Chances are, you’ve never heard of Sanford Qvale. The Buffalo Bills drafted the offensive tackle from North Dakota State 406th overall in the 1974 NFL Draft and he never played.
Farming duties pulled him back west. A sore lower back nagged. So Qvale never played for Buffalo and faded into anonymity.
Today, however, he has one son playing in the NFL and another son playing pro basketball in Europe.
Qvale can now live through his sons’ dreams.
“Knowing that they have some of the best opportunities in the world,” Qvale said, “as I did at the time, their experiences outnumber mine when you look at their college and pro careers. Everything goes back to the basics — family, friends, work ethic.”
This week, The News took a look back at players drafted by the Bills alphabetically from A to Z, and Qvale is the last “Q” player the team drafted. The only other was Dick Quest in 1963.
So what happened to Qvale?
For him, the experience of being drafted was exhilarating, but the excitement didn’t last. Nowadays, he has one son (Brent) on the New York Jets’ offensive line and another (Brian) in “Basketball Bundesliga,” the highest league in Germany.
“Not that I didn’t enjoy football — I really loved it — I really loved the opportunity,” Qvale said. “But I don’t know where I was situated. Where do you fit in to the program? It was a great opportunity and I met some great people and I learned a lot.”
A few neighbors back in North Dakota passed away, he said, opportunities to expand in farming arose, so Qvale trucked west.
He does wonder “What if” sometimes.
“There’s always that what-if,” he said. “I had a little bit of a lower back issue at the time. Health issues, too. Not that I wouldn’t do it but there is a security blanket that you have to look for, to protect yourself. A lot of the guys will play through that until they can’t do it anymore. I don’t know if I was ready to do that. It was truly an honor. I never felt that I was inadequate or couldn’t do anything they asked me to do ability-wise on the field. I could stay with anybody. It was a hard decision. It really was.
“If I hadn’t had the opportunities I had, I would’ve stuck it out to the very end. But it just came to a point. It was a hard decision and you always question, ‘Was it the right one?’ I don’t know. But health-wise, I’m in decent shape. Financially, we made the right decision. Now, I look to my kids.”
Two kids who certainly have his genes.
Brent Qvale, a mountain of a man at 6-foot-7, 315 pounds, anchored Nebraska’s line at tackle in 2012 and 2013 and then latched on with the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He played in all 16 games last season with one start. Dad is just as proud of the Master’s degree Brent earned — he’s a certified strength and conditioning coach.
How did Brent make it as an undrafted longshot? Sanford points to his son’s fight through a labrum tear and meniscus issues in his knee. A high football IQ has helped, too.
“For every defensive set, he knows how to block it and how everybody else should be performing,” Sanford said. “It’s very ingrained in him.”
Meanwhile, Brian — all of 6-foot-11, 250 pounds — is in his fifth season playing basketball overseas after excelling collegiately at Montana. He finished college with the most blocks in Big Sky Conference history (247). After swatting away 95 as a senior in 2010-11, Brian was named the conference’s defensive player of the year.
And overseas, he has now played in Germany, Belgium, Turkey, back to Oldenberg, Germany. He did spend a month with the Charlotte Hornets during the NBA team’s 2014 training camp, and then was with the Hornets’ summer league team in 2015.
His goal now is to stick in Germany. The Euro Challenge League takes him all over the continent.
“The team he’s on now moved into third place out of 16 teams,” dad said. “They’re having a good year. Very, very beautiful country. Very friendly people. He’s really enjoyed it.”
Maybe Sanford Qvale never blossomed into a pro. He cut his own career short.
But he’s a proud father now.
“It’s been a real joy to watch, to see something they’ve worked for so hard has come true,” he said. “I’m very proud of the fact that both of the kids have very good education backgrounds behind them. They know that when the sports come to an end they’ll be able to progress on with their majors. That’s what we asked as parents — that you get something out of this. Don’t just go to school for the sport.
“We never forced them. They made their own choices. But out of that, there’s a mind-set that if you’re going to do it, you do it to the best of your ability.”