When Al Groh coached the Virginia football team, he sometimes mentioned a saying familiar among coaches. “It’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s the Jimmy’s and Joe’s” or some other variation is a phrase meant to say you need talented and capable players regardless of the schemes in place.
The “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series rolls on with a look at a sort of forgotten Joe.
No. 83 – No Ordinary Joe
Almost three years ago, I wrote an article on the site about Joe Spaziani. At the time, it was meant mostly as a preseason mini feature on the member of the team that held an interesting role. “Joe Spaziani Pulling Rare Double Duty For Virginia Football,” the title read.
The rare double: quarterback and long snapper. The dual positions remains listed beside his name on the roster to this day.
Back in 2015 when that article first published, however, Spaziani didn’t play in a single game. He already had redshirted in 2014 as well. Of course, that wasn’t a surprise. After a broken leg as a high school senior, he came to UVA as a walk-on. Some of Virginia’s coaches at the time – Mike London, Tom O’Brien, and Jon Tenuta – knew his father Frank, who was an assistant for George Welsh from 1982-1991 and the head coach at Boston College from 2009-2012.
So the first two years for Joe Spaziani went mostly as planned. 2016 on the other hand? That was unexpected.
Spaziani went through the first eight games of Bronco Mendenhall’s first season following the same pattern. DNP – did not play. When game nine against Wake Forest arrived, however, things changed and he was ready to answer the call. Zach Bradshaw had been the long snapper on field goals, while Richard Burney handled the duties for punts. Before the Wake game, though, both of those players were injured.
Spaziani got promoted. He’s started 17 straight games as Virginia’s long snapper since that Saturday. Prior to last season, Mendenhall awarded him a scholarship as noted in this Jeff White article in August.
The other role for Spaziani, back-up quarterback, comes into play the most heavily on game days. Fans may have seen him wearing a headset and helping to signal in things on offense. He’s also a film devotee and played several roles on the scout team early in his career at UVA. All of that for should help with a goal that started to develop in middle school. Spaziani wants to coach like his father Frank.
A Mendenhall quote in that Jeff White article sums up that Spaziani is no ordinary Joe when it comes to preparation and that should help as he pursues a coaching job sometime in the future.
“Just a fierce commitment,” Mendenhall said. “He’s diligent. There’s not a time where he’s not trying to learn. Regardless of position, he’s just everything you could ask for. He has a clear idea of what he wants to do for his future, and that’s to be a coach, and he treats each day like it’s an amazing gift of preparation for that.”
So far, the “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series has discussed tight ends, interceptions, and more. The previous articles are below. Click away.
- No. 99 – The importance of a fast start
- No. 98 – The impact of early-ending careers
- No. 97 – Jordan Mack’s role
- No. 96 – Welcome Back
- No. 95 – Han Solo Says
- No. 94 -Smart Addition
- No. 93 – The Center Spot
- No. 92 – Finding A Punt Returner
- No. 91 – Facing Running Quarterbacks
- No. 90 – Interceptions
- No. 89 – Kickoff Times
- No. 88 – QB Optimism Not Enough To Tilt Early Predictions Too Far
- No. 87 – It Starts With Jordan Ellis
- No. 86 – Virginia’s Most Dangerous Game
- No. 85 – The Tight End Swan Song?
- No. 84 – Teach A Man To Fish