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Quayhagen Stars On and Off the Field for Cowboys
A former valedictorian who is on the cusp of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in management.
C) A key contributor in the defensive secondary of defending Southland Conference champion McNeese State.
D) All of the above.
The correct answer is d. Although, the quiz is just a small percentage of the former Leesville star’s story.
The 5-foot-11, 198-pound senior weak safety is expected to to be a key player as the Cowboys travel to Natchitoches to face Northwestern State today in a key Southland Conference battle.
Quayhagen is fourth on the team in tackles with 38 as the team tries the difficult task of repeating as SLC champs. McNeese is 6-3 and is one game back of conference-leading Central Arkansas, although UCA is ineligible for the title. The Cowboys are tied with NSU and Texas State for second and the league’s berth in the FCS playoffs.
Quayhagen, though, is confident what his team can do if they make the college postseason. “I think if we do get in the playoffs we will be a better team than in years past,” he says.
Quayhagen knows something about making a contribution to a conference champion as the Cowboys have won two straight titles. But as much a contributor Quayhagen has been in his four seasons with the Cowboys (he is a three-time letterman and has 109 career tackles), he almost never came to McNeese State.
Quayhagen lettered in football, track and soccer at Leesville, earning all-district honors in both soccer and football and was named to the academic all-state team as a senior. When he graduated in 2003 as class valedictorian, Quayhagen did not receive a single offer to play college football. He contemplated walking on at LSU in hopes of making the scout team.
“He didn’t pass the eye test. He wasn’t tall enough, big enough or fast enough,” says current Leesville defensive line coach Robert Causey, who was defensive coordinator when Quayhagen was a Wampus Cat. “But we knew if Josh could just get his foot in the door that he would impress any coaching staff and get a chance to play football. The one thing he always brought was a great work ethic and the fact that he could take your head clear off.”
Quayhagen got that chance his senior year when former Leesville and McNeese State star Keith Smith came and spoke at the school. Smith, who had just been taken in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, told him that he would miss playing the game too much if he went somewhere like LSU. Smith told Qauyhagen to “go where you can play” and recommended he walk on McNeese.
With academic scholarship in hand, that’s just what Quayhagen did. After redshirting his first season, he quickly became an impact player in 2005, playing special teams and working in a safety rotation with former Bunkie High star Jamelle Juneau. After that season, the coaching staff placed Quayhagen on scholarship.
The following season, Quayhagen would have to overcome a setback after breaking his ankle during the second scrimmage of camp. He would miss all but two games that year.
Quayhagen admits that he was a little scared heading into the next season. He had worked hard to earn the respect of his teammates and coaching staff and began to worry if his injury would hinder his role with the team.
Quayhagen says, “I’ve been the third or fourth-string player coming in to every camp. By the end of camp though, I have always moved up to second-string. I knew that I could do the work to earn a spot. But on the same hand I’ve seen a lot of guys come back from injury that never get to play as much as they did before.
“I thought with new guys coming in they can always forget about me.”
The Cowboys didn’t forget. The next season Quayhagen played as the dime and nickel back, finishing the season with 46 tackles as the team completed an undefeated season and a conference championship. His hard work and versatility are attributes the Cowboys’ coaching staff appreciates.
“Josh can play three different positions in the secondary, buck-safety, week safety and dime back. He is very knowledgeable of the game,” says McNeese secondary coach Lance Guidry.
But his knowledge doesn’t end with football. He will graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in management, and plans to return to McNeese to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. He has been working part-time at Applied Coating of Baton Rouge and already has a full-time position waiting for him when he graduates.
“Obviously, I was raised to be successful. I was taught to set a goal and reach it, not to quit if a situation becomes difficult. My parents pushed me to go to college and to be successful. A lot of guys just go to class just so they can play football. Why not just finish? This is why you are here. To get your degree so you can be successful in life,” says Quayhagen.
Guidry adds, “Josh’s journey is one that not every player on scholarship experiences. Josh just wanted to play and prove he was worthy of a scholarship and that’s exactly what he did.”
Quayhagen stars on and off the field for Cowboys
By Raymond A. Partsch III, The Alexandria Town Talk (LA)
Photo Credit: McNeese State Athletics c/o The Alexandria Town Talk