Overcoming Odds in Life and on the Gridiron

Faced with a tough start in his first semester in college, Kevin Quisumbing found therapy and sports a winning combination
Three defensive football players take on the opposing offensive line. Faced with a tough start in his first semester in college, Kevin Quisumbing found therapy and sports a winning combination
Kevin Quisumbing, center, rushes for a tackle. “Coming to Tufts, there were some challenges that I could have never foreseen,” he said. Photo: Jonas Powell
October 29, 2019

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Kevin Quisumbing is crushing it. The senior defensive lineman on the Jumbo football team, he garnered All-Conference status on the gridiron last fall, and won the New England Small College Athletic Conference title in the shot put last spring as a member of the track and field team. An economics major, he recently founded his own company and hopes to make it a full-time pursuit after he graduates in May.

College life wasn’t always so positive, though. His first semester in the fall 2016 was something of a nightmare, but he found help somewhere he never expected to find it, which has unlocked his potential in many ways.

“Coming to Tufts there were some challenges that I could have never foreseen,” he said. “When all of a sudden a curve ball gets thrown at you, I think you learn a lot about yourself that you didn’t think you could do.”

A multi-sport athlete, Kevin Quisumbing is a champion shot putter. Photo: Alonso NicholsA Los Angeles native, he came across the country to Tufts to find a fresh start, but family issues followed him. His father was trying to reintroduce himself into Quisumbing’s life from afar. Then a grandfather, who had not been a good role model, passed away. These brought up negative feelings that boiled to the top.

Making matters worse, he had injured his knee the summer before coming to Tufts, which prevented him from playing football that year.

“That semester was rough,” Quisumbing said. “I took a break for a week. I had to figure out a lot of stuff. What I found was therapy.”

Through Tufts’ health and wellness services, he began counseling sessions that would become an important part of his life. He got past the stigma surrounding mental health support, and found talking openly about his problems to be “amazing.”

“Coming from Inglewood and East L.A., we don’t really like therapy,” he said. “If you’re in therapy, there’s something wrong with you. That’s the stereotype. I had been in physical therapy for so long with my knee, not because the bone was broken, but because I wanted it to feel better. That’s how I started viewing therapy. It’s not because I’m broken, it’s because I want to feel better.”

Quisumbing had been very involved in community service as a student at Loyola High School in Los Angeles. At Tufts, the therapy helped him see that he could continue to make a difference by sharing his experiences to help others.

He volunteered with the One Love Foundation, which educates young people about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships and empowers the next generation to put a stop to relationship abuse. His grandfather had been a disruptive presence in his life due to addiction and domestic violence. Quisumbing took that negative and turned it into a positive by leading peer discussions on the topic through One Love. He has been involved in many other community activities at Tufts as well.

Athletically, the support from his football and track and field families helped him develop into one of the top multi-sport athletes at Tufts. Like most of his high school teammates, Quisumbing aspired to play at the Division I level. However, a call from Tufts head coach Jay Civetti changed his thinking.

“When he called, I was at Disneyland with my family,” Quisumbing said. “I told him I was with my family, and he asked how they were. I realized he was recruiting from more of a personal standpoint. It’s a little thing, but when you’re going through the process and hearing a bunch of schools make you into something that isn’t a person, it was really refreshing to hear him ask how I was doing and how was my family doing.”

Some tough love from assistant football coach Randy Wright also helped. Wright saw Quisumbing’s potential and knew what buttons to push to bring it out. In his junior year, Qusiumbing was an All-Conference playmaker at defensive end with 7.5 tackles for losses, including three sacks. Then in April, his 47’4 ½” (14.44m) heave in the shot put earned him his first collegiate championship title.

Kevin Quisumbing, right, shares a moment with teammates during the Homecoming game in 2018. Photo: Alonso NicholsAround that time, he was also working on getting his company started. As a resident assistant in the dormitories for two years, he was aware of the stress students were experiencing trying to find off-campus housing. His company Toku Student Realty is a tech-solution to streamline the process and help students discover their best housing options near campus. He’s excited to see what its future holds.

“If I am able to create my own business and generate revenue by helping other people save money and get to a place where they’re comfortable, that’s the type of impact I want this to have,” said Quisumbing. “I want to take out the stress from a student’s life and find you housing.”

As vice president of Entrepreneurship Association of Tufts (EAT), Quisumbing is passionate about learning and likes being busy. He’s had days when he goes from class to football film sessions, to practice, to a meeting with broker to negotiate a commission split, straight into a presentation at EAT, and then speaking with his business partners.

At the end of the day—whenever that might be—he’s happy to be making the most out of his time at Tufts.

“Tufts has taught me how to challenge myself and say yes to whatever challenge was given to me,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful for all the highs and lows and twists and turns.”

Director of Athletics Communications Paul Sweeney can be reached at paul.sweeney@tufts.edu.

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