"He's lying," says Carmichael with a laugh. "I've learned a lot from him. After watching him, I'm catching the ball more with my hands and less with my body. But, sure, I help where I can. When I came into the league, Harold Jackson and Ben Hawkins took me under their wings. It's the only way to be—in life as well as in football."
In life Quick has made the best of potentially bad situations. Growing up in public housing in tiny (pop. 4,720) Hamlet, N.C., a railroad town that also produced the late saxophonist John Coltrane and newspaper columnist Tom Wicker, Quick and his nine siblings were supported by his mother, Mary, a domestic and nurse's aide. "I had a happy childhood," he says. "We had a large, close-knit family with a lot of love and respect. Two of the kids smoke, but they won't touch a cigarette around my mother. And every time I go home, I go right back to St. Mary's Holiness Church.
"If things come too easy, you don't appreciate them. I learned to work for things. I can remember getting up at 5:30 to take a bus to the fields, where I picked tobacco, cucumbers and peaches. I can remember collecting garbage for the Job Corps. But the main thing I remember is playing games. All I wanted to do was wear a jockstrap and sweat."
By the time he'd graduated from Richmond Senior High School, Quick was a celebrated swingman in basketball and hurdler in track, a decent football player, a miserable student and a kid without direction. On the suggestion of his football coach, Ron Krall, he applied for and got a scholarship to take a postgraduate year at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy.
"I saw the movie Taps," Quick says. "And it all came back. Fork Union is an all-boys military school out in the woods. We'd be up at 6 a.m., with our outfits on and boots shined, get in formation and march to chow. Get your books, go to class, then formation and a march to lunch. Drill practice twice a week. Strange, different. After the first week I almost went AWOL, and once my roommate and I stuffed our beds so it would look like we were still in them and took off before turning chicken about five miles down the road. But it was just what I needed: an excellent school with a lot of decent people. I got my grades up and realized, finally, that football was my sport."
Quick was named Fork Union's most valuable athlete and became the object of a bitter recruiting battle between North Carolina and North Carolina State. According to Red Pulliam, the academy's football coach, "I thought he could have played pro ball by the end of his year here. He was one of the finest athletic talents that I've seen in my 25 years of coaching."
But when he entered N.C. State, Quick found himself being used primarily as a blocker for Running Back Ted Brown, who has since gone on to star for the Minnesota Vikings. A typical setback, a typical response. "I heard about how receivers don't block," Quick says. "I wanted to be the opposite of that—mix it up and show I could be tough. And it's helped me. Once I get in a few good blocks, I feel better about going out and catching the ball."
By the time he graduated, Quick was the leading receiver in Wolf-pack history. "I'll tell you what kind of competitor he was," says Monte Kiffin, who was Quick's coach his last two years in college and is now the linebacker coach for the Green Bay Packers. "One time in a game he was split wide on our side of the field. As the quarterback was calling the signals, he yelled over to me, 'Throw me the ball, Coach. I can beat this guy.' "
Since starting to play tackle football at the age of 10, Quick has never missed a game because of an injury. The Eagles call him Silk, a name that fits both his playing style and his personality. Quick claims that he leads a dull life. Probe a little though, and you'll find that he's a part owner of three Arabian show horses and the ranch in California where they are stabled, that he has modeled and has a tasteful collection of hats and soft leather shoes. "He's so modest," says his girl friend of five years, Teresa Harrington. "When I met him, I didn't learn for a month that he played football."
Quick and Harrington share a South Jersey town house a couple of doors down from Pete Rose's. A bright, energetic woman, Harrington has accommodated Quick—cooking, cleaning, bookkeeping, even training him during last season's strike by throwing bullet passes from five yards out—and she knows exactly what she wants in return. "Five years," she says, "and no ring. But Christmas is coming."