The New England Patriots have a tendency to find fullbacks in the unlikeliest of places.
The latest candidate is Navy product Paul Quessenberry, who last played football in 2014 as a defensive end. After five years out of football spent as a Marines officer, Quessenberry is giving the offensive side a try. Quessenberry is listed as a tight end but worked closely with Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson in practice.
Speaking of Johnson, his path to the NFL wasn’t much more direct. Johnson was born in Germany and played linebacker and tight end at the University of Tennessee. After going undrafted, he went on to play for the Stuttgart Scorpions in the German Football League before returning to the United States as part of the International Player Pathway program. Johnson began his NFL career as the 91st man on the roster in organized team activities last spring but actually signed to the Patriots’ 2019 53-man roster after James Develin was placed on injured reserve with a neck ailment that eventually led to his retirement. Johnson is now the New England’s leading candidate to replace Develin at fullback this season.
Develin? He’s quite a story, too. The three-time Super Bowl champion played defensive line at Brown then burrowed a path to the NFL by playing for the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz of the Arena Football League and the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League. Develin spent a season with the Cincinnati Bengals before latching on with the Patriots’ practice squad in 2012. He was elevated to New England’s 53-man roster later that season then went on to spend seven more years in Foxboro.
So, while Quessenberry would be a longshot in any other scenario, his chances of contributing with the Patriots aren’t that bad, considering his successors.
But this all leads to the question: What do the Patriots actually look for in a fullback?
“I think the No. 1 thing you look for is toughness and that trait kind of embodies and is kind of the baseline for everything that you move forward with at that position,” tight ends coach Nick Caley said Wednesday. “James Develin did a fantastic job in it. Jakob stepped in last year. You look for guys that are tough and also smart, you have to be smart with what we do. A variety of runs that don’t stay necessarily the same. We’re not running just one run over and over and over again. So there’s a lot of variation there. We move those guys around and not only that, they have to have value in the kicking game, too. So toughness would be the first thing and intelligence is right up there. Those two things for sure.”
Quessenberry won’t make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, but he’s a likely contender for the Patriots’ practice squad where he can provide depth and competition at the position.
Most NFL teams find their fullbacks by simply drafting or signing a college fullback, tight end or H-back. The Patriots don’t make it that easy on themselves.
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