Navy long snapper Joe Cardona became the second freshman during program history in 2011 to start as a first-year player. Cardona, who was one of only two long snappers to play in the 2015 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Jan. 24, developed into one of the best long snappers around the country during his four seasons with the Midshipmen. A native of El Cajon, Calif., Cardona was the lone long snapper who earned an invitation to the NFL Combine, which will be held in Indianapolis Feb. 17-23. Cardona spoke with Morgan Adsit about how his father helped him learn to play a myriad of positions, how he found out he had been invited to both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine and how he plans to prepare for a potential NFL career while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Morgan Adsit: When did playing long snapper come about?
Joe Cardona: That came from just playing football growing up -- Pop Warner teams here and there. My dad always made sure that I practiced a variety of positions on both offense and defense. And he always had me at long snapper, so I could always have a way to contribute to the team.
MA: So your father knew best?
JC: Yes, he's pretty proud of me. I don't think either one of us saw this opportunity coming, but it's awesome the opportunity is coming about.
MA: You're one of two long snappers in the Senior Bowl, and the only one to get an invite to the NFL Combine. Did you see that coming?
JC: I wasn't expecting to find out if I made one at all until much later. And that was the goal -- to go to the senior bowl [and] to get that exposure at the combine. I was home [when I found out I was invited]. It was December 30. That was the last day you could find out if you got an invite to the [NFL] Combine. As a snapper, there's really no guarantee, no matter how [you're] projected. I got a pretty plain looking email. It was a combine invite, so it was a pretty awesome feeling knowing I'll get another opportunity to showcase what I can do.
MA: You're the only long snapper participating in the combine. What will that be like?
JC: It's going to be a big opportunity because I will be the only guy there. If someone wants to see a snapper, I'm the only option of a guy they'll see there. It's going to be cool. And, luckily, I know some of the kickers and punters going, so I'll be in good company.
MA: What is life like as a long snapper?
JC: Besides upside down?
JC: There's definitely a stigma. But for the most part, people have a lot of respect for it once they try it. A lot of people did it in high school, at least once or twice, so they have an appreciation for it. You get that sometimes -- with people having no idea what it takes -- it looks easy, but it takes a long time to perfect.
MA: You've perfected it. You're the number one long snapper in the country. But before you can think NFL, service is required of you. Are you prepared to put football and the NFL on hold?
JC: I'm taking it all in stride day by day. I'm still waiting to hear … what the next couple of years are going to look like. But I'm immediately looking forward to commissioning in May as a Marine. As far as the football side goes, I'm going to be prepared to play at any time, of course, but I'm also going to be prepared to be a good Marine. The goal is always to be as good as I can at whatever I'm doing. I always wanted to come here and succeed as a long snapper and football player, but you come to the Navy Academy, you've got service on the mind. That's the ultimate goal -- graduation and serving the country. I'm pretty lucky to be even considered in this, and I'm aware of that.
MA: So, life's pretty good as a long snapper?
JC: Yeah, life is pretty good as a long snapper. That's for sure.