At a Glance
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio (born March 9, 1976) High School: Joe attended Cleveland Benedictine High School in Cleveland, Ohio. The school is home to Ohio’s all-time winningest football coach, Augie Bossu. Interestingly enough, both Joe and his dad played for Bossu at Benedictine.Joe was captain of the Bengals football team, played six different positions, and was honored as an All-State football player. During his senior year, Zelenka earned the “Coaches’ Award” from the Benedictine High School football staff. He was an impact on and off the football field and drew interest from several prestigious universities. When it came time for Joe to narrow his college choices, he had plenty of options. College: Joe accepted a scholarship to Wake Forest University in 1995. He lettered each of his four years with the Demon Deacons. At tight end, Joe compiled an impressive 8.68 average for yardage per reception. He was an integral part of the offense, but perhaps even more so on special teams. By the end of his college career, Joe earned a reputation as one of the most reliable and accurate long snappers in college football. He graduated with a degree in history in 1999. NFL Experience: The combination of athleticism, leadership, and attention to detail made up the formula Joe used to catch the eye of NFL scouts. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 1999. His reputation as a long snapper in college followed him into the pros, and he quickly proved to be one of the best in the League. Joe only missed three games (all during his rookie year) in his first ten NFL seasons. Zelenka was the first long snapper to appear on NFL Network when he was featured on the network’s ‘Total Access’ show during the Jaguars OTA (Organized Team Activity) days in 2009. During the show, the host referred to Joe as “The Deion Sanders of Long Snapping”. Joe signed with the Atlanta Falcons on December 1, 2009. Although there were only five games remaining by the time he arrived in Atlanta, he immediately stepped into the starting role and took control of all the long snapping responsibilities.
Career Bio: PLAYER: Wake Forest (1995-1998), San Francisco 49ers (1999), Washington Redskins (2000), Jacksonville Jaguars (2001-2009), Atlanta Falcons (2009-Present) Career Highlights: • Ranked #1 long snapper in the NFL (Bleacher Report, 2009)• Joe’s 128 game playing streak for the Jaguars ranks 5th in franchise history (2009)• Morgan Stanley Community Leader of the Year, Jacksonville Jaguars (2003) Family Bio: When Joe Zelenka was attending Wake Forest University, he met a young woman named Rebekah, who, like Joe, was originally from Ohio. While they were friends at first, it was a shared car trip back home when Joe realized he’d like to carpool with her for the rest of his life. There was only one problem. Rebekah told Joe that she couldn’t marry him until he loved God first. Joe recalls, “She said I wasn’t a real man because I didn’t love Jesus. And that I could fool some people, but that I couldn’t fool God.”After Joe accepted Christ, Rebekah accepted his marriage proposal. After a few years of marriage, they were struggling to start a family, so when they found out they were pregnant with twins – a boy and a girl- they were elated. The twins, Benjamin and Grace, decided to come early, and when they were delivered, Joe, the macho outdoorsman, cried like his newborns. He remembers thinking, “I finally knew what it meant for God to give His Son for us. I instantly felt an overwhelming love for them.” Rebekah and Joe had to turn their little ones over to the Lord immediately, as Grace spent 13 days and Benjamin spent 23 days in the newborn ICU unit. But God was good and both of them are healthy as can be. His advice to Dads – “Love your wife and enjoy your kids. They are a gift from God.”When spending time with the twins, Joe likes to get on the floor and play with them and does his best to make them laugh. He also likes to take them on walks and explore nature. He and Rebekah also make it a point to take the kids out separately on dates for some personal one on one time. When he and Rebekah get some much needed time together, they enjoy window shopping in the mall, taking in a movie, or a having a quiet dinner. Whenever they get in the car to take a trip, Joe’s mind always travels back to their first ride together in a beat-up car to Ohio and how far God has brought them in their journey of life together.
Volunteer • Speaker and contributor to Fellowship of Christian Sportsmen Plus• Hosts annual bowling classics to benefit the Ronald McDonald House• Frequent visitor to Wolfson Children’s Hospital where he enjoys visiting and pushing around the ‘Wolfie Wagon’ snack cart filled with candy, balloons, teddy bears, snacks and drinks• Plays active role in supporting US Armed Forces both locally and internationally• Spent 10 days visiting with troops at Thule Air Base in Greenland• Known for making trips to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to visit wounded veterans• Attended FCAT pep rally at Pine Forest Elementary, John E. Ford Elementary and other schools to encourage FCAT success (2008)• Participated in the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters Charity Softball Game at Jacksonville University (2008)• Hosted the All Pro Dad Fathers and Kids Day Experience at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (October, 2008)• Made an appearance at the ‘Shop With A Jock’ event at Wal-Mart where he financially supported shopping sprees to more than 50 children from Northeast Florida and the Mali Vai Washington Kids Foundation (2008)• Actively seeks to reduce teen pregnany and HIV/AIDS by partnering with local TV affiliates for the ‘Straight Talk’ program• Volunteers to construct homes for HabiJax, the world’s largest Habitat For Humanity affiliate
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