Interview with NFL Defensive Lineman Joe Vellano

Joe Vellano played for the University of Maryland Terrapins from 2008-2012. A two-time All-ACC Performer, Joe excelled as a premiere tackler in NCAA Division I football. As a redshirt junior in 2011, he led the FBS in tackles by a defensive lineman with 94. Despite his success during his redshirt junior year, his NFL Draft grades weren’t good enough for him to commit to entering, so he stayed at Maryland for his final season of eligibility.

In his final season, Joe focused his game on TFL’s (tackle for loss) and sacks so he could propel himself into the later rounds of the NFL Draft. 8 weeks into the season, he was one of the top defensive lineman in the ACC with 14 TFL’s in 8 games, but proceeded to get hurt playing against Georgia Tech. He did not miss a game despite his injuries, but his pace slowed down, finishing with 61 tackles, 6.0 sacks and 14 TFL’s. Now the question for Joe was: Will he be drafted?

Joe Vellano vs. Cuse in 2012

When the Draft concluded and you didn’t hear your name called, what happened next?

“You go in to the draft hoping someone calls your name, whatever. I went in there and my agent back at the time was saying to be ready to go anywhere and if you don’t get drafted we’ll sift through the teams that want you and their schemes. Basically after the draft I got a chance to sign with New England, no signing bonus. That was the spring of 2013.”

What was it like playing in your first NFL game? What about meeting the staff and players?

Vellano at DT in a 4-3 scheme

“It was a lot of fun my first game. Going out there and getting in the program, working with these guys every day, they’re very organized. They’re really good at explaining everything and everyone is on the same page throughout the staff. They preached to try and get better every day. They teach you all the little things, the things that talent doesn’t cover. All the calls and schemes. I just tried to work hard and play hard every day.”

Describe the feeling of your first NFL sack on Matt Ryan.

“Well, I remember my first preseason sack pretty well too. We were holding joint practices with Philly and I was doing well in practice against them. Then it’s so different because they start picking up on calls and defensive schemes after that. I made a few plays and had a sack in the preseason game against them and that was fun. Then the sack on Matt Ryan in the regular season was fun but more serious, I just wanted to move on to the next play and do it again.”

How is Belichick at practice and in the locker room? 

“Yeah he does a lot of walking around, always thinking and moving and checking things out. He runs the whole thing. He’s the GM too. The biggest thing about him is that his mental capacity for things is higher than anyone. His mind capacity can take on tons of in game things that most people don’t have. A lot of people can’t change gears like he does. He processes something in game and applies changes immediately, he does everything. That’s why he’s so successful in the NFL, he has a superior football mind.”

You’ve had a pretty up and down past few weeks, I heard Gronk helped you get back up on your feet. Did he take you around on his party bus to cheer you up?

Vellano practicing with his new team the Atlanta Falcons

“I got 500 texts from people talking about that article (laughs). He’s a good dude. He’s my boy though. I’ve been on the party bus (laughs), he’s the man. He took us around everywhere.”

Is there any advice you could give to an undrafted FA trying to make it to the NFL?

“The biggest thing is that you have to take advantage of your opportunity in the lifetime of your opportunity. You really have to capitalize. If you get a chance to run with the ones, someone got hurt or something, you get a chance in OTA’s to go with the first group, your practices are your games until you get to the games. You gotta take care of your practices before you even get to the games. You’re in camp with 90 guys and you don’t get many reps. Be a gym rat. Work hard so you belong.”

Joe was recently cut by New England and has since signed with the Atlanta Falcons practice squad. Joe has played on three teams since entering the league in 2013.

Vellano during the notorious "deflate-gate" AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts

  • Signed by New England Patriots April 30, 2013. Wins Super Bowl XLIXCut August 31, 2015.
  • Resigned by New England Patriots September 26, 2015. Cut September 30, 2015
  • Signed by Indianapolis Colts December 22, 2015
  • Signed to a future contract by New England Patriots January 26, 2016. Cut September 3, 2016
  • Signed by Atlanta Falcons September 6, 2016

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