Former San Jose State offensive line star David Quessenberry, now with the Houston Texans, has been diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
"My attitude is I'm going to do whatever it takes to beat this thing and get back to where I was before I got diagnosed," Quessenberry said Tuesday in an exclusive phone interview with this newspaper.
"It was really hard," Quessenberry said of learning the news last week. "It's still not easy, but when you get a game plan together and you surround yourself with the best in the business, it makes it a little bit easier."
Quessenberry, 23, believed he was suffering from a chest cold when he experienced shortness of breath at a Texans practice June 3. He sought medical treatment and tests revealed Non-Hodgkins T Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. He began aggressive chemotherapy treatment last Friday at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He expects the initial treatment to last six to eight months.
Quessenberry's father, David Quessenberry Sr., said in a text message that it's a "very aggressive cancer, but generally very responsive to treatment." He added that the prognosis is positive and the "Texans' team doctor says there is no reason he should not be able to overcome this and return to play in the NFL."
The Texans revealed the news Tuesday morning when they released a statement saying that Quessenberry was placed on the non-football illness list with the lymphoma diagnosis.
"If there's anybody who's going to fight and get through it, he's definitely the guy," said David Fales, the former SJSU quarterback now with the Chicago Bears. Rep 1 Sports, the agency that represents Quessenberry, also released a statement:
"The goal of David's treatment is to cure the disease, so he can return to the life that he has worked so hard to earn," the statement read. "David is extremely positive and determined to win this fight against cancer."
Those that know Quessenberry well sang a familiar refrain Tuesday, speaking of a person with the strength to overcome the disease.
At San Jose State, Quessenberry was a three-year starter at left tackle, a captain and a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference pick his senior year in 2012 before being drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. But he began his career with the Spartans as a 235-pound walk-on tight end.
"I'm confident that this is yet another obstacle that David will overcome," Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, who coached Quessenberry's final three years in college, said in a statement through an SJSU spokesman. "David has been an inspiration for me and I hope that I'm joined in daily prayer by all those whom David has also touched."
Quessenberry's father, who spent 30 years in the Navy and retired as a captain in 2010, echoed similar thoughts.
"The only thing guaranteed is the fight, and there are many tough challenges ahead," Quessenberry Sr. wrote. "He is a tough young man who is familiar with overcoming adversity. His best days are yet to be lived."
The younger Quessenberry said the support he's received has been a difference-maker.
"It's been a whirlwind, but the one thing that's come out of this is the support," Quessenberry said. "I know I'm not going at it alone."
He's also doing his best to lift the spirits of those supporters.
"I think it's just such a rare circumstance that it catches some people off guard," Quessenberry said. "When people call me up, I let them know that I'm going to beat this thing. I think that helps me and that helps them. I just let them know that, yeah this is my battle, but we're in this together."
Even with Quessenberry's positive attitude, his former San Jose State teammates were stunned to hear the news.
"Right when I found out, I was in shock just because of it being him," said wide receiver Chandler Jones, now with the Cleveland Browns. "DQ is honestly the strongest person that I know personally. Watching his work ethic, you could just see that he's one of the most hard-working, inspirational guys out there."
Quessenberry's first year in the NFL wasn't an easy one. He was in the middle of a strong training camp when he broke his foot and had to spend his rookie season on injured reserve. He remained upbeat though. During a bye week trip to SJSU last season, he spoke highly of his experience in Houston and vowed to treat the year off similar to a redshirt season in college.
SJSU football coach Ron Caragher never coached Quessenberry but has spent enough time around him during his visits back to his alma mater to get to know him.
"I am confident David will use this opportunity to not only heal but to make an impact in the lives of many," Caragher said in a statement. "He is taking the 'never quit' attitude nurtured in the game of football and applying it to the biggest challenge of his life. I am proud of him. Every Spartan stands behind him in this battle."
Quessenberry was a regular presence at the football facilities throughout the spring and is a player teammates looked up to.
"He's definitely gone through a lot and he's worked hard," Jones said. "Nothing's ever been giving to him. He's fought, like earning a scholarship in San Jose. He came as a tight end, undersized and he just kept staying after it."
Quessenberry's engaging personality easily made him one of the most likeable players on the team, yet it didn't counteract the toughness needed to play on the offensive line, particularly while serving as Fales' blindside protection during the 11-2 Military Bowl championship season of 2012.
"You always talk about a football team and if there's that guy you're going into a bar fight with, he's the man," Fales said. "He's always there for you. He's an awesome guy."
Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.