Celebrating Quincy

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.” 

― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Anybody who watches or plays enough sports knows all too well that life is not fair. 

Tough losses and losing seasons have a way at eating at one’s psyche, temporarily hurting one’s pride, and creating stress that might not even exist in one’s life if not for the passion of the game. 

For collegiate athletes, the stresses of trying to handle schoolwork and practice, while also fending off a hungry young player for a starting job — or being that young player battling for playing time — can create levels of angst that are hardly calculable for those not in the sporting life. 

For coaches, the wins and losses literally dictate their lives. Their job security. Their ability to provide for their families. To keep their children in the schools they have friends in, and teachers they like. To allow them to keep the house they’ve fallen in love with. To not have to move elsewhere, where work can be found, to start all over. 

But the love, the passion of the game, the thrill of those victorious moments, keeps everyone coming back. From the fans and coaches who watch and lead the players, to the players themselves, who subject themselves to rigorous demands while putting their bodies through potentially lifelong strain, to reach farther, to make one more key block or tackle, to catch one more pass, to get one more pitch by a tough batter, to score one more point, goal, or run than the other guy. 

But then there are moments in our lives where we are reminded how truly unfair life is.

We are also reminded how minimal the games we love are in the grand scheme of things, when you’re talking about human lives and those who are connected to the players and coaches we watch on the field. 

One of the ACC’s numerous National Football League alums, Quincy Monk, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 36 after a battle with stomach cancer. 

This news came just a couple days after beloved sportscaster Jim Connors of News 14 Carolina in Raleigh, North Carolina was suddenly and tragically taken from us as well, at the all-too-young age of 51.


The loss of Quincy Monk hits much closer to home for the people of Onslow County, North Carolina, who knew him long before his college decision forever linked him to a specific ACC allegiance. 

Most people will always consider Quincy a football player first and foremost. 

But those who knew him in his early days know that basketball was his true passion for a good chunk of his short life. He was an excellent rebounder, solid scorer around the basket, and a fearsome presence for smaller, intimidated opponents.

Quincy was also a great guy. A beloved teammate. A respected team leader. A worthy adversary. A guy you couldn’t help but respect and admire, even if he was beating you. But one you wanted on your side.  

We competed for the first time against each other in 1989, when we were ten year-old fourth-graders. 

A dozen or so years before Quincy was playing football at North Carolina and with the New York Giants, he was a precocious basketball player who even then was probably the best athlete of his age in all of Onslow County. 

Our first encounter was in the Onslow County recreation basketball 10-and-under All-Star championship game. 

My Dixon Elementary teammates and I were confident, having won a pair of games — including a last-minute one-point victory over Swansboro — to reach the title game against White Oak on our home court.  

But how could we possibly be confident going up against White Oak, and Quincy Monk? 

Even as a ten year-old, Quincy was not only bigger than most of the other kids, but he had a confident grin on his face and ability surpassing the overwhelming majority of those around him. 

We tried hard and had a chance at the very end, but White Oak beat Dixon by three points that Sunday morning. 

As devastated ten year-olds, we cried. 

It was one of those very first moments where a group of young people had worked together, gotten past a couple of tough opponents, and could imagine being close to a championship — no matter how insignificant the Onslow County 10-and-under All-Star championship might have been in the grand scheme of things — but coming up just short. 

Quincy Monk created a lifelong memory that weekend over a quarter of a century ago not only with his size and athletic potential, but the way he handled himself with grace and maturity on the court even as a little boy.


By middle school, Quincy was at Northwoods Park in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where he and another eventual Division I football player, Hosea James of East Carolina, led the Dolphins to the 1992-1993 Onslow County middle school basketball conference title. 

I’ll never forget going with my Dixon Middle School teammates in eighth grade into Northwoods Park’s tiny gym — which seemed more like a glorified lunchroom in hindsight — and taking a 61-19 loss, where Quincy and his teammates must have had more blocked shots than we had points. 

Already standing over six feet tall, with excellent coordination and athleticism, Quincy swatted everything in sight, while running the floor and finishing like a player older than he really was. He was a middle school version of Moses Malone. 

Although the competition we provided was meager at best, Quincy made an indelible impression as a tough load on the basketball court in middle school and high school.  

We’d play another time or two in basketball, including a couple more County tournaments, where Dixon won a few, and White Oak won a few. 

The last time I competed in a basketball game against Quincy was 1994, in a rematch of the same County Championship game played five years earlier on the same court at Dixon Middle School, now as fifteen year-olds. By then I was a benchwarmer for Dixon, and mostly watched Quincy and his White Oak teammates once again take Dixon down in a close, tightly-contested battle. 

Quincy matriculated to White Oak High School, where he led the Vikings to a couple conference championships and NCHSAA 3-A East Regional appearances in 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 — though Dixon did beat them on one memorable night in 1995.  

By the end of our high school tenures — we both graduated in 1997, he from White Oak High, I from nearby Dixon High in Holly Ridge — football was my primary focus in life, and Quincy’s path to the big time.

Despite Quincy’s early appetite for basketball, he came from a solid football background. 

His older brother, Stanley, had played at Duke under Steve Sloan and Steve Spurrier from 1984 to 1987, producing nearly 1,700 yards from scrimmage and just under 1,000 kickoff return yards, scoring ten touchdowns over his four years of contributions for the Blue Devils.

Although Quincy played mostly quarterback for White Oak because he was the best athlete on the team, Mack Brown saw the makings of a solid linebacker with his 6-4, chiseled frame. 

Despite multiple ACC scholarship offers, Quincy chose North Carolina, where he was a productive linebacker for the Tar Heels under Brown, Carl Torbush, and John Bunting before getting selected in the seventh round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Giants. 

Our junior year on the gridiron, in the fall of 1995, my Dixon High teammates largely shut down Quincy and the White Oak offense, though we were stuffed on a fourth down on the game’s final drive with a chance to win, and the Vikings escaped with an 8-3 triumph. 

Quincy was hurt his senior year, when Dixon lost another close game on the football field to White Oak, this time played in the remnants of a tropical storm.  

A couple weeks prior to that game that he missed our senior year — on August 31, 1996 — Quincy was at Kenan Stadium, where he watched the Tar Heels annihilate Clemson, 45-0, in the season opener.

I ran into Quincy shortly after that UNC-Clemson game just outside “The Alamo,” the old field house adjacent to the east end zone of Kenan Stadium, so named for its Spanish-style roofing and architecture.  

With a huge smile on his face, wearing a large white and navy-blue heel-shaped nametag on his shirt, Quincy informed me and a couple friends that he had decided to commit to North Carolina. 

We had a good, if brief, conversation, in a moment where he was on top of the world.  

After a lackluster, third-string football career at Division II Wingate University in 1997 and 1998, while Quincy was cutting his teeth as a redshirt and then a backup linebacker for the Tar Heels, I transferred as a regular student to Chapel Hill, where I watched first-hand the last few years of Quincy’s college career before he got a chance to truly live out an American dream — to play in the National Football League. 

Before we go further, it’s worth pointing out that I wasn’t part of Quincy Monk’s inner circle. 

We didn’t hang out on the UNC campus, although we recognized each other and would give a friendly smile back and forth if we crossed paths. 

I clearly knew who he was. Yet, despite my significantly less stellar athletic career by comparison, he always seemed to know who I was, and had a friendly smile awaiting me every time we saw each other. 

But Quincy recognized a lot of people. His experiences had made him a lot of friends and acquaintances. I was merely a fringe acquaintance. 

He went on to play in 15 games for the Giants over parts of three seasons from 2002 to 2004, recording nine tackles, before returning to the state of North Carolina and embarking on a business career, including work with Argentum Capital Management, Citigroup Smith-Barney, and most recently as a senior recruiter for The Select Group in Raleigh. 

As the years passed, we found ourselves occasionally hooking on the same local radio program in Chapel Hill, where we’d talk about the Tar Heels and some of those old basketball days back in Onslow County. 

And then recently, word got around that Quincy was battling an aggressive form of cancer, adenocarcinoma. 

Although I didn’t get a chance to run into him in his final days, and it had been a few years since we’d last spoken, I have absolutely no doubt that Quincy attacked cancer the same way he attacked the rim back in middle school and high school. The same way he attacked opposing ball carriers. 

All out. 

As he did all things in his life, Quincy competed gallantly against quite possibly the most tenacious and difficult opponent any of us will ever know.

Quincy Monk will not only be remembered as a tremendously gifted athlete, but a loving husband and father to two beautiful children. As a beloved friend, teammate, and respected opponent. He will also be missed by legions of people who knew him as more than just a football and basketball player at White Oak, UNC, and the Giants. 

Mark Twain once said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” 

While none of us are ever prepared to lay a friend, a loved one, a teammate, to rest at the age of 36, perhaps all those who knew and loved Quincy Monk, as well as those inspired by his courageous battle with cancer, can draw some comfort from the fact that he lived a full life.

Quincy gave everything he had in everything he did. 

Quincy achieved at a high level in most everything he set out to accomplish. 

And while his life was shorter than most, and he’s gone way too soon, he accomplished more in 36 years than most people will accomplish in a lifetime twice as long. And he won’t be forgotten.