Joe Theismann changed the pronunciation of his last name — from a long "e’’ to a long "i’’ — to facilitate a run at the Heisman Trophy. Brady Quinn may not need to go that far.
His best shot may be running the plays called by the Weis-man, offensive guru Charlie Weis.
Quinn, a junior quarterback, set Notre Dame season and career passing records in his first season under Weis this year, and he guaranteed a reprise in 2006, reiterating Wednesday he will pull a Matt Leinart and return to college for his senior season despite his breakthrough year.
After all, you cannot win an NCAA championship with, say, the Cardinals.
"It’s in my best interest to come back for another year,’’ Quinn said. "It’s in my best interest to finish out school and be prepared for the real world whenever football ends. I’ve set goals and ambitions outside of football.
"And I really believe it’s best for me to come back for another year and get the tutelage of Coach Weis that you can’t receive in the NFL. He’s not there any more. He’s here, so why not utilize that as long as I can and go through every door I can?
"I want to win a national championship, and I think we have the ability without a doubt to win it with the people we have coming back.
Quinn, a native of Dublin, Ohio, who included Ohio State in his list of final three colleges before choosing Notre Dame, will extend career and season records for passing yards, attempts, completions and touchdown passes in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State on Monday.
Quinn threw for 3,633 yards and 32 touchdowns while helping the No. 5 Irish (9-2) win their final five games, throwing a schoolrecord six touchdown passes against Brigham Young.
He has 8,050 career passing yards and 58 career touchdowns.
"I think the biggest thing (about Weis’ system) is that it puts a lot of responsibility on the quarterback, and that’s something that every quarterback wants and thrives on,’’ Quinn said.
The responsibility not only includes getting out of bad plays with audibles at the line of scrimmage but in all areas.
"He wants his quarterback to be a leader,’’ Quinn said.
Quinn had 432 yards and three scores in the game that clinched Notre Dame’s appearance here and drove the Irish 80 yards in the final two minutes for a 38-31 victory over Stanford on Nov. 26 in the final game of the regular season.
"You just sort of follow someone who does what Brady has done on the field,’’ said junior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, who caught 15 touchdown passes in his breakout season.
"It’s a ripple effect. One guy makes a play, and the next guy is going to want to do the same thing. When you feed off each other like that, then maybe that’s where the term leadership comes from.’’
Quinn credits Notre Dame and NFL great Joe Montana for helping him through the growing pains that occurred when he was thrust into the starting lineup by coach Tyrone Willingham four games into his college career, as a freshman in 2003.
Montana spoke to the Irish in the locker room before the USC game that year, and the two formed a bond that led to Quinn calling Montana several times.
Quinn said the first call was the most difficult to make.
"This is Joe Montana, the greatest quarterback ever. Who am I to call Joe Montana?’’ Quinn said. "It was fun. I got to know his family. He is such a cool guy, so laid back.
"He’s done worlds for me, as far as talking about the game of football. Helping me understand, and getting me through a lot of rough spots with how that season was going. He really inspired me to keep working hard, not allowing yourself to develop a plateau.’’
The two speak less frequently now, although Quinn said, "I wouldn’t say the lessons are over. He has worlds and worlds of knowledge.
"One of the first things he said to me was be patient,’’ Quinn said, "take what they give you.’’
And that includes another year, and another year with Weis.