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Doubters won't deter Quarles in newest role
By ERNEST HOOPER
Published December 14, 2007
Former Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles is chairman of a new transit board.
No one would have blinked an eye if Gov. Charlie Crist had appointed a lawyer who wasn't a transportation expert to be chairman of the new Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority.
If Crist had given the job to a politically influential accountant who had never studied a traffic map, there wouldn't have been a ripple of concern.
Yet folks continue to murmur about Crist's decision to make former Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles chairman of the authority.
Never mind that we watch newly elected politicians walk a learning curve every year. Never mind that the role is as much about leadership - something Quarles displayed often during his 10 years with the Bucs - as it is about traffic patterns. Never mind that Quarles brings no ties to developers, road construction companies or environmentalists to the table.
Somehow, the critics say, this area can't possibly be serious about its traffic woes with a football player at the helm. Those who know Quarles, the man, recognize the unfairness of such an assertion. Yet Quarles won't speak out against the criticism. He knows he must earn respect, not demand it.
Besides, he has heard the doubts before.
They doubted Quarles, the son of a single mother from a hard-scrabble background, when he choose Vanderbilt's academic prestige over colleges with better football pedigrees. They doubted him when he came out of college - with a degree in human and organizational development - and went undrafted.
They doubted him when he joined the Bucs in 1997 after two years in the Canadian Football League. They doubted him when he moved from strong side linebacker to middle linebacker in 2002, the year the Bucs won it all.
Every time, he proved the doubters wrong.
What you need to realize is that Quarles accepted the volunteer position not as a springboard into politics, but as an opportunity to give back.
"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make the community better," Quarles said recently. "This is home for me, and if you own a home, you work to make it better."
Quarles can back his words. His IMPACT Foundation has done a lot over the years to help and to honor single mothers. Following in the footsteps of former teammate Warrick Dunn, Quarles provides a down payment and furnishings for a new home for qualified single mothers.
The foundation also strives to help families who demonstrate love, perseverance and determination - all tenets of Quarles' makeup.
"My mother raised me and we actually shared a room until I started college," he said. "Because she was the primary caregiver and had me when she was only 15 years old, she had to work two jobs and often came home late.
"That taught me the value of hard work."
That same work ethic will help Quarles now. He already appears remarkably composed running TBARTA meetings. Robert's Rules Of Order is his new playbook. Now he studies maps instead of game film.
The analytical skills that made him the Bucs most cerebral defender will help again.
Determination is his engine and doubt is his fuel. I'm looking forward to the day he gets things cranked up.