GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Los Angeles Rams long snapper Jake McQuaide used to deliver newspapers, caddie at Western Hills Country Club and wash dishes and bus tables at Price Hill Chili.
This weekend, more than an estimated 100 million viewers will watch him at his latest workplace – Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII.
“It’s indescribable,” McQuaide told WCPO during a FaceTime interview from the Rams’ practice facility in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
The 31-year-old McQuaide is the first Elder High School graduate to play in the Super Bowl. That fact is a source of inspiration and pride for his family and friends.
“When he comes back to town it’s not, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s an NFL player,” said his longtime friend Doug Schroeder said. “It’s just Jake. He’s a guy who grew up on the West Side.”
McQuaide, a 2006 Elder graduate, is in his eighth NFL season. He played tight end and was a long snapper at Elder before earning a walk-on opportunity and later a full scholarship at Ohio State. In some ways, being in the Super Bowl is surreal for No. 44.
“It’s cool, man, because other kids grow up looking up to Michael Jordan or LeBron James,” McQuaide said. “But when you are a West Side kid you look up to (former Elder basketball and football standout) Joel Wainscott and (Winthrop basketball coach and former Elder standout) Pat Kelsey – those Elder legends. So to be able to do something that none of those guys ever got a chance to do – that’s pretty cool and pretty special.”
McQuaide played football at Schott Field at nearby St. Antoninus Parish School in junior high. Prior to sixth grade, he was a soccer goalie. But, football was his calling.
The first paragraph of McQuaide’s Wikipedia page refers to how he led the St. Antoninus Jaguars to back-to-back Western Football Conference titles in the early 2000s.
“I may have written that one night,” admitted Schroeder.
So it was only fitting McQuaide received a phone call while snapping footballs with Schroeder on a mid-summer day in 2011 at Schott Field from the then-St. Louis Rams. It was an opportunity of a lifetime for McQuaide, who planned to be an aerospace engineer if football didn’t work out.
McQuaide plays in Hollywood but his approach remains what used to be on Vincent Avenue as an Elder High School tight end and long snapper.
“Most of the guys in the NFL are just regular guys,” McQuaide said. “That whole persona – that diva type thing – that’s really not as prevalent as people would think. Most guys are just regular guys who are trying to get one more game. That’s the name of this league – the NFL – ‘Not for Long.'”
Schroeder and another longtime friend, Phil Ramstetter, will be inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday.
“It’s going to be unbelievably cool,” said Ramstetter, who was roommates with McQuaide at Ohio State and remembers his friend waking up at 5:30 a.m. to get to Buckeyes’ practice.
Kevin and Bev McQuaide – Jake’s parents and Green Township residents – will also be at the game. The couple expects to be filled with nervous anticipation, hoping their son can help the Rams earn one more win this season.
“He likes to fly under the radar,” said Bev, an office manager at Meissner Insurance Agency. “As most long snappers do – they don’t want to be recognized. He knows his job – he does it well. He practices it a lot, all the time. Always has.”
Those who know Jake understand his perseverance and commitment to the craft of long snapping, a unique skill that is often overlooked at every level of the game. But, its importance on special teams is crucial.
“I take the most joy now out of seeing him get up and walking off the field though to be honest with you,” Kevin said. “It’s a very precarious way to make a living – let’s put it that way.”
McQuaide’s passion gave him a path to being on the field throughout high school and college. He will rarely be noticed on TV by the casual fan unless a mistake happens. He stays even-keeled and in the moment. His family knows how much playing in the Super Bowl means to him.
“Honestly, I can’t even believe it,” said his wife, Abby (Rixner), a 2007 Seton graduate. “It’s just been super exciting and fun for Jake and our entire family.”
A handful of years ago, McQuaide carefully studied former Chicago Bears’ longtime snapper Patrick Mannelly during his pregame routine. He noticed how Mannelly didn’t put his helmet on until right before kickoff. That resonated with McQuaide who gets his warm-up in right before the National Anthem.
McQuaide’s longevity can be attributed to his work ethic and by waking up at 6 a.m. each day to get to the practice facility early, Abby said.
Jake, the youngest of three siblings, earned an aeronautical and astronautical engineering degree from Ohio State. His friends and family always knew how talented he was in science, math and art.
“I never lose sleep over Jake,” Ramstetter said. “He will be fine regardless of whatever happens his life. He’s just been a pretty talented person.”
McQuaide had an interview with General Electric at one time, but he told Abby in his last season with the Buckeyes that he wanted to try out for the NFL. The couple lives in Westlake Village, Calif., with their two children. Abby is due with their third child in April.
Although McQuaide doesn’t make it back to the West Side very often, Elder coach Doug Ramsey appreciates the time McQuaide offers to the current high school players.
“He’s been great for us,” Ramsey said. “Every summer, he comes back for a day and spends time with our long snappers and works with them. That’s just him. He wants to give back to us.”
Ramsey said he couldn’t be more proud of McQuaide and his opportunity this weekend.
“He’s had a great career,” Ramsey said. “And I think on top of it just the kind of person that he is more than anything. He is down to Earth. He knows how lucky he is to be doing what he’s doing and he enjoys every moment of it.”