As Boys' Latin junior Dom Maggio impressed the coaches at Wake Forest's kicking camp last June, he had no idea that the Demon Deacons' recruiting coordinator knew his name well.
Thirty years ago at UCLA, Bill Rees recruited another local Maggio who could kick pretty well, too. Kirk Maggio became an All-American punter for the Bruins, so when his son Dom emerged as one of the top young kickers and punters in the country, Rees noticed.
The two men had lost touch over the years, but as Kirk Maggio sat in the Wake Forest stands that day, he heard a familiar voice calling his name.
"I looked down and I couldn't believe what I was seeing," Kirk Maggio said. "What are the chances that the same guy who recruited me would be recruiting my son? We did a lot of catching up and he said, '[Dom] was one of the first I guys I was looking at. I didn't know if he was your son or your nephew, but I'm hoping it's your son.' [Rees] watched him kick and said, 'Wow, he's something special here.'"
Rees, who had been at Wake Forest only a few months, returned to the field to join several other coaches, keeping close eye on Dom Maggio's booming, spiraling punts and clocking their hang time. Kirk Maggio knew that was a good sign. Even head coach Dave Clawson walked over for a few words' chat, something Dom said had not happened at any other camp.
Later that day, Dom had his first college scholarship offer.
'Ahead of his time'
Although his lineage certainly helped, Dom's talent and his performance that day at BB&T Stadium earned the offer he accepted a month later.
You have to be good to get a scholarship offer as a punter or a kicker. Only about 50 receive Division I scholarships each year, according to Jamie Kohl, one of the nation's top kicking and punting coaches who runs elite camps around the country. Kohl said he can recall only six in 15 years who have received offers prior to their junior year of high school.
When Kohl saw Dom in action for the first time this summer, he thought Dom was about to be a senior. As a 16-year old who's 6 feet 2, 160 pounds and still growing, Dom still has a big upside — though he's already well ahead of the curve.
"Obviously with his dad's tutelage," Kohl said, "technically he was very good for his age and he combined the athleticism, i.e. the way the ball jumps off his foot, with the consistency of someone much older, so he's kind of the perfect storm in that he's ahead of his time in being able to hit a ball as good as guys that are a year older and then in having the consistency of someone maybe two or three years older."
That talent was obvious from the start. Dom Maggio kicked a 30-yard field goal in his first season of organized football in the fifth grade. He was last year's All-Metro punter and is rated the No. 7 kicker in the Class of 2016 by Chris Sailer Kicking, which runs another of the nation's top camp circuits.
He was No. 3 after a Sailer camp in Las Vegas in May but dropped because he hasn't been evaluated more recently. In the next year, he plans to be evaluated by both Kohl and Sailer to boost his stock for possible selection to an All-American game after his senior year.
Consistent and versatile
Since he was 10, Maggio's been dedicated to his craft. His parents wouldn't let him play football earlier, fearing he might burn out, so he honed his kicking skills in soccer where corner kicks helped teach him how to get the loft he needs on field goals.
Although Wake Forest recruited him as a punter, he might also have the chance to be a place kicker. That's fine with Maggio, because he likes each facet of kicking and excels at all three.
Lakers coach Ritchie Schell said Maggio is "just good all the time."
Maggio's goal this fall was to be consistent — he wanted to make every field goal inside 45 yards, make every extra point, have close to 100 percent of his kickoffs result in a touchback and average 40-to-45 yards per punt. He also chose to kick off a half-inch block this season instead of the usual two-inch block high school kickers use. Maggio wants to kick off the ground next year, as he would have to in college.
With one regular season game remaining, Maggio has tracked close to his goals.
Maggio has averaged 43 yards per punt this fall and sent a 52-yarder out at the 1-yard line on the fly. In Friday's 13-7 loss to No. 11 Archbishop Curley, he averaged 47.3 yards and put two punts inside the 15-yard line. Seventy percent of his kickoffs have been touchbacks. He's 12-for-14 on field goals with the longest at 42 yards and he has nailed three in one game twice this fall.
"He's without a doubt the best kicker in the MIAA," Curley coach Sean Murphy said. "Every time they kick off, you have to drive the ball 80 yards, because he's going to kick the ball in the end zone and you can't return it. From a field position stand point, he's huge between his punts and his kickoffs, plus he's a threat offensively because if they get within 30 or 35 yards of the goal line, where a lot of us have to punt or go for it, he's kicking a field goal."
He aims for the NFL but knows better than most young players how difficult that can be. As good as Kirk Maggio was in college, he never made it despite being drafted by the Green Bay Packers and playing a preseason with the New Orleans Saints. He spent two years in the World League and is now a successful artist — he's painted portraits of many professional football players and golfers and some of his work hangs inside M&T Bank Stadium.
"The NFL is the backup plan, not the other way around," Kirk Maggio said with a laugh. "That's what he's learning from me."
Dom Maggio, a 4.0 student, is counting on a career perhaps as an eye doctor or in business, but with his father by his side, he'll still aim for the NFL. Kirk Maggio, a Calvert Hall graduate, has coached him every step of the way and has made sure Dom has received input from others, including someone who did have an NFL career, punter Sean Landeta, an old friend.
"I've talked to a lot of parents who try to work with their kids and they butt heads — and believe me, there's days when we butt heads — but for the most part, we get along very well and I think he respects what I've done," Kirk Maggio said. "He's listened to everything I've given him and adjusted it to what works for him."
Both said they know when to walk away from the frustrating moments.
"It's a mental game," Dom Maggio said, "and you're not going to have your best day every day."
Sometimes he has to work through the kinks by himself, kicking 50 to 100 balls, but he always comes back to his father.
"I could see that a lot of people wouldn't want their dads around, because they tend to be tougher on them," Dom said, "but I think that's what fuels me best, when he's tougher on me because he knows what I can do after being out there all the time — and I mean all the time. That's contributed a lot to my success. I love having him out there."