Joe Zelenka has been the Jacksonville Jaguars long snapper for the past decade. During that stretch, he has seen several special team coordinators come and go, and he has played for two head coaches.
Playing a position in the league that would normally command anonymity could not harness the personality, sense of humor, or the genuine humanity that Zelenka possesses. He is one of the good guys in the National Football League.
It is not very often that a specialist gets the type of attention that Joe Zelenka has received. But, he has become a part of the family here in the Jacksonville.
Joe has the distinction of being the only long snapper in the NFL to claim his own fan club.
John "Arrowman" Rezsonya, a Hall of Fame fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, started the fan club several years ago, and the group has grown to include members from around the globe. You can see their presence at every Jaguars home game with the banner proudly displayed in the south end zone.
I wanted to gain some insight into what makes the player tick, and I was given the rare opportunity to pose the questions below to Joe. I am appreciative of the fact that he was gracious enough to actually answer them.
BR: You're entering your 11th year. Did you ever see your career going this far?
JZ: Never. If you would have told me that I would be here a decade later I would have laughed you right out of the building.
My rookie year, I never unpacked my suitcase. I thought that every game was going to be my last, and that I would be on the next plane home. There were so many guys that I played with growing up that were so much more talented.
I never felt like I had any right to be here.
I guess in a way I still think that way. I still don't belong here, but at least I have unpacked.
BR: As the only snapper with a global fan club, do you have any bragging rights over other long snappers in the league?
JZ: Oh sure. Every year at the long snapper convention in Milwaukee, WI, I get the chance.
Who am I kidding?
No, I have no bragging rights. I am a long snapper. But, the fan club thing is so sweet!
It would be even sweeter if there really was a long snapper convention.
BR: Do you think it is time to ditch the TE label?
What and make me a real specialist? No way! I earned that distinction with some really awesome goal line play.
Sure you might be more likely to play TE than me now. But, please don't make me into a glorified kicker!
BR: If you weren't in the NFL, what would you be doing?
JZ: I would be the greeter at Wal-Mart. No, really. I would love that job. I love saying "Hi" to people.
BR: What are your plans for the future?
JZ: I thought I just told you a greeter at Wal-Mart, or a game show host.
My heart broke a couple of years ago when Drew Carey took over The Price is Right. That job was made for me. I have been grooming myself to take over for Bob Barker for the last 30 years. But CBS couldn't wait.
Oh well, there is always Wheel of Fortune.
BR: How important is it to maintain a relationship with the fans, and to leverage that to support causes that you are passionate about?
JZ: Jacksonville has the greatest football fans in the country.
I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the fans spending their hard earned money to see the game. I am so grateful for all the people that I get to meet in this great city.
It is really cool to go to dinner and be recognized. It is never a burden to talk to someone about the Jags.
It is also so great to be able to help some of the charities in this city.
If I can use my name to give back to others, I am totally on board.
It just goes to show you how great the fans are in Jacksonville that they would support the long snapper.
I mean, how many fans even know what a long snapper is? And, I have people begging to get to the Joey Z Bowling Classic?
Jacksonville has the greatest fans!