INDIANAPOLIS — North Carolina defensive linemen Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin garnered attention for all the wrong reasons last season, as NCAA rules violations wiped out their eligibility and rattled their draft stock entering this week’s NFL Scouting Combine. Now they’re trying to repair their images and maintain top-prospect status.
Quinn, an end, was ruled permanently ineligible last season by the NCAA’s reinstatement committee for receiving illegal benefits — including jewelry — from an agent. Austin, a tackle, was dismissed from school for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethic conduct rules.
Quinn expressed remorse for his actions Saturday.
“I made a selfish mistake,” he said. “Me and my team, and my family and coaches paid the price for it, and I’ve truly apologized for it.”
Quinn said he took jewelry from a jeweler and, in his mind at the time, not from an agent.
Still considered a possible top-10 selection in April’s draft, Quinn has overcome more than just his own mistakes to reach this year’s combine. He had surgery to remove a brain tumor as a senior in high school and was told at the time that he wouldn’t play sports again.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “At one point, they told me I should have been brain dead. … The tumor made me really just appreciate the little things in life … and the suspension just made me more mature.”
Quinn has been clear of the tumor since and this week underwent an MRI, which will be furnished to teams.
Austin described his frustration in seeing other defensive linemen develop last season while he watched.
“I went from being one of the top player prospects in the nation to not even being talked about,” he said. “Just going through that situation has made myself and some of my teammates grow a whole lot more and I think we’ll be better professionals.”
Austin called the rules violations “a young mistake.”
“I got ahead of myself,” he said. “I learned don’t ever take the game for granted. To be here is a privilege. A lot of guys would kill to be in the shoes of all 300 guys here.
— Marc Sessler