No Place Like Home For Joe Madsen
The upcoming 2016 Arena Football League season will present a big change for Joe Madsen, as the third-year offensive lineman was assigned to the Cleveland Gladiators on Monday following two seasons with the Los Angeles KISS.
As part of his transition from the west coast, Madsen will have to adjust to a new team, a new coaching staff and new teammates. Fortunately for Madsen, getting used to Cleveland won’t be much of an issue.
Madsen currently lives in Twinsburg, OH and is a graduate of Chardon High School, where he played football for the Hilltoppers from 2004-2007.
“What I always loved about playing high school football here was that ‘Friday Night Lights’ feel to it,” Madsen said of his high school football experience. “Everyone [would] close up shop and get down to the stadium…Chardon was a smaller town so everyone knew you, watched you, and counted on you. I love that family aspect of a team.”
Chardon advanced all the way to the Ohio Regional Finals during Madsen’s 2006 sophomore season before falling to Nordonia.
“It was amazing to be able to play in such a big game…You always want to win state,” said Madsen. “At Chardon they have a sign that says ‘1994 State Champions’ and my biggest goal was to get them to change that sign so people could see that it was my class that won the last State Championship. We fell a little short but it was still amazing to be there.”
For Madsen, playing high school football in a place in which football means so much to so many people, was a major contributing factor in deciding where he wanted to play collegiately.
Upon graduation, Madsen drew significant interest from Mid-American Conference schools, but after weighing his options and applying careful consideration, Madsen settled on West Virginia Universiy of the Big 12 Conference.
“What really convinced me to attend West Virginia was that I had so many family members that lived so close to Morgantown,” explained Madsen. “I knew that it was close enough to home that I could come back when I needed to and if I was really feeling homesick, I could just drive that 30 minutes south and spend time there. I love West Virginia and spent a lot of time down there during my summers and I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
Playing in front of his family and a passionate fan base, Madsen went on to have an illustrious career as a center with the Mountaineers, starting in 50 games over a four-year career and earning Second-Team All-Big 12 honors in his senior season in 2012. To cap off his collegiate resume, Madsen had the opportunity to show off his skills to NFL scouts by competing in the 2012 Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.
Following the 2013 NFL Draft, Madsen inked a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers and, after being waived, signed with the L.A. KISS of the Arena Football League for the 2014 season.
In May of 2014, Madsen and the KISS paid a visit to Quicken Loans Arena to take on the Gladiators and despite a 45-42 loss for the KISS, Madsen says, he was impressed with the game-night atmosphere at The Q.
“I honestly have to say that I was a little bit jealous,” admitted Madsen. “With the KISS being in their first season, we built up a fan base based around the KISS brand, which is great, but they didn’t know football like Cleveland fans do…We came into Quicken Loans Arena and fans are screaming on third down and I’m just thinking to myself that this is what it’s supposed to be like. It was so loud.”
Joe didn’t have much time to relax at the conclusion of the 2014 AFL season, as he signed with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and was placed on the team’s practice squad just in time for the Packers’ playoff run, which ended following a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.
After being waived by Green Bay in the offseason, Madsen’s focus returned to preparing for the 2015 AFL campaign with the KISS. Madsen started the first eight games of the season on the offensive line, but on July 22nd, he was summoned back to the NFL – this time by his hometown Cleveland Browns.
“I was just so excited to get another chance in the NFL and was even more excited that [Cleveland] called me. I grew up a Steelers fan and went to camp with [Pittsburgh], but I lived out that dream and as I started watching the Browns, I found myself rooting for them because I wanted to see them win. When I got to camp, I thought it was a great story that a hometown kid like me could get a chance to play for the Browns.”
Madsen spent almost a month in training camp with the Browns before being waived and eventually signing with the Detroit Lions on August 26th. Madsen was among the Lions’ final cuts in training camp, however, due to a concussion.
“It was tough knowing that [my injury] was out of my control,” says Madsen. “You can’t control an injury…The only way you can control it is how you come back from it. I knew I had to come back stronger and it was the first time I’ve had to come back from an injury. I feel good now and I am just trying to stay on that same path.”
After becoming an AFL Free Agent on November 5th, Madsen received interest from several teams, but was especially eager to hear from one organization in particular. After an anxious wait for word from Gladiators Head Coach Steve Thonn, the phone finally rang.
“It was amazing. I had calls from other teams but I was waiting for that call from the Gladiators and was even prepared to send an e-mail to them if I hadn’t heard from them soon,” explained Madsen. “Then finally it happened. I got a text from the Gladiators around midnight a week or so ago and it was all I needed to hear. Life has a way of working itself out.”
It’s been a roller coaster ride for Madsen over the last few years, but the Gladiators’ newest offensive lineman is more than ready to get settled in and help bring a championship to Cleveland.
“To be able to play for Cleveland and being a local kid from Ohio, it gives me that extra motivation to play hard,” said Madsen. “The fans can expect (me) to give everything I have because this is where I’m from.”
Click HERE to learn more about Joe and his NCAA career at West Virginia University.