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After serving five years in Marine Corps, Paul Quessenberry chases NFL dream

Six years after Paul Quessenberry's last snap at the Naval Academy, he is vying for a Patriots roster spot. 

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Football is a family business for the Quessenberry clan. Scott Quessenberry plays guard for the Chargers, while his brother David plays offensive tackle for the Titans. Paul Quessenberry, however, took a different route to where he is today -- fighting for a spot on the Patriots roster.

"My opportunity specific with the New England Patriots was very unorthodox," Quessenberry said. "Much like many things in the year of 2020."

Quessenberry spent four years playing football at the Naval Academy, and after graduating in 2015 and while his brothers were turning their football dreams into realities, Quessenberry commissioned to the Marines as a second lieutenant. Over the course of five years, he completed trainings and infantry officer course, served as rifle platoon commander and weapons platoon commander in Second Battalion, First Marines, as well as deputy director of 1st Marine Division, Division School.

Somewhere along the way, in the nearly six years since his last snap, the desire to return to football came flooding back, and now, he is getting his shot to pursue his own career in the NFL.

"I don't really have a specific moment in time where I decided to pursue football again. My love and passion or the game was just burning hot as ever," he said. "I felt like I had maintained relatively good shape and it wouldn't be too difficult of a transition if I just committed to a different style of physical training to get into football shape. That's what I did. I just when I had time outside my responsibilities in the Marine corps I was training to play football again."

That training put him on a path to San Diego State's Pro Day, where he would have a chance to make a splash with NFL scouts watching.

But then, like so many things this year, that opportunity was cancelled because of the pandemic. It became up to him to get noticed, but having David and Scott already in the league certainly helped his cause.

"I know that I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you guys today if it wasn't for my brothers," he said in his first time talking to media on Aug. 28.

Aside from contacts or name recognition, Quessenberry's brothers gave him the support he needed in his decision.

"Growing up with them, competing with them on a daily basis and knowing they're out playing the game that we love at the highest level and performing well," he said. "Basically, that's the family business. I was like man I want to get on that train. When I told them I was thinking about giving it another go, they backed me up 100 percent."

Despite having his family and friends in his corner, Quessenberry was not naive to the fact that this moment was not guaranteed. Belief in his abilities and his drive have taken him this far, and he is intent to keep on going if given the chance.

"It was a long shot. When I first decided to do it, I told my family and a couple of close friends and my girlfriend and some people believed and supported me from the get go and other people looked at me like I was absolutely crazy," he said. "I just had this belief that if I wanted to and I gave it everything I had, some way or another, something would happen."

On top of the chance to compete after years away from the game, Quessenberry is moving from the defensive end position to tight end, a position he only played briefly in high school.

Neither this change nor the gap in his football résumé have given Quessenberry any pause since rejoining a locker room.

"That's the beautiful thing about football. Once you walk through those doors and you're part of a team, you're a teammate just as everybody else is. Your teammates are going to be there for you, and you're going to be there for them as long as you're doing the things that you need to do to make the team better," he said. "People are kind of, I would say, even more open to trying to hear me out and listening to what the heck I've been up to for the last five years and trying to make some sense of it."

Any transition to a new environment is made easier by a familiar face, and Quessenberry isn't the lone Midshipman in the Patriots locker room. Long snapper Joe Cardona also graduated from the Naval Academy in 2015, and over the years, the former teammates stayed in touch as they both progressed in their careers.

Cardona said he's "stoked" and "proud" to see Quessenberry chase this dream.

"We were teammates for five years, going back to the prep school. You talk about a special guy, that's as tough as they come," Cardona said. "It means a lot to me to be able to share this experience and have my teammates here at the Patriots meet him, as well."

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