Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
PROVO — About an hour before BYU kicked off against New Mexico State last November at LaVell Edwards Stadium, Joseph Quezada, the 20-year-old brother of Cougar running back Joshua "Juice" Quezada, died in an automobile accident in California.
Months later, Josh Quezada is still dealing with that adversity, but he's doing so with patience and perspective.
"Of course, it's been hard. You don't know exactly how to react," said Quezada, who spoke publicly for the first time about his older brother on the Cougars' final day of spring practices.
"When a family member passes, it's overwhelming and you don't know how to react. It's something I had never been through. Of course, I've learned from it and I wish my brother was here. I pray for my brother. I know he's in a better place. I always look at it as in, he's always looking out for me, helping me out in decisions I make. He helps me out in those kinds of ways."
Quezada is looking to dedicate the upcoming 2012 season to his brother.
"I'm not going to get a tattoo or anything like that," he said. "He's always in my heart and I'll never forget him. I'm just taking each day at a time. Especially my family (he has six siblings). It can be really hard. I make sure to talk to my siblings and make sure they're doing OK, especially the younger ones. It can be hard for them. It's like a movie. You think it's not real, but this is the real thing. I call them every day and make sure they're doing OK. It's a process, just taking one step at a time."
Losing his brother last fall was the biggest blow in what was a trying season for Quezada, who was nursing ankle injuries throughout the campaign, beginning in fall camp. He rushed 86 times for 298 yards (3.5 yards per carry) a year ago.
"It set me back, definitely," he said of the injuries. "I'm not worried about last year now. I'm worried about this year and what I can do now."
During spring drills, Quezada was healthy and didn't miss a practice.
"That shows an example of what you're supposed to be doing," said Quezada, who was quicker, and more physical, than he had been in 2011. "My ankles feel good, my body feels good. A lot of coaches think I've lost weight but I've actually gained weight. That's what I'm trying to do this year, play heavier."
The Cougars are hoping that Quezada, a junior, plays a heavier role this season.
Quezada was so focused on performing well in spring ball that he refused to do interviews until the final day of practice.
"I didn't want to do any interviews. You know how there's fasting and you don't eat? Well, I felt like I needed to fast from the media," he explained. "I felt like I needed to humble myself. That's why I didn't want to do any interviews until the last day of spring ball. As a team, it's a lot different from last year. Last year I saw things from a different perspective."
"I think he's overcoming," coach Bronco Mendenhall said of the challenges Quezada has faced. "He has kind of re-established himself as a quality football player in our program and someone that can be relied on."
Mendenhall said often during the spring that he's excited about the prospect of Quezada and Michael Alisa lining up in the backfield together.
"The combination of having he and Mike Alisa in the backfield at the same time, that could be fun," Mendenhall said.
Having a consistent run game "is going to be necessary for us to have a fantastic season, not just a good season," Mendenhall added.
Quarterback Riley Nelson said Quezada has, out of necessity, grown up in recent months because of his family's tragedy.
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