Ultimate underdog: Miami Dolphins DE overcomes homelessness, temporary paralysis

Quincy Redmon (left) celebrates with mom Nannette and brother Shannon just after the Dolphins called to say they were offering him a free-agent contract as the draft ended. (Courtesy of the Redmon family)

DAVIE — For most of six years, he and his family were homeless, moving from shelter to shelter, even living in a friend’s garage, not always knowing where his next meal would come from.

For six months, he was in a wheelchair, partially paralyzed, told he probably would never play sports again but should feel fortunate that he likely would walk someday.

For years, he struggled in school, not because he was dumb or lazy, but because neither teachers nor he knew the dark secret holding him back: dyslexia.

Today, Quincy Redmon has a shot at making the Miami Dolphins.

Defensive end Quincy Redmon, an undrafted free agent trying out with the Dolphins. (Hal Habib / The Palm Beach Post)

Redmon, 24, is an undrafted free-agent defensive end out of Fairmont State who stands to become one of the true underdog stories in Dolphins history if things go well. Not much in his past has gone well, but if you want a hint of Redmon’s character, start with this:

“It’s just that God has truly blessed me with this opportunity, and the organization giving me this chance is definitely an amazing feeling,” Redmon said.

April 28 is a date forever etched in his family’s memory. The NFL Draft had just come and gone, but surrounded by friends and family, Redmon took the phone call from the Dolphins inviting him to camp. Nothing else mattered. Mom Nannette broke out in tears. Quincy couldn’t stop smiling but was misty-eyed, too.

“I’m going to Miami! I’m going to Miami!” he kept saying.

For so long, Quincy didn’t know where he was going, but he was too young to realize the shelter life wasn’t how it had to be. To go from that to the life of a professional football player?

“It’s insane,” he said. “I knew as a kid this is what I wanted to do. And there were always going to be bumps in the road. I knew that. And at times, there were a lot harder bumps.”

Quincy’s father was never in his life, leaving Nannette and Quincy’s older brother, Shannon, to fend for themselves in Virginia.

Football is such a big part of Quincy Redmon’s life, he proposed to Alexa Gore on a football field. (Courtesy of the Redmon family)

“As a single mom, my biggest challenge was to make sure I always kept my children, that I never lost my kids,” Nannette said. “So it was hard, but I wouldn’t change anything because it made my kids realize that not everything in life is free. You have to work for what you want.”

Growing up, Quincy wasn’t overly concerned about what he didn’t have, but what he did have.

“Just the love from my mom and my brother,” he said. “Just us three being together. As a kid, you’re just like — you don’t really know what’s going on. So it was hard, but you’re just like, ‘Everything’s OK.’ I had those two.”

A shelter. A garage. An apartment they quickly lost — that was their nomad lives for six years.

“You’re just like, ‘Oh, just another place to live in, I guess,’ ” he said. “That’s how I saw it.”

But the football field — Quincy always felt at home there. His mother recalls him scoring 30-plus touchdowns one season, then scoring a 98-yard touchdown in an all-star game. Minutes later, doubling up on defense, he made a tackle.

And just like that, the kid who had only football and family nearly lost one of his two loves.

Quincy Redmon in his youth football days, when he overcame temporary paralysis from making a tackle. (Courtesy of the Redmon family)

“I hit a kid with my head down and I woke up in a helicopter on the way to the University of Maryland,” Quincy said. “And the doctor told me I was partially paralyzed and he was just like, ‘I don’t think you’ll ever be able to play sports again.’ ”

It wasn’t just the hit doing the damage. So were the painkillers they were pumping into him. He was allergic to them.

Quincy, 9 years old at the time, was in a wheelchair for six months, undergoing therapy to learn how to walk and talk again.

“That was, I guess, his motivation, that nothing was going to stop him, that he was going to walk again and play football again,” Nannette said.

Paling in comparison was the broken kneecap he suffered playing basketball his junior year of high school. Doctors couldn’t guarantee that surgery could preserve his sports career then, either.

But the clouds were lifting around the time the family moved to Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Nannette was able to enroll Quincy in a Catholic school where he was diagnosed with dyslexia. He began receiving the help he needed all along. By the time he left Fairmont State, he was an honor student with a degree in criminal justice.

Meanwhile, determined to put down roots, Nannette landed a job as a medical assistant for an orthopedic surgeon. Attending classes by day and working overnight, she too earned a degree.

“I want my son to be proud of me,” she said.

Today, Nannette works with troubled teens, sharing personal experience to inspire them to never give up.

“No matter how bad you have it, if you never give up and you continue to push for what you want, then it can happen,” she said. “It makes you appreciate life. Now that I look back on everything, I could cry because I should have been more responsible raising my children. But in the same sense, I have to realize that everything happens for a reason and it makes us who we are today.”

Supporting Quincy’s football exploits was never an issue. She said she has never missed any of his games, even if it meant driving eight hours by herself. She vows that she won’t miss his games as a Dolphin, either.

Quincy was a preferred walk-on at West Virginia who quickly determined he’d have a better opportunity at the smaller Fairmont State in West Virginia. There, coaches decided he wasn’t a tight end, but a defensive end.

The left biceps of defensive end Quincy Redmon, an undrafted free agent trying out with the Dolphins, honors his mother’s stepfather and her father. (Hal Habib / The Palm Beach Post)

“Then the story wrote itself,” he said.

Entrenched as a starter, Redmon, 6-feet-6 and 250 pounds, had 169 tackles, 19 sacks, eight passes defensed, four forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries in four seasons. As a junior, he was Mountain East defensive player of the year.

As if the open door to the NFL weren’t enough, Redmon is engaged to Alexa Gore and has a daughter due July 26, just as training camp opens. He wouldn’t mind if she arrives a tad earlier.

He figures it must have been an omen that when the Dolphins assigned jersey numbers, they gave him 66. Nannette’s stepfather, Steve Herman, and her father, Alan Shirley, both would have turned 66 this year. They were the male role models in Quincy’s life, memorialized in a large tattoo on his left biceps.

Now, it’s a matter of flexing enough muscle to land one of 53 spots on the Dolphins’ roster to complete the fairy tale.  “So one day, I can finally take care of them,” he said of his family.

“I believe he will be on the roster in August,” Nannette said. “There is no doubt in my mind that he will be on the Dolphins. He’s just that determined.

“He’s come this far, so why give up?”

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