Gabriel Quezada learned quickly how overwhelming life can be as a student-athlete at the college level.
"It's definitely a lot different than high school," said Quezada, a 2017 Central Valley High School grad, carrying 17 units and playing football at Humboldt State. "I don't have a lot of down time. I'll get used to it. It's a process."
Recruited to play defensive end for the Lumberjacks, 6-foot-4 264-pound Quezada was moved to tight end just before the start of the 2017 season.
"My reaction was positive," Gabriel said. "I'm not a selfish player. Whatever helps the team, I'm all for it. Getting the hang of the offense is the hard part. They handed me a 157-page playbook. I got the whole run game down and most of the passing game down."
The learning curve has been sped up for Quezada, who was a dominant force on the gridiron in high school a year ago at this time.
"I remember walking on the field for our first full-pad practice and shaking a little bit," he said. "My adrenaline was running. I was overthinking things. It's different in high school when you're the top dog. One of the goals I set for myself is to become a starter."
The Lumberjacks have two players from Central Valley on their roster.
Quezada will team up with former Hawk star running back Ja'Quan Gardner (class of 2014).
Gardner has already established himself as Humboldt State's all-time greatest running back.
"I'm following in Ja'Quan's footsteps," Quezada said. "He set the bar high. I got to set the bar high. There's a lot of weight on my shoulders."
"It's great to have him here," Gardner said. "We're having fun. Hopefully, we get more kids from Central Valley. The doors are opening."
Quezada had a breakout season during his senior year at Central Valley.
Gabriel helped lead the Hawks to a program-best 9-2 overall record, their first-ever conference title and second consecutive playoff appearance.
Central Valley won all five of its Western Athletic Conference games.
Quezada was named WAC Outstanding Defensive Lineman.
He racked up 44 tackles, 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 11 games.
Gabriel had just eight tackles and one sack as a junior.
"I'm proud of myself," Quezada said. "I've come a long way. Without him (Central Valley head coach Scott Edwards), I wouldn't be here."
Humboldt State compiled a 6-5 overall record and placed third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings (3-5) last fall.
In 2015, the Lumberjacks finished 10-2 and earned their first playoff win in 47 years.
Humboldt State captured the GNAC championship with a perfect 6-0 mark.
"The expectations are very high," Gabriel said. "We're returning 20 seniors. We have NFL talent on the team. We're going to have a solid season."
Quezada caught one pass for 34 yards as Humboldt State moved to 4-0 on the year with a 56-13 win over visiting Chadron State on Saturday.
The Lumberjacks have climbed to No. 19 in the latest American Football Coaches Association Top 25 poll.
"It's a special opportunity," said Quezada, who's competing at the collegiate level as a true freshman. "I got to take full advantage of it."
Gabriel's major is Criminology and Justice Studies.