<
>

Jets' OL Brent Qvale adjusts to bright lights, big city and right guard

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Brent Qvale, who grew up in a small city in North Dakota, is adapting quite nicely to life in the New York area. He and his wife have ventured into Manhattan, visiting Central Park and the Museum of Natural History -- ''the super touristy stuff," he said.

"Also found some good pizza," he said, acknowledging the pizza in Williston, N.D. (pop: 20,000) can't touch a New York slice.

Qvale learns quickly.

The New York Jets are hoping it's the same for him at right guard.

Qvale (pronounced: KWAL-ee) is the no-name guy in the right-guard competition, which includes incumbent Willie Colon and former starting left guard Brian Winters. Another former starter at left guard, Oday Aboushi, could get a look before long, perhaps even backup tackle Ben Ijalana.

At Nebraska, Qvale began as a right guard, but he wound up at right tackle. At 6-foot-7, 315 pounds, he's built like a tackle. The Jets signed him last year as an undrafted free agent, keeping him at right tackle. He suffered a concussion in training camp, fell behind, got cut and landed on the practice squad.

Early in the spring, the new coaching staff decided to move him inside. When media types saw him taking starter's reps at right guard in offseason practices, the general reaction was, "Who?"

"It was the same thing going to Nebraska," Qvale said. "Coming from North Dakota, people were like, 'Why is this guy from North Dakota here?' All you can do is work hard and execute and give yourself a chance. I guess [offensive line] coach [Steve] Marshall and coach [Chan] Gailey saw some things and said, 'We're going to give you a shot.'"

There's a transition, of course. At guard, you have to take on 330-pound nose tackles and freakishly quick defensive tackles. Guard is an important position in the AFC East, considering the opposition. Some of the NFL's best defensive tackles are in the division -- Ndamukong Suh (Miami Dolphins), Kyle Williams (Buffalo Bills) and Marcell Dareus (Bills).

If Qvale thinks moving to New York was culture shock, it'll be a double-shock if he has to block Suh.

"All I can ask for is a chance," he said.

In case you're wondering, only 48 North Dakota natives have played in the NFL, according to records. Only seven have played more than 100 games, most recently Jim Kleinsasser (Minnesota Vikings). As a kid, Qvale idolized Kleinsasser.

"I'm trying to follow in his footsteps, I guess," he said.