It's baaaack! AP's long overdue comeback of the Where Are They Now? series is back for the 2008 off-season. I managed five or six of these last year and I can already tell this year it's going to be much tougher to find interesting stories. Without further adieu...
Back in the mid-1990s, my school class has some sort of fundraiser/drawing where a lucky student won lunch with a Chiefs player. I don't remember the exact set up or circumstances of the contest but it turns out my friend Gabe won the contest and subsequently lunch with a Chiefs player. But not just any Chiefs player -- Dale Carter. To be fair, Carter had only been in the league for a year or two and a first round pick is a first round pick.
The first lunch date came and went. "Hey Gabe, weren't you supposed to be at lunch with Dale Carter today?" Gabe said, "He canceled."
A couple of weeks went by and Gabe had another lunch date set up with Dale Carter. But again, when it came time to sit down at "our" lunch table, there was Gabe. "Dale Carter canceled again."
Obviously, Dale Carter wasn't cutting it. He had better things to do or other substances to abuse. The Chiefs, being the class organization that they are, didn't give up. Within a couple of weeks, Gabe had his lunch date with a Chiefs player.
With Joe Valerio.
Now, in hindsight, to go from Dale Carter to Joe Valerio is like going from the club to church. But from then on, Joe Valerio was a hero to us all for having lunch with our good friend Gabe. Well, not really, but it was still pretty cool to see a Chiefs player in our cafeteria.
Not every NFL player becomes an analyst or starts their own clothing company. Some, like our very own Joe Valerio, didn't get paid a nest egg in signing bonuses. Therefore, he has to work like us regular joes.
Fast forward to 2008. Joe Valerio, after amassing four catches for four touchdowns in his five-year career as an NFL offensive lineman, is now working in an insurance office. At Wells Fargo, Valerio is "responsible for the overall growth, leadership and implementation of Wells Fargo’s strategic goals and objectives for the Philadelphia area." Joe even has his own Linked In page, emphasizing his distance from the field.
Joe hasn't completely left the football world though. Joe still emphasizes his NFL life through his company Gridirion Concepts that promotes Joe as a motivational speaker. I'm impressed that Valerio, in a time when retired NFL players are demanding more compensation from the league, is still getting a regular paycheck through his own hard work outside of the NFL.
When I think of Joe Valerio, I think of Joe Montana and those dominant Chiefs years when I was most proud to be a Chiefs fan. The days of the SI covers predicting a Chiefs Super Bowl. That seems so far away now, doesn't it?