It’s August, which means that there are a bunch of recent BYU grads who are fighting to make NFL rosters. While QB Taysom Hill is grabbing the headlines nationally, there are several other Cougar alumns battling to get onto teams and live out their dreams of playing football professionally.
One of those is former BYU running back Joshua “Juice” Quezada. Cougarfans remember Juice for his amazing hair (that he had to cut to join the Cougs), his explosive runs, and unfortunately for his early departure from Provo.
Juice’s collegiate career started with a bang. As a true freshman in 2010 he scored his first TD in his first game with a 13 yard TD reception vs. Washington. Later that season he pulled a hat trick, scoring three rushing TDs vs. UNLV.
Unfortunately, Quezada’s sophomore campaign wasn’t quite what he or Cougarfans hoped it would be. With reduced production and a log jam at running back he decided to transfer to Fresno State.
The transfer was a huge loss for BYU but worked out well for Quezada. In his final two seasons he rushed for 1332 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 84 passes for another 513 yards and two more scores. He caught those passes from future NFL starter Derek Carr, and together they claimed two Mountain West Conference championships for Fresno. While Carr got drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, Quezada took a different path becoming the running back coach at Santa Ana Junior College.
But he knew he still had some fire in the tank, so after one year coaching he decided to “go pro” and took the leap by moving to Europe where he played a season in Poland for the Gydnia Seahawks. He exploded onto the scene, rushing for 1037 yards as a rookie.
And it didn’t stop there. In four years he has played for four different foreign teams (Poland, Finland, Serbia, and Turkey) and has rushed for 1,000 yards each of those seasons, becoming the first person ever to accomplish that feat.
In the off-season he returns to southern California where he substitute teaches and coaches high school football.
I caught up with Juice to ask him about his success in Europe and his future plans.
You rushed for 1000 yards in four countries?
Yes, I’ve been fortunate to reach my personal goal each year and rush for 1000 yards in every country I played for–the only person to ever do that consecutively in four different countries. I’ve earned best Running Back in all four countries and Finals MVP the last two seasons. Most importantly it’s been a blessing to be a part of two more championships, one in Serbia and one in Turkey.
What are the biggest surprises or things you couldn’t have anticipated in playing football overseas?
It can be a bit of a culture shock your first year living in a foreign country. But once you adjust to the metric scale, learn some basic greetings, and some of the languages numbers you’ll have a great time!
What have you liked most about playing overseas?
Traveling is the first thing that comes to mind. Playing overseas has given me an opportunity to see different parts of the world! I’m going on country number 20 this year. I also have loved meeting new people, hearing new languages, learning new cultures, trying new foods, and seeing true history. I love it all!
Can Americans make a decent living playing football overseas?
That depends where you’re playing and what the organization is offering. The teams I’ve been fortunate to play for have been able to cover all my expenses. For example: housing, meals, insurance, flights, phone, internet. That’s all on top of getting paid. It truly is a blessing! One thing people don’t understand is the difference of cost of living in foreign countries. Let’s use Turkey for example: the minimum monthly wage in Turkey is about 400 Euros (equivalent to about $450 US). So you can live really well in a foreign country with such low expenses compared to living in the U.S.
What is your favorite memory from playing at BYU?
It would have to be between scoring my first touchdown as a freshman vs Washington in the season opener and the win over UNLV where I got my first hat trick (scored three touchdowns). That’s how I learned what a hat trick was!
Do you still follow the Cougs?
Of course! BYU football is a part of me and I will always follow the cougars!
Do you have any plans for the future?
After football I’d like to expand the family business–I’m working on opening a yoga studio! Taking care of your body and recovery for athletes isn’t taught enough, so I want to make sure I’m educating those who want to learn and I will continue to teach.
I also have plans to of course visit Provo and watch a BYU football game every year! I love LaVell Edwards stadium and still have former teammates and friends that live there.
Finally, here’s a documentary of a typical Day in the life of an import player so all the Cougarfans can get an idea of what I do in Europe on a daily basis! Enjoy!