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For ‘hometown kid’ Dom Maggio, chance to learn and compete with Ravens unmatched | COMMENTARY

Wake Forest's Dom Maggio punts the ball during a game against Rice on Sep 6, 2019.
Wake Forest's Dom Maggio punts the ball during a game against Rice on Sep 6, 2019. (John Glaser/John Glaser)

Punter Dom Maggio is gaining the experience of a lifetime, and it’s at home with one of the NFL’s top kickers and assistant coaches.

Maggio was one of four undrafted rookie free agents to sign a deal with the Ravens on Wednesday, and he’ll be on the roster competing against legendary punter Sam Koch whenever training camp starts this summer.

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Maggio’s task of beating out Koch is improbable because Koch is the Ravens all-time best punter with a 45.4-yard career gross average. Last year, Koch placed 21 of his 40 punts inside the 20-yard line. But Maggio, a Boys’ Latin graduate and Monkton native, isn’t intimidated and welcomes the challenge.

“Growing up as a hometown kid, this is an added bonus to play for this team which my family are fans of,” Maggio said. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about the Ravens from the top down, and then a big part of my decision was that they have coach Randy Brown.

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“I got to know him well throughout the process and trust what he does in developing elite specialists. I am excited to learn as a professional and excited to compete when I get there.”

At Wake Forest, Maggio played in 52 career games and finished second in school history with 291 punts for 12,703 yards. He also hit 101 punts inside the 20 and had a career long of 80 yards. He finished with a 43.7-yard career average, which ranks third in school history and 11th all-time in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Last year, his 46.8-yard average ranked second in the conference, including a conference-leading 30 punts of more than 50 yards and 30 inside the 20. He was nominated for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter.

“He is a stud,” Boys’ Latin coach Ritchie Schell said. “When we first got him in the eighth grade, he was a good student and athlete. Then when he came out his first year for football as a 5-10, 125 pounder, you could hear the ball coming off his foot.

“He was our punter and place kicker. We got to a point where we never even practiced kickoffs and we just prepared our defense to start playing every series at the 20-yard line. He was pretty special and always had five seconds or something on his hang time. The Ravens did a smart thing in signing him.”

Boys' Latin punter-kicker Dom Maggio with his dad, Kirk Maggio, a Calvert Hall graduate and former All-American kicker at UCLA.
Boys' Latin punter-kicker Dom Maggio with his dad, Kirk Maggio, a Calvert Hall graduate and former All-American kicker at UCLA. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun)

Maggio has always been a good athlete. He was the shooting guard on the Lakers basketball team and played shortstop, second base and pitched on the varsity baseball team, throwing 85 mph fastballs consistently.

He was a kicker (once hitting a 55-yard field goal against John Carroll) and punter for Boys’ Latin before opting to punt for Wake Forest. Maybe the athleticism came from his father, Kirk, a former quarterback and kicker at Calvert Hall who punted at UCLA and in the pro leagues for several seasons.

Kirk Maggio has been his son’s No. 1 fan and tutor until he left for Wake Forest. Dom Maggio has also gotten advice from former NFL punter Sean Landeta, who played 22 years before retiring in 2006. Landeta, who played at Loch Raven and Towson University, was a former neighbor of the Maggio’s.

“Dad has been the coach my entire life,” Maggio said. “He has given selflessly going to the fields whenever possible all the way up through college. Now that I’m back in the house, I am glad that he is with me.”

“And he still has a good little arm, we still like to give it to him,” Maggio said with a smile.

Maggio is built a little like Koch. Gone are the days when a lot of punters were short, flabby-looking aliens. Both guys are thick and cut. Koch is 6-1 and 222 pounds and Maggio is 6-1 and 195. Like Maggio, Koch is an excellent athlete and a former fullback. Koch is also a fan favorite, as recognizable as any player on the roster.

Koch, though, is 37 and is expected to make $1.1 million in base salary in 2020.

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Whether he wins or loses the roster battle, Maggio could be picked up by another team if he performs well in the preseason.

“I grew up watching him,” Maggio said of Koch. “He is one of the elite punters in the NFL. He has done a lot of great things in changing the punting game with his bag of tricks. As a punter, everyone hits that typical turnover ball where it looks like a pass when you’re trying for distance or hang time. You can do that directionally.

“Sam started messing with those drops and different types of foot work, things where he could keep the ball away from a returner. You’ve seen that develop in the National Football League. You see a lot of punters doing that now where it has become the norm. Sam kind of paved the way for a lot of guys and inspired a lot of people to get better in that way.”

Those who know Maggio expect a tough battle. Maggio is quiet and unassuming and would rather spend time doing some creative writing or reading a book instead of partying, which is a little unique for a player just out of college. But he is extremely competitive.

“He is a hard-working player and been that way ever since I’ve known him,” said Duke senior linebacker Victor Dimukeje, a high school teammate of Maggio’s who is expected to be picked in next April’s NFL draft. “I try to link up with him whenever I get home and I am happy for him. We’ve been talking about this opportunity to play in the NFL for a long time and now he gets his. He’ll do well.”

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