To his teammates, he’s known simply as “Q,” or “D.Q.” But as one of the finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, his name is David Quessenberry.
An offensive lineman for the Spartans, Quessenberry was one of the three finalists to be nominated for the award, but lost to Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin yesterday in Springdale, Ark.
Named after Brandon Burlsworth, who walked on at the University of Arkansas and was tragically killed in a car accident, the annual award recognizes college football players who begin their football career as a walk-on.
Quessenberry, a senior history major, walked on to the SJSU campus in 2008 straight out of La Costa Canyon High in northern San Diego.
Now, at 6 feet 1 inch and 291 pounds, he has helped SJSU climb the ranks as the No. 24 college team in the nation. In this interview, he explains what it has been like playing for SJSU, what it took for the Spartans to get to No. 24, and also a quick look at his power food.
How has it been playing with SJSU? How have you liked playing with SJSU?
To sum it up, I’d say I’ve been very blessed to be here. Just to walk on here in 2008 and to have all the struggles we went through as a team. Through those struggles we grew closer. Now to come out as strong as we did, ranked at 24, it’s an experience that I will carry with me for a long time.
How has this season been?
It’s been an incredible season. This is my fifth year and just to finish it out the way we did this season was something that I dreamed about. It’s pretty amazing.
There was an injury that happened to you early this season. Could you tell me a little be about that?
I sprained my ankle on the first play of the UC Davis game. I stuck it out through that one, and then I took the next week off and I’ve kind of been dealing with it the rest of the season. It’s kind of a bummer the way it went down, but I think with the rest that we’re getting right now, Coach (MacIntyre) is giving us good rest, that I’ll be back 100 percent with the bowl game and everything that comes after.
I know that you’re from a football family. One of your brothers is on the football team with the Navy, and one just got into UCLA. What’s it like being a part of a football family?
It’s fun, it’s always a good time. I think the most important thing is my parents always supporting us in not just football but in anything that we wanted to do. If we wanted to do something, they were behind us 100 percent. We all happened to be pretty good at football and that goes to all three of us being contributors, or going to be contributors, on (Division 1) teams. It’s cool. Not many families or brothers get that experience. My parents are going to the Military Bowl, they’re going to Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and my younger brother is in the Under Armour All-America Bowl. So they have three bowl games to go to. It’s exciting.
What was it like playing against your brother during the SJSU-Navy game?
I think it was a special moment in a special place at the Navy Marine Corp Memorial Stadium itself. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend that you go. It’s incredible, they have all the battles on the walls. It’s basically a memorial to the men who have fought and have sacrificed for our country, and knowing that my brother plays there and that I got to go there and play them and actually go head-to-head, it was really special.
How did you choose football from any other sport?
I guess I didn’t figure it’d pick me. It came probably the most natural to me. Through football I had the chance to take it to the college level. Here I am now so it all worked out.
What was it like playing in your hometown?
It was really cool because a lot of people, it’s hard for them to come up to my games here at San Jose. My mom is one of eight, my dad is one of three, and everybody still lives in San Diego. So I got huge family support, but coming up to San Jose all the time is hard to do. So when I was in San Diego, it was cool to have everybody come out to the game. All my old coaches, family, friends were there and then to win that game was really cool.
As a team, what would you say was your guys’ best game?
It would probably be last week against Louisiana Tech, to be honest. I think our offense was just firing on all cylinders, rushing 200-plus yards, passing the ball. Our defense stepped up huge with three interceptions and held them to 11 points. Our offense put up a lot of points and we just couldn’t be stopped. To finish the season off like we did on senior night — I think that was our best performance.
What do you think was your most challenging game this season?
It would probably have to be Utah State. We weren’t as ready as we should have been for that game. Looking back on it, I wish we could have had that one back and because I know that if we played them again, it would be really interesting.
I know that you’re one of the finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, how do you feel about that?
You know, the Burlsworth Award is an award for the most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on. It’s named after Brandon Burlsworth, a walk-on in Arkansas, who was killed in a car accident and this award carries on his legacy. And I’m just honored and humbled to even be nominated for an award like this, and to make it this far to be a finalist. I feel very privileged to go and represent my university, represent my teammates, and where I come from. I’m excited to get there to Arkansas on Monday and see who the winner is.
A lot of your teammates pointed out as Stanford being one of the best games for you. Tell me a little bit about that game.
I wish we could have that one back. It was so close; it came down to the wire. It was David Fales' first start. I bet if we played them again, it would be a really interesting matchup. As far as the game goes, I think it was a real confidence booster for our team because we knew we could hang with anyone.
How did you prepare for the games?
You just take care of your body, you watch a lot of film, you practice hard and you get your mind right because it’s going to be an intense game. You gotta be ready.
What is it that motivates you?
Motivation? It’s hard to pinpoint, but I’d have to say the most important would be my teammates; my team. I want to be a guy who sets the right example and is doing the right thing on and off the field. I want to make sure that I’m out working everybody at practice. Another thing would be where I come from. You know, I’m a walk-on. I play with a chip on my shoulder, I work out and train with a chip on my shoulder, everything I do is almost like I’m trying to be better than what I was yesterday and to keep getting better. As long as I’m playing this game, and probably as long as I’m living, I’ll be trying to get better at everything I do.
What is it that you enjoy about football, on and off the field?
Off the field, I love having that team. Knowing that I have a hundred guys who have my back no matter where I go, and especially with this team where we’re so close-knit, the camaraderie is just great to have. On the field, it would just be the respect of my teammates and my opponents. As an offensive lineman, you don’t really have statistics or things to measure it by. One of the things you can measure it by is the respect of your teammates and the respect of your opponents. And after the game, if you can shake his hand and look him in the eye, and know you guys both gave it your all, that you walk away from the game, win or lose, with that respect. That’s what it’s about.
How have you handled pressure in a game?
It doesn’t get to you. I always felt like the bigger the game, the more fired up I’d get because that’s what it’s about, the big games. They’re always really fun. Not so much pressure as much as just going out there and doing what I know I can do. When you’ve been playing football for so long, it just comes naturally to you.
What do you want the younger players to learn from the things that you’ve experienced?
I want the year that I’m having this year for all the rest of the guys that come after me to have the same kind of year as their senior year. I want to pass the torch onto the juniors and keep this thing going. We’re a top 25 team right now and for the new recruits coming in, they have to be ready to get to work because we don’t plan on dropping out of top 25. They have to come in ready to know that they’re going to give top 25 effort and be top 25 guys for years to come. That’s the mentality that I’ve tried to pass on to the younger guys that what we do as a team will define us. They’ve got everything in place to be successful.
What do you think drove the team to be number 25?
We're just focused on what we had to do to win one game at a time. As soon as we got deeper onto the season, every game was bigger and bigger and we kept winning and winning and now we’re top 25 and it’s just great to see it taking off from all the hard work.
Do you have any role models?
One of the older offensive linemen that I really was a big fan of was Kyle Turley. He’s definitely a guy that I look up to. The guy that I’ve read a few books on and I really respect is Pat Tillman. And my dad is a great man. He’s the best man I know.
In terms of technique, whom do you model after?
The local guy, Joe Staley, left tackle for the 49ers. He’s a stud. Jake Long, for the Miami Dolphins. Those are two that really stand out.
Would you trade football for any other sport? Why or why not?
No. I just think the way it has worked out with me here and we’re finishing… I wouldn’t have experienced this if I had played a different sport.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to all kinds of stuff. I listen to a lot of country music and classic rock; a lot of Bruce Springsteen and ACDC.
You put on a lot of weight when you came on the team in 2008. What would you say has been your favorite food in the process?
I used to have a house on 7th and San Fernando. You know what’s right around the corner right there is Peanuts Café. I ate there all the time, that place is great. I used to get the breakfast and lunch special.
What happens after you graduate?
I don’t know. Hopefully I could continue playing and play as long as I can and start training for the Pro Day, and after that hopefully one day be able to coach football in high school or college and pass on some of the things that I’ve learned. And maybe teach history. That would be cool.