When young Chargers fans go to football games, they are usually wearing the jersey of the best player on their team. In San Diego that meant LaDainian Tomlinson, Junior Seau or Philip Rivers.
One Chargers fan was different. He sat with his family at what was then the "Q" and now SDCCU Stadium wearing a number you don’t often see in the stands.
No. 61 for then center Nick Hardwick.
That jersey is now worn by Scott Quessenberry, who grew up attending Chargers games as a kid and is now a center for his once hometown team, even though they are in a new area code.
“He (Hardwick) is the guy that made me want to play the position,” explained Quessenberry. “Now being able to play the position, wearing his number, on the same team and for the same quarterback is a little funky to think about, but it’s pretty cool. I know Nick (Hardwick) loves seeing the 61 back out there.”
Quessenberry attended La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad. During his prep career, he played both sides of the line. In his junior year, they faced rival Oceanside, whom they hadn’t beaten in 13 years. When remembering the game, it looked like he was back on the field playing the night that his team finally defeated the Pirates 21-16 on their field.
He was recruited by the likes of Cal, Arizona, Arkansas, and others to play the defensive side of the ball. Quessenberry wanted to stay on offense because he thought he could advance further in his career. He moved on to UCLA, but didn’t leave behind the lessons he learned as a Maverick.
“They taught us good fundamentals,” explained Quessenberry. “To go there you had to be coachable and not think you were better than anybody. You have to hold yourself to a high standard.”
The Bruins gave him the best opportunity to compete and hopefully start as a freshman. He started at left guard for five games including a bowl game victory over Virginia Tech.
Before his sophomore year the Quessenberry family received some devastating news. Scott’s older brother, David, was diagnosed with Lymphoma - a form of cancer.
“It was really tough,” recalled Quessenberry. “He was someone I never knew that would happen to and when it did, we were like ‘what do we do?’ You are never prepared for that as a family. We did whatever we could for my brother.”
David was a member of the Houston Texans when he got the diagnosis. He was coming back from a foot injury, getting ready to compete for a roster spot.
Quessenberry said that he and his other older brother Paul, who is the middle child, dedicated their seasons to their brother. Paul was a defensive end at the Naval Academy. Both the Quessenberry brothers shaved their heads in solidarity with their brother.
The youngest Quessenberry remembers how much closer the family became during David’s recovery. On April 12, 2017 Scott received a FaceTime call and looked on as his brother rang a bell to signify his victory over cancer. The towering lineman broke the bell, and the whole family laughed.
“It was awesome,” explained Quessenberry. “It was like an omen. It was like finally, a weight lifted off his shoulders. It’s fitting how that happened.”
The oldest Quessenberry brother made it his mission to return to the NFL after beating cancer. On December 25, 2017 he made his NFL debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He now plays for the Tennessee Titans.
In 2018, Scott was drafted in the fifth round by the team he grew up watching every Sunday. He said when getting a jersey was a dream come true. He knew he would have to fight to stay on the team. He asked starting center and NFL veteran Mike Pouncey questions and paid close attention during meetings. He played special teams to get more time on the field, and it got him noticed.
“It’s going to be funny I say this…but he is an integral part of our field goal block team,” explained offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. “It showed he had some power. He could stand up to some of the push from these guys. That says ‘I kinda like that about him’.”
During week two of the NFL season, the Titans faced their rival Indianapolis Colts. During a 2nd and goal situation David lined up as an eligible receiver. Quarterback Marcus Mariota dropped back and found Quessenberry in the endzone for his first career touchdown.
“My phone was blowing up,” explained the youngest Quessenberry. “I didn’t believe it at first. I saw it on social media and just thought ‘that is awesome’. Another moment for him. He deserves that and everything he gets.”
Last Sunday Scott and David reunited once again as both of their teams did battle, with both needed a win badly. During the second quarter of the game, left guard Forrest Lamp went down with a broken fibula. Pouncey’s season was already over, the result of a neck injury suffered a few weeks prior. The team turned to Quessenberry to take over at center.
“There was a lot of nerves, but when you get in there and get a play out of the way you remember it’s football again and you are here for a reason,” said Quessenberry.
The Chargers ended up losing the game 23-20. After watching the film, the former Bruin believes that he has somethings to clean up but feels confident that he is the man for the job. Now he will be snapping the ball to the same quarterback he grew up watching at Qualcomm: Philip Rivers, who believes in the young center.
“I actually got quite a few reps with Scott in the last six weeks,” explained the veteran quarterback. “He will step in and do a nice job. He will step in there. I know he’ll be fired up to go, step in and will do a heck of a job.”
The Chargers brass has yet to name Quesseberry the starter for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. They wanted to see how he and the other center on the roster, Ryan Groy, progress during the week of practice. One key in the 2nd year player’s favor is that he has been learning under Pouncey for two seasons, while Groy signed with the team two weeks ago.
“I know there is a high expectation around here for players in general,” explained Quessenberry. “They don’t expect any fall off so I am just going to go out there and do the best I can do. Trust my technique. Try and get a win. Do whatever I can to help get this football team a win.”