Overcoming Obstacles Prime WVU’s Qualls For Breakout Senior Season
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — His name is Quondarius Qualls.
They call him Q.
“They call me Q because my name is too long,” the West Virginia bandit says.
It’s not a common name and he’s not a common football player.
The website names.org says it is the 24,219th most popular name of all time.
What does Quondarius mean? The same website gives you this:
Q is for qualified, no doubt you are!
U is for upstanding, the honorable way to be
O is for outlook, pleasing to all
N is for noteworthy, just like your achievements
D is for dazzle, the sparkle of you.
A is for accountable, someone to be counted on
R is for rock star, let it out!
I is for intriguing, arousing the curiosity of others
U is for unite, you bring people together.
S is for share, your talents, time, and possessions with others
Put it all together and what do you get?
A potential star who WVU would have loved to have used last year — which would have been his senior year after prepping on special teams and as a back up as a junior — but was rehabbing from knee surgery for most of the season.
He is now healthy and just been moved from defensive line to the bandit, which is an edge defender who can line up in either a hand-on-the-ground stance or upright.
He hails from Farmerville, La., a town of 3,860 people that encompasses the popular fishing and boating waterway known as Lake D’Arbonne and serves the parish seat for Union Parish.
He attended Union Parish High School and that, really, is where his story as a football player begins.
It’s a small high school, Class 2-A in Louisiana, and it won a state championship with him in 2013. He did a little bit of everything there.
“I played receiver, tight end, sometimes running back. On defense I played safety, sometimes linebacker,” he says.
He also ran track, the 100 meters, the 4×100 relay while competing in the broad jump and triple jump. His best time in the 100 was 10.8.
He was so athletic he drew the attention of college recruiters, among them a Kansas State assistant named Blake Seiler.
“I made a special trip up to this real small town, Farmerville, to watch him,” Seiler said the other day. “He was all over the place. He played everywhere — special teams, offense, defense. Anyone who runs like that, plays football like that, you need to take a hard look at.”
Even though Qualls weighed only 185 pounds then, Seiler envisioned an outside linebacker in Bill Snyder’s K-State defensive scheme.
Qualls thought his recruitment was over, but late in his senior year, like May, right before signing date he learned he had not qualified academically.
“So I went to juco,” he said, having enrolled at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“I’m glad I went because juco kind of humbled me,” Qualls admitted. “I learned you have to go through certain strides in life.”
Junior college is one of those strides.
Oh, it was great as far as football went. He gained weight up to 205, made 122 tackles, 20 sacks and helped Northwest Mississippi to its first national championship in 2015.
There were other things, though.
“The campus was nice but the food was terrible, I ain’t gonna lie,” he said. “You ever had chicken strips and peaches … on top of each other?”
“I was like man, if I want to eat today, I got to eat this.”
If the food made him want to move up in the world, his football was the vehicle he would use to get there.
“At JC I learned at that level I had to play a little bit harder because when I was in high school, I was pretty much just running by guys,” Qualls said. “I had to work on my moves because in high school I was better than the other players.”
West Virginia came calling and had high hopes when he arrived. His first season he played 12 games, mostly on special teams as a backup linebacker.
“I was playing behind David Long … so you know how that went,” he said, talking about the man who would become the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and be drafted into the NFL.
It wasn’t wasted time, though, for he took what he could from Long’s game.
“That was the main dude I was watching,” he explained. “I wanted to do everything he was doing.”
He saw some similarities between the two, but admits “I got a long way to go.”
The second year was cut down by an ACL tear, one of the toughest times of his career.
“I was sad. I was thinking ‘Do I want to still do this?’ But one of my teammates, Brendan Ferns, was right there with me and he kept me going the whole way,” he said.
Meanwhile, head coach Dana Holgorsen left and West Virginia brought in a new staff. Among the new assistants was Seiler from Kansas State, the man who had recruited him.
“When he first came here I didn’t know who he was,” Qualls said of Seiler. “That was a few years ago when I was in high school. He said ‘I recruited you out of high school.’ I said, ‘You did?’ He said ‘Yeah, from K-State.’
“Then I remembered him.”
This year Qualls was moved from linebacker to defensive end and then to bandit.
“We needed an edge rusher and Qualls was the perfect fit,” Seiler said. “The bandit position needs to be a destructive guy, a guy that has some twitch, got some explosiveness to him. You need a good pass rusher.”