FOXBORO, Mass. — On Dec. 21, 2014, the New England Patriots edged the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, with Jonas Gray scoring the deciding touchdown in a 17-16 win.
Two days later, new Patriots tight end Paul Quessenberry played his final game as a Navy Midshipman, winning by the same margin over San Diego State in the 2014 Poinsettia Bowl.
He hasn’t played a game since.
Quessenberry, who signed with the Patriots on Saturday, is attempting the unlikeliest of NFL comebacks. The 28-year-old has been out of football since completing a failed rookie tryout with the Houston Texans in 2015, spending the last four years as an officer in the Marines.
With that military commitment now complete, Quessenberry is looking to resume his football career. Oh, and he’s also switching positions, trying to crack New England’s roster as a lead blocker after playing defensive end at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Quessenberry made his Patriots practice debut Sunday, wearing No. 48. New England’s roster lists him at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds.
Why sign a player who hadn’t strapped on a football helmet in half a decade? Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a diehard Navy supporter, explained during his Monday morning video conference.
?We?ll take a look at him and just see where he?s at,” Belichick said. “He hasn?t played football in a while. He?s got some skills that may fit into guys that have been similar to him that have played that position ? fullback/tight end/special teams ? whether it be (James) Develin or (Jakob Johnson) or players like that.
“So we?ll see how it goes. I don?t know. It?s been a while, but he had a pretty good college career, and you could see some things from him physically. But how that all comes together and all, I?m sure it?ll be a while before we get a good evaluation of him. But right now, we have space on the roster to take a look at it, so we?ll see. I really don?t know.”
Quessenberry — whose brothers David and Scott are offensive linemen for the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively — also received a positive review from Patriots long snapper and fellow Navy product Joe Cardona.
“He was in my class at the Academy,” Cardona said Sunday. “We were teammates for five years, going back to the (Naval Academy Preparatory School). I mean, you talk about a special guy that’s as tough as they come. And it means a lot for me to be able to share this experience and have my teammates here at the Patriots meet him, as well. …
“I’ve been able to keep in contact with Paul over the past few years, obviously. We’re great friends, so I knew he was giving (the NFL) a shot. I’m just so stoked for him, and I’m so proud to call him a teammate again.”
Fullback Jakob Johnson likely will be Quessenberry’s top competition for a Patriots roster spot. Teams must trim their rosters from 80 players to 53 by Sept. 5, so Quessenberry will have less than two weeks to prove he belongs (though he could stick around longer on New England’s practice squad).
“He’s been working on a new position that wasn’t really featured at Navy,” Cardona said. “We were a triple-option team on offense. But he played defensive end and was always a high-effort, high-energy guy, played on special teams. From my experience with him as a teammate, he’s an incredible teammate and an incredible person. I’m excited to have him out here working with us.”
Added Belichick: “It?s too early to project anything. We?ll just take a look at it here after a few days and see how it?s coming. I?m sure he?s a smart kid, he?s coachable, he does have experience, just not a lot recently playing football. So I don?t know. We?ll see.”
Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots