NORTH TONAWANDA, NY — At this time last year, Joe Licata was training for a shot at the NFL. After a tryout with the Bills and spending training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Williamsville native is staying in the game, only in a different way.
"I'm not in this for the money," Licata said. "I'm trying to redefine Western New York football."
UB's all-time passing leader began Joe Licata Football, a program that started with Licata teaching young quarterbacks in the area. The school, as he calls it, has now expanded to training players in grades 7-12 from a variety of offensive positions.
"It's easier for those kids to relate to me, someone a little bit younger who's fresh out of it," he said. "Someone who had some success playing in the area and then went on and did some other things playing at the Division I level and getting a shot at the NFL. I think it's just easier for kids to relate."
Licata has long been a student of the game. From the high school ranks at Will South, to UB, through his stint in the NFL, he's learned from some of the football's best minds. Last spring while preparing for the draft, he worked with former NFL quarterback Chad Pennington among others.
Now Lictata is taking that knowledge and applying it in his new venutre with classroom work, film study and on-the-field training to help build better football players. His goal is to send some to greater heights, creating more opportunities for kids to play in college from a region of the country he says is often under-recruited, but plenty of talent that just needs to be refined.
"We're undervalued in the fact that we do have some athletes, but at the same time they're underdeveloped," he said. "So that's why I really wanted to put this thing together and try to develop these guys."
While Licata has transitioned from player to teacher at the moment, his dreams of returning to the field himself are alive and well.
Licata says he has some opportunites in the works to potentially continue his professional football career.
"You're never really ready to give it up I don't think, and I thought this would be perfect for me to kind of stay in the game and do it. I'm ready to get out and play. I'm 24 years old. My arm still works."
So he's staying in shape, honing his craft as a quarterback, and waiting for another chance to make a living playing the game he loves.
"My favorite story is Kurt Warner," Licata relayed a question he posed to his players earlier in the night.
You know he played for the Iowa Barnstormers? Do you even know who that is? That was the the Arena League team he played for. He's got the best story in the history of sports maybe.
"Kurt Warner was bagging groceries one day then winning the Super Bowl MVP the next day," Licata said. "Anything can happen, so I'm just staying ready and hoping to get that Kurt Warner call."
For inquires about Joe Licata Football, email JoeLicataFootball@gmail.com or call (716)480-2412.