Finding success opening doors for others

By Tom Hoban Realty Markets

We open doors literally and figuratively in business and real estate. One opened for me last summer that led to another and behind it an amazing experience.

Brady Quinn is a former Heisman Trophy finalist and college football star at my alma mater, Notre Dame. A first round draft pick by Cleveland in 2007, he’s been an NFL quarterback on four teams, earning a roster spot every year. Quinn and I connected while he was in Seattle last summer competing for the back-up quarterback role with the Seahawks. He is impressive, leaving anyone he meets with the impression that he could do just about anything he sets his mind to.

In Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll’s final roster cut, though, Quinn was released. In 24 hours, he was picked up by the New York Jets and finished the season with the St. Louis Rams.

Before he left, we had dinner. At one point in the evening, he told me about his passion. His dad, he explained, is an ex-Marine who fought in Vietnam and is now a building contractor in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

After he signed with Cleveland, they formed The 3rd &Goal Foundation ( ) which uses the senior Quinn’s contracting skills to retrofit combat-wounded veteran’s homes to accommodate their injuries. We put together a plan to match his foundation with our own local property management staff to serve a wounded vet in Western Washington.

Sgt. Trevor Phillips is a combat wounded veteran and country boy in his mid 30’s. A single dad, he lives modestly in a modular home surrounded by the woods near Onalaska, southeast of Centralia.

His cell phone ring tone is a Hank Williams Jr. favorite. In June, we retrofitted his home to accommodate his combat injuries, which are extensive.

He’s candid about the day his life changed. “Got blown up five time in Iraq. Fifth one got me,” he noted in referring to a remotely detonated IED that destroyed the Stryker vehicle he was commanding.

“Blew off my right arm here, knocked out both of my rear gunners and my driver was unconscious after the blast,” he recalled. “Five of our eight wheels were out, I was concussed, and my shooting arm was hanging by a tendon. I revived my crew and we limped out of there before they could come finish us off.”

The soft-spoken Phillips shared some other stories with me, including one particular firefight in Iraq where he and his team identified and killed four militants who had just bombed their camp with mortars.

“They were reloading when I spotted ‘em. I didn’t let ‘em finish. Who knows how many more people they would have killed?” he said with a country twang.

The experience reminded me of just how important — and interesting — our work in real estate can be at times. Whether we are developers, property managers, investors, contractors, brokers or vendors in the industry, we are involved in buildings that are either the workplace or the home of others.

People with life stories, wants and needs that extend well beyond what we see and which, if we’re willing to reach out, often enrich our lives. Sgt. Phillips lives behind one of those doors. A neighbor, a warrior, and now a friend. I love opening doors.