FRISCO, Texas - Dan Quinn is a very, very happy man. After all, he's exactly where he wants to be, having opted to remain with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, and largely because of both his chemistry with head coach Mike McCarthy and just how all-in the team's front office has been in stockpiling talent for him and his defense.
So as mandatory minicamp concluded on Thursday and the team heads into its summer break with training camp on the horizon in late July, it's all Quinn can do to contain himself — having now gotten a good look at incoming rookies as well as veterans ready to take another leap forward in 2023.
"I am fired up," said Quinn. "And I know you'll say, 'Q, you always say that at this time of the year.' But, this time, I [truly] am and I'm probably at the top of the list because you walk into the defensive meeting room and the players, the engagement, the connection that they have — I feel us leveling up in a lot of ways."
That, of course, includes keeping both safety Donovan Wilson and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch from departing in free agency.
One such level-up is positional, with the addition of cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a secondary already headlined by First-Team All-Pro Trevon Diggs and rookie sensation DaRon Bland.
Gilmore, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, looks great on the field, as expected, but what's really knocked Quinn's socks off is the willingness to mentor younger players like rookie sixth-round pick Eric Scott Jr., much in the same way defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins is doing with rookie first-round pick Mazi Smith.
Quinn can't get enough of those budding relationships, and hopes the young players understand just how valuable this moment is for them.
"If I was a young player, like Mazi [Smith] or Eric Scott, I would almost pay anything to have a guy like Johnathan Hankins and Steph Gilmore mentor me," said Quinn. "For the players who are here, to take on that responsibility … I think it speaks volumes of the locker room and the culture that Mike [McCarthy] has created here.
"Just think of yourself as that young player, if you had that kind of support behind you with someone helping you get there, you'd pay anything for it because they've walked the walk at the highest level."
Truth be told though, Quinn's elation also extends beyond his players.
As McCarthy takes the helm as offensive play-caller for the Cowboys, it'll be the first time the two friends get to square off in training camp — a cerebral matchup of Super Bowl-winning coaches that is sure to push the mercury in every thermostat a few degrees higher in Southern California.
"You can see his competitive juices going," said Quinn, a massive grin painted upon his face as he pictured the looming chess match in his mind's eye. "We'll have some good battles — 100% [excited about it], no question about it. And he is as well. That's kind of what makes coaching fun. It's not just the player-to-player, but oftentimes it's coaches-to-coaches and I've coached against Mike for a long time.
"He's one of the very best, so hopefully we have a lot of fun."
It's not hard to tell that, by all accounts, they already are.