Fridays in the fall mean a suitcase and long drives for Kirk and Cari Maggio.
Since 2016, husband and wife have packed one of their sport utility vehicles at their home in Monkton and made the seven-hour trek to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to watch their son Dom punt for the Wake Forest football team. They have not missed a single home or away game, driving to Tallahassee, Florida, and South Bend, Indiana.
Kirk Maggio, a former All-American punter at UCLA, said he does not regret pushing their cars through thousands of miles.
“It goes so fast,” he said before Wake Forest’s 52-3 loss to No. 3 Clemson on Saturday. “Already, I can’t believe we’re looking at his senior year with three games left and one home game left, and that is precisely why I wouldn’t miss a game. In a blink of an eye, it’s over just as high school went.”
Kirk and Cari Maggio know they will have three more trips this season as the Demon Deacons (7-3, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) are assured of their fourth consecutive appearance in a bowl.
A few weeks from the end of his college eligibility, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Dom Maggio said he sometimes can’t believe his journey from a 10-year-old quarterback for the Hereford Bulls youth program to a 21-year-old punter at Wake Forest.
“I’m super blessed to be in the situation that I’m in,” he said. “Not many people get to say that they’ve played Division I football and have had the kind of experiences that I’ve had.”
Maggio has strengthened his reputation as one of the top Football Bowl Subdivision punters in the NCAA. He ranks No. 7 in the country in punting average with a career-high 47.7 yards and started the season on the watch list for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter. He ranks second in Demon Deacons history in career punts (277), punting yards (12,102) and punts inside the 20 (90).
Saturday was his best game yet. In the loss to the Tigers, Maggio set the Wake Forest record for punting average in a game (57.7 yards), tied the school record for most punts of at least 50 yards (eight) and had four punts of at least 60 yards, including a season-long 66-yarder in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 76 career punts of at least 50 yards, breaking Ryan Plackemeier’s school record of 74.
Wake Forest special teams coordinator Wayne Lineburg said Maggio has worked diligently to hone his skills, usually working by himself as Lineburg also coaches the tight ends. He said Maggio has been especially adept at trimming several tenths of a second from the time he touches the ball to the time he punts.
“Dom has gotten them off quicker, and that helps because it makes it more of a challenge if you can get the ball out of there fast,” Lineburg said. “If you take forever getting it off, they’re more apt to come after you.”
Maggio’s success is the least surprising news to Boys’ Latin coach Ritchie Schell, who pointed out that Maggio was a four-year starter who could have played quarterback or wide receiver in an emergency, was a member of the varsity basketball squad, and threw an 85-mph fastball for the baseball team.
“When you see a Division I kid like our kid who starts at Duke, [junior defensive end] Victor Dimukeje, or our kid at North Carolina, [freshman defensive back] Giovanni Biggers, it’s amazing,” Schell said. “You just know. I just made sure our protection [for Maggio] was good.”
Maggio joked that he’s hoping to show off his arm to Lineburg in a game this season. (“I hope we’ll have the opportunity to run some fakes here before my time is up. I’m always in Coach’s ear about that.”) But he acknowledged that his top priority is refining his punting ability.
“There are always things I’m trying to improve on,” he said. “I’m in the Top 10 right now in gross [average]. Each week, it’s not good enough in my mind. It’s something I want to work on — more hangtime this week or directionally place the ball in the perfect spot in the corner just to help our cover team.”
Kirk Maggio, who never misses an opportunity to watch his son during pregame warmups, noted that his son requires only about 20 to 25 punts compared with the 40 to 50 he kicked before games for UCLA and 10 more during halftime.
“He has a set, and that’s all he needs, and he’s ready to go, and I’m shaking my head going, ‘How are you going to do this?’” Kirk Maggio said. “To me, it’s great that he’s that confident in his ability.”
Schell, the Boys’ Latin coach, said he can remember Dom Maggio having only one punt blocked during his four years with the Lakers. “It was rare because he had such good technique and form,” Schell said.
Whether Maggio can extend his career to the NFL remains to be seen. In the last five drafts, only 10 punters have been selected. Maggio said he is not worried about the lack of attention paid to punters.
“I just pray I get an opportunity,” he said. “Whether it’s drafted or [as] an undrafted free agent, I’ll have some opportunities to perform in front of scouts, and I hope I’ve put a product on the field these past four years that gets some attention. And when I do get my opportunity, I hope I can make it count and just get to a team and make a team once I get there. But that’s not my focus right now.”
Lineburg said Maggio deserves a chance to play at the next level.
“I hope it works out for him,” he said. “He’s very talented, and I think he can do it. Hopefully, he gets his shot and goes up there and makes the most of it. We’ll be pulling for him hard down here.”
Dom Maggio said he would like to share bragging rights with his father, who was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 12th round (325th overall) of the 1990 NFL draft and spent the 1991 preseason with the New Orleans Saints before playing two years for the World League of American Football’s Birmingham Fire.
“It would be an amazing feat,” Kirk Maggio said. “Of course he wants to go to the NFL. Is he talented enough? Yes. Does he have all of the assets? Yes. But will he get that break? I definitely think he’ll get his shot. I think he’ll get signed. I don’t know what’s going to happen from there.”
Wake Forest is seeking to capture its fourth consecutive bowl win. Dom Maggio has become more introspective as the sun begins to set on his collegiate career.