Joe Cardona is one of only four long snappers to ever be called in the Draft.
He is also one of only two NFL players who currently serves in the military.
Cardona, a California native, played four years at the Naval Academy as a starting snapper, where he quickly established himself as one of the top snappers in the country. He was the first freshman to start at long snapper.
The Midshipmen had a 30-21 record by the time he graduated, with four wins over the rival Army team. He was not charged with a single bad snap.
Cardona has been with the Patriots since 2015, when they selected him in the fifth round of the Draft. It wasn’t an unprecedented pick — the Pats had drafted a long snapper before (Jake Ingram) — but it was unusual.
In the four full seasons he’s played for the Pats, Cardona has been in every game.
Before the start of each season the Navy secretary must approve his request to play. During football season, Cardona works one day a week at the Naval Academy Preparatory School, which he attended before college.
“It’s long days, and there are not really any days off, but the balance has been good,” Cardona said in a 2015 ESPN article.
After the season ends, he trades in his football helmet for a sailor cap.
Cardona has been a reliable snapper, working alongside kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Ryan Allen.
He’s racked up an impressive 64 regular-season games, ten playoff games, and two Super Bowl performances. His efforts have helped lead the Patriots to three consecutive division titles, two consecutive AFC Championships, and now, three consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
In Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons, Cardona had an active role on seven special teams plays. The Pats won in overtime, 34-28.
In June 2018, he earned a four-year, $4.31 million contract extension with the Patriots. It put him in the category of highest paid long snappers in the league.
Cardona was also rewarded with the Ron Burton Community Service Award.
A true Patriot
“Joe is a Patriot in the highest sense of the word, on and off the field,” said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft.
“Service to others is of principal importance to him, first to our country, as well as to our team and to our community…”
“This past offseason, Joe went on a two-week training session to South Korea with the United States Navy Reserves. He serves his country and his team honorably and still manages to contribute by volunteering to serve and support many of our team’s community initiatives.”
While some may view it as extra work, Cardona sees his two jobs as an opportunity.
He’d wanted a military career since he first saw Top Gun, and his dad’s 24 years in the Navy instilled a sense of pride and respect in Cardona.
“I just feel strongly about service and those who have taken the oath to protect and serve. To be representing, and doing whatever I can on this stage, I feel very lucky to have the background I have.”