ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He had this look. Everyone in the Detroit Lions' secondary knew what it was, what it meant. Glover Quin could be a man of many words in the media, the thoughtful, introspective leader of the Lions' defense, but around the secondary, it was the glance he gave just before or after a play that made all the difference.
That look could tell so much, a quick stare to a player that basically said "Get it together" or "We really need this." It was one of the ways he learned to communicate with his teammates -- and specifically with a bunch of players who looked to him as an older brother throughout his six seasons in Detroit.
He’d use it to make sure he was understanding the same things as one of his old safety mates, Tavon Wilson. He'd use it to convey a message to younger players.
"He just gives you a look that we all know, a look that’s just like, ‘Come on. Let’s go,’" cornerback Mike Ford said. "Or he might just pull you to the side and give you a little pep talk. He’s not a man of many words, but he’ll tell you little stuff and you’ll kind of listen to him, like, ‘Dang, that’s the truth.’"
The truth in the NFL, though, can often be hard and immediate. For everything Quin, 33, did for the Lions on the field and off it, the end can still come fast, as it did Friday when the Lions released their now-former defensive captain with one year left on his deal.
While his play declined somewhat in 2018 and his role lessened as rookie safety Tracy Walker emerged, Quin’s value went beyond his performance on the field. And that’s even in his best years, when he was a Pro Bowler in 2014 and a consistent presence every game in the Detroit secondary.
His influence was felt more in the conversations he’d have with players about football, about families, about life. Quandre Diggs, who played nickel his first few years in the league and then converted to safety in the middle of the 2017 season, always looked to Quin, who made that move earlier in his career.
"I might not be a good safety if GQ wasn’t here," Diggs said. "Just put it like that. He taught me the ropes. I watched everything he did when I played nickel because I always knew that it was going to be the transition for me.
"So basically everything he’s done, I’ve watched and I tried to emulate."
When Darius Slay was about to have his now-wife move in with him, he went to Quin and asked for advice. When Nevin Lawson became a father, he decided he wanted to be more like Quin with his wife and kids. Other players would approach Quin, a shrewd investor, for financial advice.
The entire Lions secondary looked to Quin as the player they knew would have the answers and the man they could trust with anything.
Sure, he was the older guy -- a role he held first along with Rashean Mathis, then James Ihedigbo and in his last few years on his own. But he could connect with his teammates because they knew they would learn from him.
"[In college], I could make a lot of plays by just being more athletic than a lot of people," Slay said. "He just kind of told me that everybody in this game is athletic, so you’re going to win some and lose some. But if you do your job, do your assignment, you’ll make more plays than you lose.
"So I’m like, dang, I took it like that and took off from then on. That’s probably the smartest thing somebody had told me when it comes to this game."
Quin gave that advice when Slay was a rookie in 2013, both players’ first year with the team, and became a constant mentor. When Slay finally understood Quin’s message during his third season, he started to emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
Some of the confidence Slay plays with now can be attributed to Quin’s influence, and even though Quin won’t be in Detroit anymore, his impact on Lions defensive backs will remain.
Still, seeing a Lions defense without Quin will be a strange feeling.
"It’s going to be weird because he’s been here my whole career. For me, it’s weird any time you lose somebody that you’re close to," Diggs told ESPN late in the 2018 season. "But it’s a business, we know that. You just got to move on.
"But at the end of the day, it’s 2018, man. We’ve got cellphones, FaceTime, Instagram, we got all that stuff, so I can always get in touch with GQ no matter where he’s at."