made through the website at sheltonquarles.org

You were a local guy. Who were some of the other schools that recruited you and why did you ultimately choose Vanderbilt?

I was recruited by a lot of OVC schools because I was very small, size wise, coming out of Whites Creek. I chose Vanderbilt because it is an academic institution and my mother impressed upon me at an early age, the value of a good education. I was also born at Vanderbilt.

Do you keep in touch with any of your former Commodore teammates?

I do in fact keep up with some guys that I played with and also some people that were just students.

What are you the most proud of from your time at Vanderbilt?

I am most proud of the fact that I graduated with my class after having to take 21 hours in each of my last three semesters.

You came in 1990 under Watson Brown and in 1991 Gerry Dinardo was brought in as the head coach. What did you think of Coach Dinardo’s rule about not allowing orange in the stadium and calling UT “the school to the east”?

I did not have a problem with the people that straddled the fence when we played UT, there were a dominant school and still are but I thought DiNardo was a little harsh. At least those people brought income to the school.

I’d like to ask you about some of the big games you played in. One of my favorite memories was the win over Georgia in 1991. You guys were big underdog and pulled the upset. Eric Zeier and Garrison Hearst were having great years. What sticks out about that game?

What sticks out to me most are three plays, the first is the fumble that Corey Harris picked up and cut across the field, he zigged and zagged across the field and scored a long TD. The second play is the penalty called on me for being off side on a field goal attempt that their kicker missed badly, he lined up and missed it again after the 5 yard penalty. And finally, I had a huge sack against Zeier that they blew up and had in on the wall at McGugin Center.

Also in 1991 we lost to LSU and Auburn both by 2 points and reeled off 4 straight wins. We headed to Knoxville 5-5 a win away from a bowl game. I remember talking a lot of trash the week before that game. As we all know a 45-0 loss ended our season. Did you see that coming?

I did not see that loss coming, I thought it would be a closer game. There was a lot of trash being said before the game and there was a huge fight. I can remember one of our players being picked up by his face mask and rag dolled by their safety Dale Carter. I can also remember Robert Davis, our cornerback, talking trash after every play that he made.

Another one of my favorite wins of the 90’s was the game against Ole Miss. They were ranked and had several future NFL players coming into Nashville and we wound up beating them 31-9. What do you remember about that night?

I just remember that it was a huge win for us.

Where were you on November 25, 2005? Did you get to see Vandy finally beat Tennessee in Knoxville?

I did not get to see the game in Knoxville but I had a bunch of friends calling to give me updates, it was and probably still is one of the biggest wins in the history of Vanderbilt.