Joe Cardona is a patriot in more ways than one. The long snapper became one of the highest drafted in NFL history when the New England Patriots selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but Cardona also serves in the ‘army. The Naval Academy graduate is a current lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserves and remains ready for action off the field.
“I never expected to have the opportunity to play in the NFL,” Cardona told CBS Sports this week. “I grew up in San Diego, I grew up around the Navy and the Marine Corps, so for me to have the opportunity when I was recruited to play football at the Naval Academy was a dream come true. . “
Cardona’s willingness to stay prepared has benefited her greatly throughout her life. The California native put his mind to service, but also hoped for a professional football career even though the stars would need to line up for him to live out his NFL dream.
“Throughout my last two years of college football, I started to realize that I had the talent to play in the NFL,” Cardona said. “It was just whether I would have the opportunity then. I decided to position myself to prepare myself physically and if the opportunity presented itself I would be ready. In the end, a lot of things were about timing, whether to play. at the NFL level and now years later I’m living both dreams. “
Cardona is quietly one of the most fascinating players in the NFL. Not only did he represent the military well, but he also found success in the NFL. He has played 96 career games and also helped the Pats win Super Bowl LI and LIII, making him the second Navy player – behind legendary quarterback Roger Staubach – to win the big game. It was a trip built on hard work, as Cardona even had to work 24-hour shifts at the Naval Academy prep school during his rookie season.
“My rookie year has been a lot busier,” laughed Cardona. “NFL week starts on Wednesdays, so usually the coach would give me a Monday pass for movie days as long as I was working on the movie in myself and in my practice. But yes, I used to do 24 hour shifts on Tuesdays. A lot of things were really different from my other teammates (schedules) – a lot busier in many ways – but I didn’t know a difference. I just finished my studies at the Naval Academy where everything is busy time, and for me it is enough to put one foot in front of the other and take care of business on both sides. Fortunately, I survived it, fortunately. Looking back, seven years later, it’s like wow. It was pretty difficult to say the least. But I am grateful that I did. “
The Patriots were the perfect place to land, as head coach Bill Belichick fostered an environment of discipline-based success. This is too much for some players, as former Patriots have described their time in Foxborough as “militaristic.” We asked Cardona if playing football in New England was like being in the military.
“Well you can believe the guy who has experience with both that it’s a disciplined environment, but by no means does it come close to a military environment,” Cardona said. “At the end of the day, we have a purpose, we have a singular mission – so there are parallels. But when you reduce the work that is required of the military wearing the uniform every day and the difficulty and the enormity of what that entails. means serving and comparing that to a job in the NFL … as regulated as it sounds, we can’t escape the fact that we’re playing a boy’s game at the end of the day. “
Cardona admits there are similarities, but it’s not fair for the men and women who serve our country to compare their sacrifices to those of professional athletes. Belichick’s seemingly strict way of running certainly has something to do with his father, Steve, who served in WWII and was a Navy trainer for over three decades. Because of this, Cardona and Coach Belichick have a bond.
“Yeah, I’d say we’ve both been really raised and developed in that Navy mindset,” Cardona said. “For me, having been to the Naval Academy, I see parallels in our building every day that remind me of Annapolis, remind me of the Naval Academy of how we train and prepare, and that has always been one thing. comforting to me of course. “
For those like Belichick and Cardona, this long weekend and Memorial Day have a different meaning, which is why the latter has partnered with USAA, Official Partner of the NFL Salute to Service, to promote a special Memorial Campaign. Day. In remembrance of the more than 645,000 military service members who gave their lives in military conflict serving our country since World War I, Cardona encourages all Americans to provide a digital tribute to our fallen military heroes by visiting PoppyInMemory.com.
“It highlights the service and sacrifice of those who have done so much to ensure our freedom,” Cardona said. “They have the stories of fallen individuals. They also give you the opportunity to dedicate a digital poppy to a family, friend, loved one, anyone who made this sacrifice for our freedom.
“Memorial Day can be treated like summer – take off (the day). But for a lot of people, it’s a dark day. An opportunity to remember those who have fallen and gave us this opportunity to have a summer to take off. It’s a good reminder and something to keep in mind. “
So while you are by the pool or by the lake enjoying that long weekend, take a second to appreciate your freedom and remember that it comes at a price. Some heroes like Lieutenant Cardona work hard off the pitch to stay ready when they need it, but there are plenty of other heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Memorial Day is much more moving because it honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Cardona said. “It is a day that you cannot take lightly because for so many families, for so many people who have served where a friend was killed in action, it is a dark day. It’s a tough day. Because you are faced with the service and the sacrifice that those around you have made. For those reading this, let’s hope they really reflect and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can have a great weekend and live the life we make as free as we want. ”