NASHVILLE – In the hours after Sunday's key AFC South win over the Colts, there was plenty for the Titans to celebrate.
Running back Derrick Henry had another monster game. The Titans produced their third 40-plus point performance of the season. The defense showed more signs of resiliency, and fight. Punter Brett Kern returned to action, and he picked up where he left off. With back-to-back wins, the Titans had the division lead.
But among the biggest things celebrated was the inspiring story of David Quessenberry, a cancer survivor who made his first career start at left tackle in the team's 45-26 win.
Titans Coach Mike Vrabel praised Quessenberry afterward, and so did his teammates. On social media, players shared Quessenberry's success story on their Instagram stories, and the group included Henry, who ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the contest.
Quessenberry, diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in June 2014, fought his emotions in a Zoom interview with reporters after the game. He was clearly thankful for the opportunity.
"It's hard to put into words, it really is," Quessenberry said. "It's very special for me. It's something I have been working for for a long time. It's been a huge mountain to climb … a lot of peaks and valleys along the way. Just going out there and being able to help my team win and play football with these guys is really cool."
In addition to his resiliency off the field, Quesseberry has paid his dues on the field as well, working on practice squads and as a back-up.
The Titans added Quessenberry to the practice squad in September 2018. He spent that season on the practice squad, and it's where he spent the start of the 2019 season before getting a chance to play in four games. He even caught a touchdown pass.
With injuries to left tackles Taylor Lewan and Ty Sambrailo this season in Tennessee, Quessenberry got his big chance on Sunday.
Prior to joining the Titans, Quessenberry was a Texan -- he was originally drafted by Houston in the sixth round (176th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve, and spent the 2014-16 seasons on reserve/non-football illness list after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was medically cleared and returned to action in 2017 as a member of the Texans practice squad before appearing in two contests for Houston.
As an assistant coach, Vrabel was with him in Houston, and he saw his fight.
Quessenberry spent time on the practice squad and the active roster for the Titans this season before his big promotion. He finished the game at left tackle in Baltimore when Sambrailo went down with an injury. He worked with the starters in practice leading up to the Colts game, and then played all 72 offensive snaps.
"David is more than just a story," Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said on the Mike Vrabel Show on Tuesday night. "He lives and dies to be a great teammate, to be someone that supports his teammates, and he was prepared for this opportunity. He has earned the right to be in there. We're lucky to have him. … His effort and his attitude and his toughness is something that we admire as a coaching staff, and as a team."
Teammates were happy for him.
"That dude, he comes to work every day," fullback Khari Blasingame said of Quessenberry. "He's a hell of a dude."
"When his number is called,'" guard Rodger Saffold said, "he's always ready to help us out."
On Tuesday, Titans offensive line coach Keith Carter praised Quessenberry for his work ethic and his approach. He said he's been an inspiration to everyone on the team.
"Quess is like the poster child for why you coach," Carter said. "He's been through so much, but his persistence and passion, it's unmatched. As bad as your day is, you know when you get around Quess he is going to have a positive attitude and he is going to work his butt off. He is always that beacon of hope, and energy. Because his whole process, and the way he views life and attacks each day, is infectious.
"I am just so happy for him. It is just remarkable he has stuck with it as long as he has. … It was really neat to see him get his opportunity (on Sunday). … If David Quessenberry doesn't inspire you and he is not a life lesson for you to be passionate about something and get knocked down and get back up … If you don't see that and recognize that, you are not looking hard enough. He will go down in the history books of the great example of, 'It doesn't matter how you start, it's how you finish.'"
After the game, Quessenberry thanked Vrabel for believing in him.
Back in Houston, Quessenberry befriended Vrabel's son, Tyler, and helped show him the ropes on how to play on the offensive line. Tyler Vrabel is now a starting tackle at Boston College. Mike Vrabel said he'll always be thankful for Quessenberry for his influence.
Today, everyone is cheering for Quessenberry, a cancer survivor and a former third-string tackle who is now in the starting lineup for the Titans.
"You know, when you're not a starter, you might be on practice squad, wherever you may be in this league – it's a crazy league," Quessenberry said. "I just held onto the belief that given the opportunity, I could step in and execute my job, do my assignment and, you know, help this team win and that opportunity came. I am just proud to be able to go out there and do my job."