Joe Judge Looks Forward to His Senior Season

Joe Judge Looks Forward to His Senior Season

Joe Judge definitely knows how offensive linemen must feel when it comes to accolades.<P> Judge, a fifth-year senior, has been the Bulldogs' principal holder on special teams the past two years. But like offensive linemen, who knows his name won't appear in the newspapers or on television unless he makes a major mistake.

"I'm not going to get my name in the paper or on ESPN unless they say 'Joe Judge dropped it'," Judge said with a chuckle. "But I'm okay with that. When Justin Griffith (former MSU fullback currently with the Atlanta Falcons), I remember what he told us one day. He said he did whatever job the team needed. And that was from what we knew was the best fullback in the country. To hear someone like that say they are not a glory guy and just come to work everyday, it makes you put things in perspective."

Judge is taking the same approach as Mississippi State closes in on Sept. 4, the season opener against Tulane. Whether is holding for a game-winning field goal or observing from the bench, Judge plans to keep the same attitude.

"It's taken me five years to get to this point and I just have to play that role, whatever it is," said Judge. "If I'm on the sidelines, then I have to learn to be the best cheerleader and yell as loud as I can."

And it's a new attitude Judge had to learn all over again following an outstanding high school career at Lansdale Catholic High School in Philadelphia, Pa.

Judge tossed for more than 4,500 yards and 26 touchdowns his final two prep campaigns en route to all-state honors in Pennsylvania.

Although he other offers to remain under center, Judge couldn't turn down the opportunity presented in Starkville.

"I had other lower Division I offers and was set to go to the Naval Academy," said Judge. "I had my appointment set and everything. But I decided to give it a look down here and loved it. I liked Coach Sherrill a lot and after talking to him an hour, I knew where I wanted to be.

"There are a lot of guys I played with (in high school) that are in the NFL now, and you just have to be happy for them. But this was something I wanted since high school and just followed through with it. It would have been easy to drop a division and still play quarterback."

Something not so easy to Judge is explaining to his family and friends about his role for the Bulldogs.

"It's tough when you go back home sometimes, and your friends and cousins don't always get the games on TV," said Judge, who has completed a pair of two-point conversion passes in his career. "They wonder if I'm starting quarterback yet. They don't fully understand what you're doing because they don't see your name in the paper.

"But once you get past the initial explanation to friends, you understand it doesn't matter what they think but what my team thinks."

Regardless of how his senior season turns out, Judge will have at least one memorable play to remember.

During his redshirt freshman campaign of 2001, the Bulldogs' quarterback options were limited when starter Wayne Madkin was sidelined for the rest of the season.

And when back up Kevin Fant was briefly sidelined, State's coaching staff turned to Judge for action at Arkansas in week nine. Judge was back at his familiar position, although he wishes the memory would have lasted a little bit longer.

"I was hoping they would let me finish this game out," said Judge of his lone snap at quarterback. "Everybody asked me if I was nervous but I was so excited to just get in there. That was the first time in two years at that point, as far as playing under center. It felt so natural and then we just ran a decoy play.

"For the eight seconds or so I was out there, it felt like I was back in the flow. When I came to the sidelines, I was happy that Kevin (Fant) was healthy and all, But I was kind of hoping it would take a little longer than that."

Another aspect of Judge's game featuring a few seconds is the under-appreciated role of holding for State's place-kickers. After five years of practicing the art, Judge admits it becomes almost like a habit.

But a million things can go through his head during the brief time awaiting the snap.

"We do it so much it becomes a routine," said Judge of the holding techniques. "But in those 10 seconds you're out there, man, some weird thoughts can go through your head. Just staring at the snapper and waiting for the ball, I've thought some of the weirdest things. Then you catch yourself and say, 'hey, I better go ahead and catch this ball and put it down real quick'."

The 6-foot-2 and 233-pound Judge has simply gone about his duties without any complaints, willing to perform any task asked of him. And he's seen many rough times during his five years in Starkville.

But as his collegiate career comes to a close, he reflects on his maturity and role preparation from the first time he donned the maroon and white.

"We've had three tough years of football," said Judge. "I've played football my whole life and this is my last year. There are no pipe dreams of me playing pro football or anything like that. You really just want to win and go out with some type of positive note.

"The first couple of years you play, it was more about competition and winning spots. Now you look at people and want everybody to do their best in order to helping us win. When you get past the selfish mode, you really understand what the coaches are saying. You can't be the 'it' guy. Everybody has a role and as you get older, it starts to sink in."


Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at pjones@cdispatch.com

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