Davien Kuinlan sliced through defenses with precision and power, with deception and speed. His moves were complex — a stutter-step here, a sudden burst there, moving cagily behind his blockers before abruptly accelerating into the open field, leaving tacklers grasping at air — but his philosophy was simple: “All I do is run,” Kuinlan said.
It was a historic run this season for the 215-pound Plainedge senior quarterback, served up with a large dose of humility. No elaborate end-zone celebrations for Kuinlan after any of his Nassau-record 40 touchdowns; no boastful quotes about his Long Island single-game rushing record of 485 yards in the county final, nor a hint of acknowledgment of his Nassau single-season record of 2,781 yards; no selfies after becoming Nassau’s all-time rushing leader with 6,894 yards.
Heck, Kuinlan wasn’t even aware of those records. As far as he was concerned, every one of his yards gained belonged to his offensive line. “They work harder than me,’’ he said. “They deserve more credit than me.”
On Wednesday night, however, Kuinlan received proper credit and recognition for his epic senior season when he was named winner of the 75th Tom Thorp Award, presented to Nassau County’s top player, at the Nassau County football awards dinner in Woodbury.
“There’s something inside of him. I don’t know what it is,” Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said of the player who led the Red Devils to an 11-1 record and their first Nassau III championship since 2005. “He just has a vision that nobody else has. It’s this innate ability to find an opening. He sticks his foot in the ground, makes a decision and goes. If you have any doubt about coming up and tackling him, he’s going to run you right over. He’s a physical specimen. He’s got great balance. He’s got everything.”
Kuinlan earned Plainedge’s first Thorp Award, beating out three other Newsday All-Long Island first-team finalists — Garden City RB/DB Brian Haeffner, Carey QB/DB Mike Catanese and Syosset WR/DB Mike Elardo.
He did it by operating mostly as the quarterback in Plainedge’s run-oriented spread formation, but also lined up occasionally as the deep back in a power-I. He made great improvements this season as a passer, throwing for 1,355 yards and 12 TDs. The Red Devils moved Kuinlan around, but they never could hide him.
“It’s no secret that he was unstoppable,’’ said Roosevelt’s Joe Vito, who has coached seven Newsday first-team All-Long Island running backs in his 22 years with the Rough Riders. “It didn’t matter if you tried to put 11 people to chase him down, he’d break tackles. He’s about as good a running back as I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been coaching football, and I’ve seen quite a few of them.”
Vito saw more than enough of Kuinlan. In Week 4, he ran wild, gaining 371 yards and scoring six touchdowns in a 56-28 Plainedge victory. In the Nassau III semifinals at Hof stra, Kuinlan carried 21 times for 218 yards and four scores in ousting Roosevelt, 53-13.
“He really does have good vision on cutting back and he’s got deceiving speed,” Vito said. “You don’t think he’s that fast, but when he’s in the open field, you really don’t catch him. He’s powerful when you do hit him. You bounce off him if you don’t tackle him straight on.”
Kuinlan’s signature game of his career came Nov. 21 at Hof stra’s Shuart Stadium in the Nassau III title game, a 56-34 victory over Glen Cove. On that sunny afternoon, Kuinlan did something that no running back on Long Island had ever done. Not Jim Brown, not Matt Snell, not Jason Gwaltney.
Kuinlan carried 38 times for 485 yards and seven touchdowns. He had two historic carries that day. With 8:50 left in the third quarter, he broke his usual slew of tackles for 14 yards to reach 398, one more yard than the previous Nassau record set by South Side’s Bryant Daniels in a 2001 playoff game. With 3:07 left in the game, Kuinlan rumbled 18 yards into the record books, surpassing Gwaltney’s mark of 467, set by the North Babylon star in 2003.
“I didn’t even realize it until you guys mentioned it,” Kuinlan told reporters afterward. “It was a great team effort. Everyone blocked their hearts out and did an amazing job.”
That was typical of Kuinlan, always sharing his accomplishments with teammates.
“Super humble,” Shaver said.
“A gentleman and very sportsmanlike,” Vito said.
A cut above.