FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Brent Qvale has dealt with it all his life, people looking at his last name funny before absolutely butchering it.
It’s those first two letters — the Q and that wacky V — that have turned his family’s name into an absolute tongue twister for some.
“Yeah, a lot of people just say, ‘Q-Vale,’ which is the usual, and it makes sense, I guess,” the New York Jets offensive lineman said with a smile. “Some just pronounce it like, ‘Quail.’
“I know my last name is spelled very awkwardly, but just to set the record straight: It’s pronounced KWAH-lee.”
But, what’s up with that Q and V next to each other? And how does that make a “KWAH” sound?
“It’s Norwegian and it translated over to Q and U,” the 26-year-old Qvale explained after practice Friday. “But there were some issues years ago with my grandfather and other guys having the same name, so he combined it. It was K-V in Norway and changed to Q-U and he combined it to be Q-V — and ruined our lives ever since.”
Surprisingly, most of his Jets teammates have learned how to pronounce his name correctly, and they always call him by his last name.
“No one calls him Brent,” center Wesley Johnson said. “We all call him Qvale. If anybody calls him Brent, it’s like, ‘Your name is Brent?’ That kind of thing. So we just call him Qvale.
“And everybody loves Qvale.”
Jets fans can expect to hear his name said — hopefully, correctly — on Sunday when New York takes on Atlanta at MetLife Stadium. Qvale is starting at right tackle for the injured Brandon Shell, who was ruled out with a neck injury.
Qvale has been in this spot several times, having started three games at right tackle in place of the injured Breno Giacomini and one at right guard for Brian Winters last year. He also filled in for Shell for a game earlier this season.
“I’ve done it before, and I guess it’s always a great opportunity to get out there and show good film and show the coaches why I’m here,” said Qvale, scheduled to be a free agent after this season. “Every snap is another opportunity out there.”
Qvale was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska in 2014. He was among the team’s final cuts in training camp that summer, but was then added to the practice squad.
The 6-foot-7 lineman, whose size 18 feet have prompted lots of jokes among his teammates, made the active roster the following season and has been a valuable backup since. At Miami last Sunday, Qvale had to play most of the game after Shell went out early with his injury.
“He did some good things,” coach Todd Bowles said. “Obviously, he did some things he has to work on, but for the most part, he held his own.”
Qvale has been doing that since his childhood days in Williston, North Dakota, when he was trying to compete with his older brother Brian on the basketball court. He developed a wicked hook shot, partly out of necessity so he could get the ball over his 6-foot-11 brother’s outstretched arms.
“That was my go-to and kind of my game, I guess,” he said, smiling. “It’s been a long time, though. I don’t think I could do any of it now. I’d be very rusty.”
Brian, who’s 2 years older than Brent, has been playing basketball professionally overseas for the last seven years, with his latest stop the Lokomotiv Kuban of the VTB United League in Russia. He also had two brief preseason stints with the Charlotte Hornets a few years ago.
Meanwhile, Brent developed into a solid basketball player himself, and was selected the Class A player of the year after averaging more than 21 points and 12 rebounds a game during his senior year at Williston High. But the 315-pounder knew his future was on the football field.
“I was decent, and I had to get good because I had to guard my brother in high school,” said Qvale, who also won the state shot put title three straight years. “I was just too short to be a big-time basketball player. They’re all 6-11 and 7-footers, so as far as playing in high Division I or the professional levels, I’d either have to be 7 feet tall or lose about 70 pounds.”
He ended up going to Nebraska, where he became the Cornhuskers’ starting left tackle after two years as a reserve. Qvale went undrafted, but impressed the Jets enough to where they signed him shortly after the draft.
He has made steady progress ever since, and the coaches have no concerns about sending him out to be a replacement starter.
“Shell and I battled during camp, and now he’s dealing with some injuries, so it’s my chance to go out there again,” Qvale said. “It’s been nice to kind of see the progression each year. I’m just trying to keep playing well, keep getting better and keep getting more experience.”
And, maybe someday soon, everyone will know how to say his name.