Some Ravens fans may have never heard of Joe Maese, while some may have simply forgotten, but Maese was the first ever long snapper drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
Selected in the 2001 NFL draft out of the University of New Mexico, Maese played four seasons in Baltimore. He was a key part of a successful kicking tandem that also featured the beloved Matt Stover and punters Kyle Richardson and later David Zastudil.
Recently I had a chance to catch up with Joe and reminisce about his time as a Raven and what he’s doing now since his retirement from the league.
Brian Bower: The role of a long snapper isn’t exactly a “sexy” one in the NFL. What attracted you to that position and when did you decide that was your ideal position?
Joe Maese: I started long snapping in high school. It absolutely wasn’t a hobby I thought would ever earn me a retirement. At that time is was an “extra” position. My high school line coach, Ben Bernard, was the biggest influence on my career as a football player. We had a tight knit group of 5-6 linemen who rushed to meet him at a hardcore gym every day after school and even on Sunday mornings at 7 a.m. for leg training. He was the one who introduced me to long snapping and had coached one player before me, who went to San Diego State University on a full scholarship. We realized quickly that if a college coach was deciding among 10 linebackers, but you could also long snap well, you were quickly moved to #1 on the list.
Brian Bower: Can you describe what it was like going through the draft process in 2001? Thoughts? Feelings? Did you think you were going to be drafted? How long ahead of time did you know the Ravens were going to draft you?
Joe Maese: Being recruited into the NFL was a long but exciting process. It’s like the college season never ends, just intensifies. Immediately you start training for testing and scouts. There are the All-Star games, which for me was the Hula Bowl. Then scout day, the combine, personal workouts for teams. You are being tested in every facet of your athletic ability and personal character but you know it’ll be all worth it if you get a chance to put on that NFL jersey. I knew the Ravens had some interest in me but so did about eight other teams so it was really a toss up. Finally draft day comes and my agent and I had some thoughts that if I was drafted it would be in the 7th round. So when I got a call from Ozzie Newsome during the 6th round saying are you ready to come to Baltimore?, needless to say I was ecstatic. Then you see your name come across the TV and it’s solidified. When the NFL draft comes around every year I can’t help but take a moment and reflect.
Brian Bower: Morgan Cox, Sam Koch and Justin Tucker call themselves the “Wolf Pack.” How important is it to have a strong bond both on the field and off the field with such a small unit that you were part of with Stover, Richardson and Zastudil?
Joe Maese: (Laughter) ”The Wolf Pack.” I was unaware of that… It is extremely important for the specialists to be a tight-knit group. I know that all three of those guys knew my tendencies and they knew I would get them the ball then block for them. It’s about trust in each other so that you can focus on your job instead of worrying about your teammates. Plus most kickers have some quirks so it takes a special bond at times. Those three positions were envied by every player during practice, but when the game winner is on the line, nobody would touch it! It’s a bond only a specialist could understand.
Brian Bower: Under the old league rules long snappers were sitting ducks on extra points and field goals. In 2013 they changed rule regarding “snapper safety” (protects long snappers from blows to head or neck area and illegal for players to hit them with crowns of helmets). How punishing was it to absorb those hits back then compared to what they are now?
Joe Maese: I have a couple of buddies that snap in the NFL now under the new rule and it is a huge difference. I remember Ed Mulitalo always pulling 350-pound men off of me then reaching out to help me up. Especially as a rookie it was how they tried to get in your head in order to mess up the snap/kick operation. I am happy for the young snappers now because they don’t have to take those hits, yet I believe it was one of the things that kept a good snapper around back then. You had to have a little toughness in order to do it Sunday after Sunday. When they brought new snappers into training camp to compete against me and he could snap well, I always chuckled and thought to myself, let’s see how he snaps with two slobbering linemen lined up across from him!
Brian Bower: Who was the funniest guy in the locker room during your time in Baltimore?
Joe Maese: We had some funny ones during my time in Baltimore but hands down Tony Siragusa. It was a daily routine with him and he was creative in his pranks. Apparently Tony had a small snapping stint in his career so my rookie year I got a lot of his attention. After he knew I was going to stick around, he lightened up.
Brian Bower: What was your most memorable play in your career?
Joe Maese: With out a doubt, 2003 against the Seattle Seahawks. We were losing badly at halftime. We started the 3rd quarter with Ed Reed blocking a punt for a touchdown. It was a complete momentum change and we kicked the game tying field goal with seconds left, then Matt kicked the game winner. I think half of the fans had left at halftime. It was a special day and I received a game ball.
Brian Bower: You are now a firefighter in the Howard County Fire Department. Much like a football team, there is a lot of camaraderie and teamwork in the fire service. Did your playing time in sports, college or pro levels prepare you for that or was that installed in you from an early age?
Joe Maese: After the NFL I knew I wanted to be a firefighter. I took a job as a Professional Firefighter/EMT here in Maryland. Being in the fire department is very similar to playing a sport. It requires an incredible amount of teamwork and dedication to your craft. Training is never ending as you never know what the next 911 call will be for. At least in the NFL you know what to expect after a season or two. Playing football and the weight training, that had become my lifestyle, made going through a fire academy easier both physically and mentally. Sports build strong character, healthy competitiveness, and intestinal fortitude. These qualities make for successful people in life.
Brian Bower: Besides the fire service, what are you doing with yourself these days?
Joe Maese: I have spent the past couple of years training high school and collegiate athletes. It started with football players of course but has blossomed into a huge endeavor with numerous successful athletes. I believe the number is around 21 high school athletes earning division 1 scholarships. I train a 17-year-old female swimmer who last month just broke the Maryland state record for the 200 breast stroke and will be competing in the next Olympics. I’ve got kids making varsity as freshmen in lacrosse, football and soccer. It’s extremely rewarding to be able to pass on the qualities and toughness that football and weight training has taught to me. Even more rewarding to see the smile on a struggling single mother’s face when her baby boy signs his scholarship papers covering his $100K education, books, food, room and board….everything for the next 5 years.
Most men don’t get to do even one dream job. The NFL, Fire Department, and 59 Athletics…. I wake up thankful every day.
Brian Bower: Finally, do you still follow the NFL and more importantly do you follow the Ravens?
Joe Maese: Yes! I am a Ravens Fan. I grew up in Arizona and you just didn’t go to games because you didn’t want to see the countless Dallas Cowboys Fans. I certainly didn’t expect the sea of purple that was tailgating at my first home game.
After leaving Baltimore, I played for Detroit and I quickly missed the Ravens territory. It’s like a religion here, this tradition that Art Modell started and Steve Bisciotti continues is unmatched anywhere else I’ve ever been.
While Joe may no longer be in the league he continues to strive for excellence each and every day, either in the gym or saving lives. Maese is proof that there is life after football even after the stadium lights are turned off.
Great catching up with you Joe!
Stay safe out there protecting us all.
Learn more about Joe Maese’s training programs at 59 Athletics.
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