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Joe Judge won over Giants like he did HS teammates: ‘Rare breed’

LANSDALE, Pa. — The rest of the country asked who, but here, they already knew.

They once asked that question, too, when he was just a kid from Doylestown who arrived at Lansdale Catholic as a freshman. By the time he left for Mississippi State, he was one of their own.

Now, to many in a much larger fan base, he is just a special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach from the Patriots who has arrived as the new 38-year-old head coach of the Giants.

But back where Joe Judge first made his name, his old football team is already convinced.

“They will know who he is,” said Steve Mocey, Judge’s former wide receiver at Lansdale Catholic.

Here, in Lansdale, Pa., he’s Joe Judge the quarterback, the confident yet humble kid who stepped into a pressure situation and thrived. He had goals and visions back then of being the best, and still does. But the makeup of the man they know has not changed. Judge is part of their “rare breed,” the term for the school’s blue-collar, underdog football culture created by their longtime coach whom Judge kept channeling in his interview with the Giants.

“Ultimately, you internalize that, right?” Mocey said. “He knew he could unlock that same underdog in everybody he coached.”


Judge was not originally supposed to be part of the rare breed. He was set to go to powerhouse St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, like his dad and brother had done before him.

But in 1996, a freshman quarterback battle ensued between Judge and another kid destined for the NFL sidelines — Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski — according to ESPN. Stefanski won out and Judge changed course, leaving for smaller Lansdale Catholic instead.

Joe Judge (top row, center)Greg joyce

Judge truly arrived as a junior. The two starting quarterbacks over the previous four years had been the son and grandson of longtime coach Jim Algeo. His son, John Algeo, went on to play at Cornell, and his grandson, Mike deMarteleire, was another prolific passer and won back-to-back league titles.

Most expected there to be a dropoff in 1998, and at first, there was. A senior quarterback started Lansdale Catholic’s season under center, but after the Crusaders got blown out in Week 1, Judge replaced him the following week. He calmly led a game-winning, two-minute drive on that sweltering Saturday afternoon, the first of seven straight wins to capture a third straight league title.

“We had a bunch of Lansdale grunts and we had Joe Judge,” said Chip Panico, a senior lineman on the 1998 squad.

Judge wasn’t from Lansdale, but by the end of that season, he was no longer an outsider. He threw for 1,953 yards and nine touchdowns that year with his big arm, but impressed his teammates more with the way he led.

“Everybody gravitated to Joe,” said Greg Gaffney, a sophomore running back on the team. “Not only somebody who leads by example, but was vocal as well and could reach everybody on a certain level.”

In the huddle, Judge was calm and in command, a step ahead of everyone else. He would often call a play and tell Gaffney he would hit him on a swing pass because he was going to be open. Sure enough, he was.

The wins didn’t come as easily in Judge’s senior season, but the work didn’t stop. He always took his receivers on the field before practice and threw to them until their hands were ripping up.

“He was never satisfied,” Mocey said.


Off the field, Judge was high-maintenance. He needed his hair cut just about every two weeks, so Mocey — the wide receiver who became known as the team barber once somebody figured out he could give a fade — obliged and delivered his signature “LC [Lansdale Catholic] Fade.” The look Judge is sporting in his senior yearbook photo?

“That’s the LC Fade!” Mocey said with a laugh when he saw the photo.

Mocey estimated he had given Judge at least 100 haircuts. The only thing he got in return from Judge was a ride home from practice.

They all thought Judge was just being a nice friend whenever he offered to drive the guys around in his Chrysler Cirrus. But the other shoe would always eventually drop, like when they would arrive at Pat’s or Geno’s in Philadelphia and he would ask, “OK, who’s buying my steak?” Sometimes they got a cheesesteak at Pat’s, then walked across the street to wolf down another one at Geno’s, and Judge would get away with paying for neither.

“He has a way of doing certain things that would probably piss other people off,” Gaffney said. “But when he did it, it was funny.”

Judge and his friends worked part-time jobs in the offseason delivering auto parts to make some extra money, even if none of it went toward his own cheesesteaks.

In school, he was smart, if not a goofball. He would crack up his friends in class by walking around in the hallway until their teacher had to poke her head out and yell, “Joey Judge, you get back here!”

But when it came to football, he was all business.

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Joe Judge goofing around with is friends in high school.Greg Joyce

Judge’s friends and teammates always knew what they were getting from Judge — even if his nickname of “Franky Valley,” listed in his senior yearbook, remains a mystery. They figure there must be some old joke behind it.

But beyond making them laugh, Judge has endeared himself to them by being the same man at 38 as he was at 16.

“I never saw someone commit so much,” said Frank Panariello, one of Judge’s closest friends, who was in his wedding along with Gaffney. “That’s why I think for the Giants organization, if he treats them like family, they’re set. He 110 percent is there for his family, he’ll be there for that team and they’ll push through. He’s just that guy that works.”

Judge hasn’t forgotten his past, either. In the midst of the Patriots preparation for their playoff game against the Titans and Judge being named as a candidate in the coaching carousel, John Algeo sent Judge a text message wishing him a happy birthday and good luck. A few hours later, Judge replied, first sending condolences about Algeo’s mom, Mickey, who had passed away in November. Judge also asked John to give his best to Jim Algeo, the longtime coach whom Judge hoped to see as soon as things calmed down. That brought a big smile to Jim Algeo in his hospital bed.

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Joe Judge (15) poses with his teammates and Lansdale Catholic coach Jim Algeo in 1999.Greg Joyce

It came back again Tuesday, when news broke that Judge had gotten the Giants job. Judge told John how much he had mentioned his dad during interviews.

“It’s not surprising, but it’s humbling,” John Algeo said.

After high school, Judge went on to play at Mississippi State, then coached and learned more under Nick Saban and Bill Belichick. But the “rare breed” mentality ingrained in him at Lansdale Catholic has never seemed to leave him.

“We didn’t care how big or how fast or how strong the other team was, my grandpa would always say, ‘Just put the ball down and we’ll play,’ ” said deMarteleire, Jim Algeo’s grandson.

That’s the environment in which Judge gained the respect of a community. Now, New York awaits.

“He didn’t ask anybody to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do himself,” Mocey said. “When you have somebody like that, the guys on the team would run through a wall for him.”

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