An Interview with Ohio State Great Joe Germaine

By Michael Citro on June 15, 2014 at 8:00a
46 Comments

Joe Germaine is a bona fide Ohio State legend. No OSU fan who saw it will ever forget the game-winning drive he engineered to lead the Buckeyes to a comeback win over Arizona State in the 1997 Rose Bowl.

The former OSU quarterback transferred from Scottsdale Community College and, after a redshirt year, he split time with Stanley Jackson at quarterback before taking the job full time his final season. He amassed 6,370 passing yards and closed his career as the school’s third-leading passer despite not getting the full-time role until his last year.

We were fortunate to catch up with Joe to ask him about his football career, favorite Buckeye memories, and his current activities.

Was your early love of football tied to any particular player or team or is football just what you and your friends did for fun?

Joe Germaine: I was born in Denver and because of that I sort of grew up a Broncos fan. I kind of always had a passion for football and I grew up loving John Elway. I liked how he played the game.

Is that why you became a quarterback?

JG: I wanted to be a running back my first game of Pop Warner, but my coaches made me play quarterback and I was devastated. It was a rough first year. I fumbled the snap pretty much every time I tried to receive it, but I got a little better as the year went on. The next year, when I was nine, is when I really started falling in love with playing quarterback.

What do you remember about your recruiting process out of high school?

Germaine's finest hour.
Buckeye legend.

JG: It was very difficult — a very hard process. The school I went to wasn't known for throwing the football. We were kind of a tough, run-the-ball, I-formation team. We played great defense. Other than quarterback I played safety. We had a lot of success and won a state title, but on average, from the quarterback position I threw the ball maybe five or six times a game.

I got recruited more as an athlete. I got some opportunities to play safety at the next level and then walk on at other universities as an athlete. But I was determined to play quarterback, and I didn't get any offers out of high school as a quarterback. So I went to junior college and then that's when I got the offer to Ohio State.

Which schools showed interest in you after your year at Scottsdale Community College?

JG: I had scholarship offers from three schools — Nevada, Wyoming and Ohio State.

What was it like to get that scholarship offer from Ohio State?

JG: It was one of the greater feelings I ever had. I remember very vividly going out with my family to some sort of family function and then returning home — this is back when we had answering machines — and there was a message on my machine from John Cooper saying, "Joe we want you to be a Buckeye." We were just thrilled. It was an amazing feeling. We saved that message for months just to replay it every once in a while. Somehow it got deleted or erased and no one has ever fessed up. They would have been in big trouble.

What did you know about Ohio State at the time? Had you ever visited the school?

JG: I'm a home body. I don't really like to travel. Coming out of high school I wanted to play at Arizona State or somewhere in the Pac-10 — Pac-12 nowadays — somewhere close to home. Obviously I was aware of Ohio State and saw some games on TV when I was growing up, but no true exposure to Ohio or the Buckeyes.

As a professed ‘home body,’ what made you choose Ohio State over closer schools like Nevada?

JG: When I went on my trip to Nevada, the offensive coordinator was Bobby Petrino. He was quarterback coach at Arizona State prior to going there. Boy, he just threw the ball all over the place. That was enticing to me. But when I took my trip to Ohio State, I just kind of was in awe of the tradition there and what it means to be a Buckeye, and all the great teams and players that have come through there. That's what I wanted to be a part of.

Who hosted you on your visit?

JG: There were a few players who were more or less in charge of me when I was there and took me around and showed me things — Bobby and Tommy Hoying were a couple of them, and Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel — those are the guys that I was around.

How was your adjustment to major college football?

JG: My first year at Ohio State I redshirted. That year was extremely different because even though I got to practice with the team and suit up for home games, I trained and worked out like it was an off-season. When the players on the team worked out twice a week to maintain (fitness levels) and stay healthy, I worked out four times a week. That was actually valuable to me, because I got acclimated to college life. I think I really grew during that one year to get a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger and to get familiar with Division I football.

What are your earliest memories of being a Buckeye?

JG: My first experience as a player I remember was coming out of the tunnel my redshirt year when we were playing Notre Dame. And running out there and just seeing 100,000 people and I just could not believe the environment.

Do you remember your first play?

JG: My first playing experience was against Rice my sophomore year. I don't necessarily remember my first play, but I do remember my first touchdown pass. That was quite a thrill for me and my family. What was really cool about it was that our guys tracked down that ball and after the game they gave that to my parents. I still have that ball in my office.

I have to ask, with no disrespect to Stanley Jackson, but why were you platooned?

“That's something that John Cooper never explained to me and I never asked. I know coach was trying to do what was best for the team.”

JG: That's something that John Cooper never explained to me and I never asked. I know coach was trying to do what was best for the team. Bobby Hoying had just graduated. Stanley was the backup to Bobby.

Basically, we went into that training camp, and they wanted someone to separate themselves. That's what they told us. After training camp and fall camp, they felt that no one had done that. We both had kind of earned time to play.

So they were going to use the first game against Rice as maybe another proving ground. Well, we beat Rice 70-7. So we did the same thing in the next game and we beat Pittsburgh 72-0. So then I think they just kind of thought, 'well heck, this two quarterback thing is working,' and they just kind of kept doing it.

What’s it like to take the field in The Game against Michigan?

JG: Those are some of the most important experiences of a player's life, just to be able to be a part of that tradition and be in an Ohio State-Michigan game. I know that there's a lot of hatred between the fans of the two schools, but in my mind and probably most of the players I've spoken with after the fact, there's just a ton of respect for both sides. Obviously we wanted to beat each other more than any other team. I can't tell you how honored I am to have been part of what I think is the best tradition and best rivalry in sports. To say that I have a pair of gold pants — that's pretty awesome.

You’ll always be linked with the 1997 Rose Bowl victory. Do you remember anything from that game-winning drive?

JG: I remember the drive very vividly. Stepping out onto the field, you kind of put the situation in perspective. You're playing on national TV in front of millions of people and there are 100,000 people in the stands. Ohio State hasn't won a Rose Bowl in 20 years. We had the lead and Jake Plummer just spoiled our game because he ran in for a touchdown. There's just a little over a minute left and we've got a kick a field goal to tie, but a touchdown would win it. There's a lot of pressure if you think about it.

But I remember stepping out onto that field when I looked in the other players' eyes in that huddle before the first play. It was just kind of an ultimate calm — no stress. We were very relaxed and focused and the poise we were able to show on that drive is what I take away from that situation. It was pretty incredible.

Did you know you were throwing it to David Boston before the snap?

JG: No. He was actually the secondary receiver in that play. The play was designed to throw a corner route to Demetrious Stanley. They actually doubled him. When I was looking at him, I felt the corner — who was probably reading my eyes — kind of fall off, and that opened up David Boston, who ran a great route. It opened him up out by the pylon and I was able to get it to him.

Which players were you most impressed with on the field?

Joe G doing Joe G things.
From the 1999 OSU Football Media Guide.

JG: That's a long list. The first one that pops into my head is Antoine Winfield. Here's a guy who just played 14 years or so in the NFL and is 5-9 and 175 pounds but he could hit as hard as anybody. He's just an amazing talent and amazing guy. Ahmed Plummer was awesome.

Andy Katzenmoyer comes in and starts at middle linebacker as a true freshman and wears number 45 for the Buckeyes. It's pretty studly to be able to do that. Orlando Pace — that guy is one of the greatest players of all time, it doesn't matter what position. But you know what's awesome about Ohio State is that every year there are players like that. That's why it's such a great place.

How did it feel to be drafted by the St. Louis Rams?

JG: Just to have your name called was pretty awesome and I was definitely thrilled. But once you start thinking about it — at that time the Rams were the losingest team of the 90s. Then you think, 'wow, OK.' But it was a great experience and they made a lot of awesome moves for that '99 season and what a story that was.

And an even better story that you won a Super Bowl ring with those Rams. What was that like?

JG: I came in at the perfect time with the perfect group of guys and that was an awesome experience to be a part of. There are no games I was part of that were any bigger than Ohio State games, but when you start to think about the Super Bowl — there's not a bigger game on earth than that one. To be a part of that was a dream come true.

When you look back at your NFL career, how do you remember it?

JG: I was able to live a dream of being able to make it to that level and I played five years in the NFL. That's something at the end of the day that I'm pretty proud of. I'm disappointed too, that I wasn't able to play a lot longer. I played behind some really good quarterbacks, obviously Kurt Warner for three years and then I was traded to Kansas City and was behind Trent Green, who was an All-Pro. I was fortunate to be around those guys, obviously, but at the same time I wish I could have gotten some opportunities.

After the NFL, you played a few years in the Arena Football League. What was that like?

JG: When I first played Arena Football I was trying to use it as an opportunity to get some more experience and possibly get another chance to play in the NFL. It’s a great game and I enjoy it. It's very different than the outdoor game. I had to re-learn how to make different throws and get accustomed to the speed of the game. I played for Danny White, who is an NFL legend, and he was awesome to be around.

How did you make the transition from player to high school head coach and how did you like coaching?

Coach Germaine.
Germaine led Queen Creek to a 2012 Arizona HS title.

JG: When I was playing Arena football, the seasons are opposite from the outdoor game. We had the fall off. That's our off-season. I started coaching quarterbacks out of high school for three years or so while I was still playing Arena football.

I'm very passionate about the game of football. I really like the teaching component. I was the kind of player who loved practice and meetings and so I guess the transition into coaching was kind of a natural one for me. I just love that age too, where kids are at a pretty important time in their life and they can go one way or another. So, I kind of got my feet wet a little doing the quarterback coaching and I always wondered what kind of head coach I would be and if I wanted to take that on.

It just so happened that a job came open and I was able to get the job. It was an awesome experience. We had great kids at that school who worked hard and tried to do the right things and ultimately that led to an undefeated season and a state championship.

What’s it like to experience such a life-changing event as a state championship with those kids?

JG: That's definitely a different perspective from being a player. When my friends from high school get together every so often, what do we talk about? Yes, we talk about the family and the kids, but we always go back to high school football. We always talk about our high school football coach and the lessons we learned from him. I think those high school years just really stick with you.

I think we provided an environment for those players that they'll remember and it'll be a positive experience. Hopefully they learned some things that will help them when their playing days are done.

You recently stepped down from coaching to focus on your current career. What are you up to these days?

JG: I work for Axon Sports. We do cognitive training for athletes. Our focus is the brain and on the skill of high-speed decision making. We have developed content by sport and position that enables athletes to get massive amounts of repetitions from perspective on decisions that they actually make on the playing field and practice field.

Do you work with individual athletes or teams?

JG: We have labs where individual players can come in and get repetitions by position and sport. But then we also do work with teams. We worked with an NFL team, with some college teams in football and baseball. And what we do is customize the content to their schemes. So when a quarterback is working on protection schemes, it's their specific protection, so they're getting repetitions executing their system and their schemes from field-level perspective.

Have you been able to work with the Buckeyes?

JG: Obviously I would love to work with Ohio State. I think of Braxton Miller, who is an unbelievable talent, who just spent the whole spring watching from the sideline with shoulder surgery. How awesome it would have been for him to train on Axon, where we could have Ohio State's system implemented in the training.

It's not like you're watching film. It's actually from the quarterback's perspective and how he would see things when he's lined up out there. The brain doesn't know the difference. It's like he's getting repetitions. while he's healing.

How often do you get back to Columbus?

JG: When I was done playing at Ohio State I tried to get back every year, whether it be for a game or spring football. I did that for a while. But home is Arizona for me and it's tough to get back to Columbus sometimes. And I'm also married and have three sons, so that makes it a little more difficult. But any opportunity I can get to go back to Columbus, I try to do it. I miss it there tremendously and — out of sight, out of mind — I hope people don't forget about me (laughs).

What opportunities have you gotten to be involved with the Buckeyes in recent years?

JG: Jim Tressel invited me to be an honorary captain for the Rose Bowl when they played Oregon. I haven't heard from Coach Meyer but hopefully I get the opportunity to do so.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Ohio State?

JG: Without a doubt it’s my senior year, running onto the field for my last game as a Buckeye, down the Tunnel of Pride against Michigan at Ohio Stadium. Former players were lining the tunnel, but when I get to the end, my mom and dad are on the field. They had never had the opportunity to be on the field and see it from that perspective. To see the look in their eyes and to think how much they did for me growing up to get me to that point, that was my favorite memory.

46 Comments

Comments

703Buckeye's picture

Excellent interview! It's always great to hear from past Buckeye greats.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

+6 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Very cool, enjoyed the personal tour down memory lane! 

+2 HS
GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

Hard cup padded chinstraps...pfffft....

Reminds me of Brett Favre, tough bastard.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

+3 HS
Bucks's picture

Awesome. This takes me back to a very lucky time in my youth. Got to be on that field for the 97 season, go to movies with the team (before carriage place became the dollar movies) & get to know these guys a little. Its unfortunate no title came out of these years. More than 15 years has passed and that team is still the most impressive specimen of talent I have ever seen. 

Just talked to Coop the other day and Joe came up. Would be interested to know if he keeps in contact with Walt still.

Great read.

 

 

+4 HS
Killer nuts's picture

A great Buckeye that will live in Buckeye lore for that rose bowl. Glad to hear he's doing well

+2 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

Great article...amazing ending. 

+2 HS
buckeyepastor's picture

Great interview.  I actually have a "Joe Germaine" memory.  Was at Conrads, looking for a birthday gift for my brother a week or two after the 1997 Rose Bowl win, and Joe was in there.   Got his autograph on a Rose Bowl program to give to my brother as part of his gift.   He was very gracious, humble, soft-spoken.   I congratulated him on the Rose Bowl win and thanked him for what it meant to us fans, after years without one.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

+4 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Joe Germaine. Buckeye. Winner.

I will never forget that drive in the 1997 Rose Bowl. I felt that that game was a huge gorilla off my shoulders as a Buckeye fan. I can only imagine how it must have felt for John Cooper(a man I respect. No bashing please).

And with all due respect to George Whitfield, Braxton should have been spending his off time this spring with Joe Germaine and Axon Sports. Joe was a QB that knew how to check off on all of his receivers instead of locking in on one. That's why David Boston got the ball and OSU beat Arizona State in a one of the best Buckeye games ever.

One other thing: I really like these "Where are they now?" stories. I always liked them on TV when they did them for Hollywood celebrities, but I hope this becomes a regular thing on 11W.

 

 

+11 HS
Bucks's picture

Agreed on everything! 

+1 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

Hard to argue Whitfield's resume...

+8 HS
buckeyedude's picture

LOL. The resume.

 

 

+2 HS
sb97's picture

One other thing: I really like these "Where are they now?" stories. I always liked them on TV when they did them for Hollywood celebrities, but I hope this becomes a regular thing on 11W.

I agree.  This is such a great feature and much more fun that arguing about off season recruiting.

+2 HS
ibuck's picture

Agreed, BuckeyeDude. I hope Germaine gets his wish:

How awesome it would have been for [Braxton] to train on Axon, where we could have Ohio State's system implemented in the training.

This seems like exactly what Miller needs to make the next step up. Please let it happen.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

Remy's picture

Michael, Great read. Thank you. I never understood why Joe Germaine had to split time. I believe the Buckeyes would have defeated Penn State (lost 27-31) and That Team (lost 14-20) in 1997 had Germaine played every offensive snap.

"I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're goin', and hook up with them later." ~ Mitch Hedberg

+3 HS
45buckshot's picture

There's no debating this. Stanley Jackson cost us those two games. I had a nightmare about that penn state game afterwards. Jesus.

I don't know how long buckeye fans will remember, but I remember when Joe came out for the Rams during a game in Canton and he got a standing ovation... It wasn't Joe's fault we didn't win a title that year.

But I'm glad to hear he's doing well, and the Urbantor should be giving him a call soon...

Veni, vidi, vici

UM3

+4 HS
luckynutz's picture

The interception stanley jackson gift wrapped for a pick 6 still haunts my memories to this day. Turned out to be the deciding factoron the scoreboard. Damn it stanley...either take the sack or throw it away. Dont throw it right to the guy in blue.

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

I see you all remember the playing time situation exactly as I did. I used to call it a 10 point spot, starting Stanley Jackson. 

Let's not forget our run defense in that PSU game. Enis ran for 300 and FB Aaron Harris ran for over 100. We couldn't stop them on the ground and they couldn't stop us through the air, once Germaine played the last 3 quarters. I was at that game. 

LouGroza's picture

Awesome read. Joe was the man and what a great time to be a Buckeye with names like Pace, Winfield and Katzenmoyer.

+2 HS
Young_Turk's picture

I was at the Rose Bowl. Most exciting game I ever attended.  I would say watched except for the 2002 Fiesta Bowl.  Quite a diamond in the rough discovered by Cooper.  I guess he came from that area so he must have known about Germaine  from before, or maybe a local connection.  

+3 HS
doodah_man's picture

Second to the 2002 championship game, the final TD in the Rose Bowl where you can actually hear the deflation in Brent Douchebargers voice (who had been promoting Jake the snake all night). It was the type of comeback you pray for. 

Jim "DooDah" Day
It is hard to play dirty against a man who picks you up.

+5 HS
BrewstersMillions's picture

Joe G made the play that made me a Buckeye fan. Living in Illinois, I had no real vested interest in Ohio State, other than knowing they were the team that was always at the top of the pre season poles each and every year. I was in 8th grade and my dad and I had started talking about colleges, even though high school was right around the corner. He said to me, during the game "What about Ohio State". I actually sort of brushed it off. After the Rose Bowl I told him "I'm going to go to Ohio State".

Class of 2005. Thanks Joe.

Do I come off as arrogant? Shame on me, I was hoping it would more obvious.

+13 HS
Baroclinicity's picture

Interesting to read.  I was fortunate enough to have my parents pay for my undergraduate schooling, and although I think my dad would have been very proud if I chose Notre Dame (where he went), I think they breathed a sigh of relief when I chose in state tuition!

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

+1 HS
BrewstersMillions's picture

As was I. Dad was able to cover 4 years of out of state tuition. Can't begin to explain how blessed and appreciative I am. Would have preferred Illinois, I'm sure but they don't like kids from Illinois. Plus Illinois sucks. So there's that.

Do I come off as arrogant? Shame on me, I was hoping it would more obvious.

+2 HS
cdub4's picture

Takes me back down memory lane. Special time. It makes me realize as much as I love my current Buckeyes, there is just something special about the teams and players you went to school with and see on campus, at Larkins, at The Commons, in Morrill, at the bars, etc. Winfield, Pace, George, Katzenmoyer, Vrabel, Springs, Glenn, ..I could go on....those teams were LOADED.

+3 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

Just watched the 72-0 drubbing of Pitt from 1996, Germaine's second game. He was on fire, and Boston and Katzenmoyer made their mark as freshman.

+3 HS
CarolinaBuck's picture

The thing about the drive in the '97 Rose Bowl is that forever Ohio State was the victim of these last minute drives. I don't know how many big games we've lost over the years due to the other team scoring the winning touchdown with seconds to go. We turned the tables this time. After ASU scored on the scramble by Plummer, Germaine led the team methodically down field and not only won it for us, but put a dagger in ASU as well. Elation all around.

+4 HS
gunni070's picture

I remember the "we got this" look on Plummer's face along the sideline after he scored thinking they had the game in hand.  I was ready to punch my fist through a wall at that point because it felt like we were going to lose another one in this fashion.

doodah_man's picture

Yea, and when Plummer scored, that especially douchey comment by Doucheberger, "he's not a snake, he's a COBRA!". I threw up a little in my mouth at that point.

Jim "DooDah" Day
It is hard to play dirty against a man who picks you up.

+1 HS
BUCKSOMIES's picture

Germaine is nothing but a top notch, class act.  Team player all the way.  Great stuff as usual Citro, thanks.

+3 HS
Dougger's picture

Bravo. Guys like Joe make Ohio State great. He's able to see the amazing tradition and makes his own name for himself. Glad to hear he's doing well - it'd be great to see him back in the shoe one of these days.

I like football

+3 HS
blazers34's picture

Great article, thanks

Horvath22's picture
+1 HS
CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great article, love to hear what former Buckeyes are up to.  Joe was a great player and will always be remembered as a great QB at OSU. 

We wish you and your family the best Joe!!

Go Bucks!!

+2 HS
Patriot4098's picture

After the destruction of Rice and Pitt that year, I remember thinking this was the most amazing college football team ever assembled. I was so excited!

"Evil shenanigans!"     - Mac

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Too young to remember the Pasadena appearances of Woody's early-mid 70's teams, and I was crushed after the loss in the '85 game.

So it was easy to become a Joe Germaine fan, and even more so after seeing him lead Ohio State in the '97 Rose Bowl...a win in Pasadena. Finally.

I am not very smart, but I recognize that I am not very smart.

+2 HS
ISURVIVEDCOOPER's picture

It was a pleasure to see a surgeon on the field... I still compare our QBs to his ability to be so accurate.

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
Oldschoolbuck's picture

I was screaming at the TV and throwing things when Jake the Snake scored with just over a minute left; "Perfect! Here we go again, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!" was my thought at the time. Then the baby-faced assassin came in and coolly led the team on that great drive. Great to hear what Joe is doing today, and glad to see he still has that baby face!

+3 HS
TheSpiteHouse's picture

That Rose Bowl win was quite frankly vital to my enjoyment of the Cooper years.

+2 HS
BroJim's picture

Awesome! I really enjoyed this read!

I season my simple food with hunger

TheSpiteHouse's picture

I actually either didn't realize or had forgotten that Joe won a Super Bowl with the Rams. What an awesome 3 or 4 year span that must have been for him.

+2 HS
Crumb's picture

If I had to pick a favorite play of Joe Germaine's it would be a touchdown pass he threw to David Boston in the 1998 war. Boston pointed at marcus ray as he sprinted down the sideline for a score. He may as well been flying him the bird. Joe threw for over 300 yards in that game the Buckeyes slapped around a weeny named tom brady.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+3 HS
tennbuckeye19's picture

Thanks Michael for doing this interview.

Joe Germaine gave me one of the greatest memories of my youth leading the Bucks to the Rose Bowl win. It was a beautiful thing.

+2 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Like the best of us, looks like Joe G picked up some poundage in his late 30s. 

+1 HS
@OSUDefender's picture

Intersting that Dick Vermeil, who was broadcasting the Rose Bowl with Musberger (remember the classic "those refs ought to donate their checks to charity") ended up drafting Germaine.

+1 HS
LoufromOSU's picture

I still believe if his final pass in that awful awful game against MSU in 1998 was a TD and not and INT, he goes to NY for the heisman ceremony (in no way is that statement blaming him for that loss - I am still scarred from that game though and the 'offensive' gameplan/playcalling).  Great to hear he is doing well.  I also love hearing those small blurbs about things Tress used to do behind the scenes as well. 

There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you. - Woody Hayes