At the line of scrimmage on Cutting Field, Brent Qvale made a name for himself.
His older brother, Brian, had done the same on the basketball court a few years earlier, and Brent, a multi-sport athlete in his own right, began the grueling road to the National Football League during the last great era of Williston Coyote football.
When the lights kick on each and every Friday night, the NFL is the dream for every player who pulls on the pads. Qvale was no different.
“Definitely a dream come true,” Qvale said from training camp of the New York Jets. “Every kid that starts out playing football has a dream of playing in the NFL. It’s pretty special to be able to do it.”
In high school, he was a disruptive force on the offensive line, helping take the Coyotes to the second round of the state playoffs his senior year behind a 7-4 record. The first-team all-state lineman was named the Gatorade North Dakota Player of the Year as a senior, and became the first North Dakota football recruit since 1994 for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
But the accolades through the high school and college levels aren’t what one plays for in the end. It’s about the dream, which came true this spring after he signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Jets
With mandatory cuts looming at the end of August, Qvale said his spot on the team is up to the coaches, but he’s currently listed third on New York’s depth chart at right tackle behind veterans Breno Giacomini and Markus Zusevics. Mike Devlin, the nine-year Jets veteran offensive line coach, and head coach Rex Ryan will have final say on where he falls in with the team.
“It’s too early say,” Qvale said, “but I’m working hard like everyone else.”
If history plays a factor, his tendency to play under fiery coaches won’t hurt his cause. He tutored under the ignitable Bo Pelini in Nebraska, and Ryan is of the same coaching mold. While the coaches have made a name through their on- and off-the-field personalities, Qvale plays the role of the stereotypical offensive lineman.
He’s quiet, and goes about his business — the football version of the Williston way of life — work at it, get the job done, and treat it with respect.
“It’s important to remember where you’re from,” he said. “Being from Williston and from North Dakota, I have a hard-working background. I think that hard-working background instilled in me the work ethic needed for the NFL.”
And as any good student of the game has already learned, the NFL isn’t Williston High School or the Big Ten. Behind him, the skill players will provide some of the same pace quarterback Taylor Martinez brought to Nebraska, but at a higher level.
Mobile quarterbacks Geno Smith and Michael Vick both escape routinely from the pocket. The addition of former 2,000-yard running back Chris Johnson adds an elite element of speed to the offense, which will be the biggest difference to overcome from college.
The speed of the game, he said, is much faster. The bottom tier of players are better, and those factors require better technique at the line and the ability to react quicker to everything on the field.
“Everyone in the NFL is obviously very talented and good,” Qvale said. “You’re playing against the best college players in the NFL.”
Halfway through the pre-season schedule, the Jets are 2-0 with wins over the Colts and Bengals. They play next this Friday, Aug. 22 against the New York Giants, and wrap up the pre season Aug. 29 at the Philadelphia Eagles.
If Qvale makes it through cuts, he’ll be on the sidelines when the Jets open the regular season Sept. 7 at home against the Oakland Raiders, and possibly Dec. 7, when the Jets travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings.