David Quessenberry feels the football he’s been playing the past few weeks.
When he wakes up in the morning, his hands hurt. So does his neck. His legs too.
Such is life as an NFL offensive lineman.
But after Wednesday’s OTA session at the Houston Methodist Training Center, where he’s back practicing with the Houston Texans after beating caner and being cleared to play, Quessenberry said he couldn’t be happier.
“I’m loving every minute of it,” Quessenberry said. “Every feeling of it.”
It’s been a long road for Quessenberry. Drafted in the sixth round of in 2013. Placed on season-ending injured reserve his rookie season, with a foot injury. Then, a seemingly innocuous complaint in training camp the following season: fatigue and a cough.
After further medical evaluation – thanks in big part to the proactivity of the Texans training staff – doctors realized Quessenberry had developed non-Hodgkins T-lymphoblastic lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects a patient’s white blood cells.
But he fought, and fought and fought. Right up until he was declared cancer-free in April, when he rang the bell affixed to the wall of the MD Anderson Cancer Center so hard it broke.
Now, Quessenberry hopes to continue defying the odds, and make the 53-man roster.
“That’s kind of what we’re fighting for,” Quessenberry said. “To not let cancer take what you’ve worked so hard for. To get back to the life and the job that you always wanted.”
Quessenberry, who impressed the previous coaching staff during training camp in 2013, and is well-regarded as a player by the current regime, has a real opportunity here.
Big-ticket free agent right guard Jeff Allen underwhelmed for most of last season. Though left guard Xavier Su’a-filo looks to have finally arrived, who knows if he’ll be able to do it with consistency. Undrafted free agent Greg Mancz was outstanding last season at center, where 2016 second round pick Nick Martin figures to play in 2017. But between all the moving parts, and reserve guard Oday Aboushi leaving in free agency, there’s a chance that Quessenberry can provide, at the very least, quality depth.
Quessenberry has also said he wants to compete at tackle.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” he said of the differences between the two positions. “It’s very subtle things, but it’s just the angles. The angles you come off the ball. Also, the matchups. When you’re on the edge, playing tackle, you get more of those elite, pass rusher guys. When you’re playing on the inside, it’s bigger, run stopper guys.”
How quickly has he been able to shake off the rust?
“I feel like it’s coming back a lot better than I hoped,” Quessenberry said of his skills. “I really do. Every day, it just feels like my reactions, seeing everything – it’s coming back to where I want it to be and where I hope it would be.”
Quessenberry’s comeback, and performance, hasn’t gone unnoticed in the building.
“He looks good,” head coach Bill O’Brien. “Can’t say enough about that guy. To come back from what he’s come back from, and to be out here playing football, I mean, I’d go so far as to say that that might be unprecedented. To make it back to where he’s at right now, it says a lot him. It says a lot about this organization, that this organization stuck by him, it says a lot about (MD Anderson Cancer Center). Everything. He’s doing great. He looks good out there, and I think he’s got a chance to really keep getting better.”
“It’s just an incredible story,” quarterback Tom Savage said. “He’s an inspiration to all of us. He’s one of my good buddies, and we always hang out. He’s just a good guy. It’s awesome to see him in the huddle, and working hard to get better. … The things that he went through and overcame, it really puts a lot of things into perspective for us.”
It’s humbling to hear that kind of praise from coaches and teammates, Quessenberry said. But as much as he wants to make an impact on people he works with, he also hopes to resonate with other cancer patients fighting the same fight he once did.
“When I was going through my fight, you kind of look for people who have overcome it and gone on to do great things,” Quessenberry said. “If I can be that for somebody else, I’m happy to be that person. Lucky to be that person.”
Matt hosts “Hear Me Out,” Saturdays from 1-4 pm on SportsRadio 610, and “The Matt Hammond Show,” weekdays at 11 am on Facebook Live, Twitter and Periscope. You can, and totally should, follow him on Twitter.com.