Dan Quinn ‘knows the ins and outs of me’

Dan Quinn clearly sees potential greatness in Dante Fowler Jr. In return, Fowler knows he has something special in Quinn. And Cowboys fans are hoping the third time’s a charm as the player and coach reunite once again in Dallas.

The Cowboys officially signed Fowler on Monday to a one-year contract reportedly worth about $ 5 million. Dallas will be Fowler’s fourth team since he being picked third overall in the 2015 draft.

But he won’t be an entirely new face to everyone in the locker room. Fowler says that Quinn “knows the ins and outs of me as a football player.” As he told the team website this week of his once-again defensive coordinator, “I know he’s going to get the best from me.”

Quinn was in the same role at Florida in 2011 when he helped recruit the football and track star from St. Petersburg to the school’s program. Under Quinn’s watch, Fowler moved to outside linebacker in his first season with the Gators, earning freshman All-American honors.

The youngster bonded with Quinn over that 2012 season.

“We just built a relationship at that time,” Fowler said in a 2020 interview. “He used to always come and see me, talk to me. Everything was genuine. He talked to me about a lot of things as a man. Just over that one-year span of me being there with with him at UF, I went to his house di lui. I met his wife about him. I had Thanksgiving with them. “

But Quinn departed for the NFL after the 2012 season, taking the DC job in Seattle. Fowler says he nearly transferred to another school.

But the 6-foot-3 native Floridian stuck it out two more seasons, leaving school early to declare for the pros. Heading into the 2015 draft, Fowler was a top prospect, expected to be taken early. He hoped to be chosen by Quinn, who had just been hired as the Atlanta Falcons head coach and had the eighth overall pick.

Instead, Jacksonville took him at No. 3.

Fowler tore an ACL on the first day of minicamp, sidelining him for his entire rookie season. He returned the following year to play in all 16 games, racking up modest stats. Despite fewer tackles in 2017, he logged eight sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a touchdown over another complete season.

The Jaguars traded Fowler to the Rams during the 2018 season, and in his first full season in Los Angeles, he blossomed. With Aaron Donald taking much of the opposing offensive line’s focus, Fowler played his way to 58 tackles and 11.5 sacks in 2019, along with two more forced fumbles and a fumble return for a touchdown.

Hitting free agency after that season, Fowler heard from several NFL coaches, including one he’d stayed in touch with since that Thanksgiving dinner in Gainesville.

“Through the years, it’s been great to stay connected to players that I coached at Florida. That relationship and that bond really grows strong, ”Quinn said. “You’re trying to help a young guy in his football life where it is just beginning in the college years. You get to see that relationship continue to progress when they get into the NFL. I’ve certainly kept up with him and others throughout the years. “

Quinn brought Fowler to Atlanta on a three-year, $ 48 million deal. Their reunion was short-lived; Quinn was fired in early October after an 0-5 start.

The rest of Fowler’s time with the Falcons was spotty at best. He started just six games last season while dealing with a midseason knee injury. He finished 2021 with 36 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles.

But with the Cowboys unable to keep edge rusher Randy Gregory in the building and in need of edge rushing help, Quinn came calling once again and brought Fowler to Dallas.

“I just want to show people and prove to myself that I’m the player that I know I am and that I know I will be,” Fowler said after signing his new deal. “A guy that’s going to go out there and fight for his team, go to war, battle for my team, scratch, claw, do whatever I have to do to win my rep or win the game.”

Apart from their shared history, it’s Fowler’s speed that likely excites Quinn the most. As Nick Kehoe notes in his Dallas Morning News film breakdown, the 27-year-old can still cover plenty of ground, often chasing down plays from the backside.

With DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons demanding heavy attention from opponents, it’s possible that Fowler, who’ll wear No. 56 for the Cowboys, will have more frequent chances to fly to the ball and be the closer, especially on pass plays and third downs .

“Whatever role I play, I just want to do it 100%, do it all to my ultimate best,” said Fowler. “Whatever I can do for this team, that’s what I’m going to do.”

It may be that no one is more convinced of what Dante Fowler can do than Dan Quinn. Now after two abbreviated stints together, the rest of the football world may finally get to truly see it.

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