Perry: Pats' Joe Cardona shares the benefits of holding two careers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
It's not unusual for an NFL player to have two jobs. Entrepreneurs and media personalities, for example, can be found sprinkled throughout the league. But Joe Cardona's work outside of football is different.
The Patriots long snapper now moves deftly from his on-the-field work to his off-the-field duty as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve, a rank he achieved in 2019. As challenging and seemingly-disparate as his two jobs may be, Cardona will tell you that each impacts what he brings to the other.
As he approaches this offseason, for instance, in talking with his Navy peers, Cardona can tell them stories about the larger-than-life figures for whom they've cheered like Bill Belichick, Tom Brady or Cam Newton. He gets to insist to them that "they're all normal guys, for the most part."
In season, when around his teammates, he's the ultimate source of perspective.
"One thing that resonates is this aspect of performance," Cardona told NBC Sports Boston toward the end of the Patriots season. "We have probably the most public, high-performance organization over the past 20 years. Getting to do that for the past six years, this pinnacle of performance, it resonates that as much pressure as we're under, it's still not life or death.
"We can use our experiences that we have to help those that have much more pressure on them. I think there are a lot of lessons learned on the field that have carried over into my military life and my friends over there."
At a largely overlooked position, Cardona has been a remarkably consistent performer. He hasn't missed a game since being taken in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, winning a pair of Super Bowls along the way. He's been a part of some of the best special-teams units in the NFL; the 2020 Patriots finished No. 1 in the league in Rick Gosselin's special-teams rankings.
Cardona will quickly credit his training at the Naval Academy for preparing him for the rigors of professional football -- particularly a professional football environment as regimented as the one in Foxboro.
"I think the biggest similarity for me was walking into the building, you have to bring this attitude of, 'I'm coming here, it's a professional workplace.' Yeah, it's for a big job with a lot of people that watch it and get excited over it. But ultimately I've got to come in here, be disciplined, be regimented and really buy in and do my job to stick around this team.
"That was kind of a natural fit for me because those are things the Naval Academy really preaches. It was an easier transition. I don't want to say it was easy because ultimately there's not a lot easy about playing in the NFL. But that point of the transition was made easier by having been through the Naval Academy."
As a rookie and Navy ensign, Cardona worked as a staff officer at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., four days a week. He was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade in 2017, and two years later -- on the 75th anniversary of D-Day -- he was promoted again to Lieutenant during a special event at Gillette Stadium.
"It's pretty emotional when you see someone take the oath like that and raise his hand," Brady said at the time. "It's a big commitment Joe's made, and I think Joe has done it very proudly and does a great job educating a lot of us on what it means to him. I think we all appreciate that. We see the work he does here for us, but also the work he does for our country.
"I've talked to Joe a lot over the years about what his roles and responsibilities are and I think everyone is proud of his accomplishments. As proud as you are of winning a Super Bowl ring, to advance in that part of his career is pretty amazing."
Cardona, who wears his Naval uniform when the Patriots board the team plane for away games, won the Ron Burton Community Service award in 2018 and has been New England's Salute to Service Award nominee for five straight seasons. He's facilitated more than a dozen re-enlistment and retirement ceremonies at Gillette Stadium for fellow military members. He's led free football clinics for children of military families at different New England bases.
And in 2017, he coordinated an effort made by teammates and coaches to donate tickets to the Patriots-Falcons game when over 150 military members who had recently returned from deployment were able to attend and participate in a special pregame ceremony.
"I get to bring those two worlds together," Cardona said, "and to me that's been a really special experience about being in the NFL and being in the Navy."