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The first thing you should know about Philadelphia Eagle Wide Receiver Mike Quick is that he's not very quick. But if that's so, how can Quick be averaging a gaudy 22.5 yards per catch this season, fourth best in the NFL, and rank second among all receivers with 787 yards? And how has he been able to catch 35 passes, six of them for touchdowns, and amass four 100-yard performances in eight games?
Precisely, says Eagle Cornerback Herman Edwards, because Quick isn't quick. "He's very smooth," adds Edwards, who often covers Quick in practice. "And those long strides can lull you to sleep. Suddenly, he's in your face, and it's too late."
"Quickness is one of the most overrated factors in football," says Philadelphia Tight End John Spagnola, who's not very quick himself. Quick is uncharacteristically quick to agree. "I run with the same motion at full speed as I do when I'm just starting, and guys tell me it's hard to key on me," he says. "What's important are good, disciplined routes and a knack for catching the ball. A lot of guys aren't burners, but they can catch in traffic. Look at Fred Biletnikoff."
And look at Quick. He has excellent hands; surprising durability for a 6'2" 190-pounder; outtasight leaping ability and body control, as befits the near-world-class hurdler (13.8) he was in high school and college; and, most assuredly, the ability to motor once he gets untracked.
And how has all this paid off for the Eagles? Quickly now: In the third game of this season Quick helped beat Denver 13-10 with a 38-yard touchdown catch. Two weeks later he split the seams of the Atlanta defense, caught a pass, pirouetted out of one defender's grasp and pulled another with him into the end zone for the decisive score in a 28-24 win. The next week he made two TD catches, one of them a one-handed grab, in a 17-13 win over the Giants.
Quick has scored two game-winning touchdowns and set up the deciding field goal in another victory. No wonder the surprising Eagles, who were picked to finish well below .500—and last—in the NFC's Eastern Division, have a 4-4 record and are in third. But teammates say Quick's contributions don't stop with his catches. Says Quarterback Ron Jaworski, "He stretches the zones with his deep routes. Even when he's not the primary receiver, he helps the others by creating more of an area for them to work in." Adds Lynn Stiles, Philadelphia's executive director of player personnel, "Mike's blocking gives us a dimension we didn't have in the past."
And to think that the Eagles almost passed him up. In the 1982 draft they had their eyes on Clemson Wide Receiver Perry Tuttle, who had run the 40 in 4.4 seconds to Quick's 4.6 while he was at North Carolina State. But when Buffalo traded up and chose Tuttle on the pick before Philadelphia's, the Eagles cast about for a replacement. Fortunately, Stiles had done a Quick study. "We had a highlight film of him and most of it was blocking," Stiles says. "I liked his toughness and ability to go into a crowd. On the basis of what I'd seen, I called him the most competitive and sure-handed receiver in the draft."
As a rookie last year Quick caught only 10 passes in his role as Ron Smith's backup, but by season's end many members of the Eagles organization felt he should have been starting. Coach Dick Vermeil, loyal (he later admitted) to a fault, stuck with veterans. In retrospect Quick, 24, considers that apparent injustice to have been a blessing. "I wasn't ready to start," he says. "On the sidelines, I could pick up little things, like how opponents were disguising their defenses on us. This season I can just react."
"I saw his ability in camp this summer," says Marion Campbell, who succeeded Vermeil as coach after the 1982 season. "He was flashing, by which I mean he really stood out. I had to see how well he could catch, and the only way to do that was to put him in."
Quick has made an improbable invisible man of 6'8" veteran Harold Carmichael, the most prolific pass catcher in Eagle history. With Jaworski directing most of his throws at Quick, Carmichael has caught more than three passes in only one game this season, a fact that teammates jokingly rub in. But there's no animosity between Quick and Carmichael; on the contrary, they're the best of friends. "Harold helped me adjust to life as a pro athlete—where to go, how to deal with people," says Quick. "And he knows as much about secondaries as any coach—who's fast, who's strong, whether to fake or go straight by a defensive back."