While Nick Hill was building his first recruiting class as the head coach at Southern Illinois, he said he was “lucky” that safety Qua Brown chose SIU.
“We got him on a trip (to Carbondale), and it was for the Wichita State basketball game,” Hill said at the time. “I called him up to my office at halftime and he committed right there. He didn’t take any other official visits, so we lucked out.”
Six years and a global pandemic later, Hill and Brown are still together. Brown has developed into an All-American safety and Hill has led the Salukis back to the FCS playoffs and built a team ranked in the Top 10 nationally.
“It’s been cool to watch him grow as a coach as I’ve grown as a player,” Brown said. “He’s always been pretty positive about everything, and he continues to get better every year.”
For Prairie State Pigskin’s Moving the Chains feature, Brown discussed Hill’s best traits during a Q&A interview. The sixth-year senior also talked about avoiding cookie dough ice cream, how he uses social media to celebrate others, his favorite superhero, what he misses about his home state of Florida and how he would love to learn to play the piano.
Learn more about Qua Brown in our Moving the Chains Q&A:
You use Twitter to encourage and cheer on others, such as teammates, coaches and your former high school. What’s your approach on social media?
Mostly, I just want to congratulate my teammates and friends on any successes they have that I notice. Especially during the season, I try to stay off social media and put my time toward other things like watching film and studying game plans. When I am using it, I typically scroll on my feed and like or retweet a message to let them know I recognize what they’re doing.
In the football offices at SIU, there’s a wall that includes photos of NFL players and former Salukis such as Jeremy Chinn, Madre Harper and others. Next to that is a mirror with the message, “Who’s Next?” How many times have you looked in that mirror?
I look at that mirror just about every single week because I walk past it every week. The last four or five guys on that (NFL) chart, I was able to play with them over the last few years at Southern. So, it’s pretty cool to see them transition into the professional game and have successful careers. That’s pretty motivational and inspiring. When I look at that, it inspires me to go even harder at everything I do so I can be on that wall alongside those guys as well.
Last season, SIU had four former defensive backs playing in the NFL. What traits have set those players apart?
Their work ethic and the people they are both on and off the field. I like to consider (Seattle safety) Ryan Neal a mentor of mine. My freshman year, he took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew. I knew he was a pretty smart player because when I got here, he already had two years of starting experience under his belt. Even better, he was a great guy off the field. I took that from him and implemented that into the person I am. I learned how to work hard from those guys. And if you put your focus and your time and effort into school, then you’ll do well on the football field too. I picked that up from those guys.
You grew up in Deland, Fla., between Orlando and Daytona Beach. How many times have you been to Disney or to NASCAR races at Daytona?
(Laughs) This is crazy, but I’ve been living there my whole life and I’ve never been to either. I always go to Daytona Beach around the time of the Daytona 500. There are always so many tourists visiting, so it’s pretty crowded. But it’s a lot of fun, and there are a lot of things to do. But I’ve never been to an actual race. I’d like to do that very soon. (As for Disney) I’m more of a Universal Studios or Busch Gardens type of guy. In Florida, there are just so many places to go.
Being a Universal fan, who is your favorite superhero?
I’m a huge fan of Batman. Those Marvel fans don’t like to consider him a superhero, but I like his heroism in spite of him not having superpowers. I think it’s pretty cool and unique.
How do you balance your goal of playing in the NFL with maintaining your focus on the FCS season?
I just focus on what’s going on during the season. In the end, my production this season is what’s going to matter. I do everything I can to prepare myself as much as possible for every single game because all those scouts who come out to practice want to see what you’re going to do come game time.
You’ve been around SIU head coach Nick Hill for your entire six-year career. What three words would you use to describe him?
Competitive, hard-working and resilient. He’s been able to overcome some pretty tough circumstances. Some years, we haven’t had the best results. But he’s always been pretty positive about everything, and he continues to get better every year. It’s been cool to watch him grow as a coach as I’ve grown as a player.
What three words describe you best?
I would also use resilient for myself and competitive as well. The other one would be driven. I’m very self-motivated to be the best I can as a person and as an athlete.
As an athlete, you have to stay in great shape. Is there a food that you avoid these days?
I try to cut out ice cream. It’s so hard to give up. Especially during the season, I have to make some sacrifices to keep my body in top-notch shape. Ice cream is something I cut out every season. Cookie dough (is my favorite).
Choose only one: Do you want to make a big hit or an interception on a gameday?
Interception all the way. You can have a big hit, but if the ball doesn’t come out, the other team is still going to have a chance to score. An interception gives your offense an opportunity to score points for your team.
Former Salukis DeAnna Price and Gwen Berry both competed in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in track and field. Is there an Olympic sport you would like to compete in?
I love to watch curling (in the Winter Olympics). It looks pretty fun. I like the concept of it, and those guys make it pretty competitive.
Around campus, is there a Saluki athletic team that you like to watch and support?
I like to go and watch the women’s soccer games as much as possible. I find soccer pretty interesting. I like the competitiveness and the difficulty of it. It’s pretty tough to score a goal. Seeing the ways they create plays is intriguing to me.
What’s the biggest thing you miss about living in Florida?
There’s so much to do in Florida. There are great restaurants, and as far as entertainment, you can go to Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens. There are nice beaches all over the state.
Coach Hill has hosted players to do some fishing at his home. What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
I wasn’t much of an outdoors guy in Florida because it’s so hot and humid all the time. Coming up here to better weather in the Midwest – especially in the fall – I really enjoy hiking. I try to do that whenever possible out at Giant City State Park (in Makanda). Whenever I go to Coach Hill’s, we do fish a little bit. Unfortunately, I never have any luck when it comes to fishing. (Laughs) It’s something I don’t really enjoy much.
Which opposing team has the best uniforms in the Missouri Valley Football Conference?
I’d probably have to go with South Dakota State. I like the combination of the blue and yellow. I like that they also have all-black uniforms with the blue and yellow.
Other than Saluki Stadium, what’s your favorite spot on campus?
Right outside of Morris Library. There’s a nice sitting area. It’s pretty shaded there during the hottest part of the day. It’s typically a busy area, but it’s not too busy where there’s a lot of noise. You get to see students walking around.
Who is your most inspirational teammate?
(Offensive lineman) ZeVeyon Furcron, just with his situation and all he’s gone through the past few years (with the deaths of his mother and sister). To see the way he’s dealt with it at such a young age is pretty inspiring. I feel like it’s something that would have broken down a lot of guys. He dealt with it so well and it’s helped him become the person and man he is today.
Who’s the funniest person on the team?
(Laughs) I’d have to say (linebacker) Bryce Notree. He’s a talker. He’s just a character. You never know what to expect out of him every single day. He’s just so funny.
You have an undergraduate degree in sport management, and you’re now studying interior design. What’s your dream job after football?
I want to be real estate mogul. I’d love to have multiple properties all over the nation and own some huge apartment complexes and commercial properties. I’d like to work my way up in real estate and learn more about it. I’d like to be known for my success in real estate.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people turned to streaming movies and TV shows for entertainment. What’s the best thing you binged on during that time?
There’s a show called Ozark that I found pretty interesting. It was based in Chicago at first and then they moved over to the Ozarks in Missouri. Being here in Southern Illinois, it’s cool that we’re not that far from Chicago or the Ozarks. It was cool to see them shoot the show in those areas.
If you could only pick one musical artist to get you ready on gamedays, who are you listening to?
I’m probably going with Drake.
If you could learn a musical instrument, what would it be?
Piano. I’ve heard people say that once you learn, it’s something you never forget. It’s something I’d love to learn. I’d like to learn some Beethoven and older classical music. I attempted playing a guitar once, but I didn’t get much into it. That’s another instrument I’d like to learn to play.
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