Rowan Football’s John Maldonado’s Journey to Becoming a Captain

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John Maldonado lining up before the snap against Springfield this past Saturday. Maldonado is one of the captains this season. Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. - Multimedia Editor / Nick Feldman

Wherever John Maldonado is on the field, there’s a defender nearby struggling to keep up with him. It’s the reality of being a team’s top wide receiver.

Maldonado is native to the area, and despite not being highly recruited coming out of Glassboro High School, his coach and former Rowan Alumni, Tim Hagerty made sure that he was on Rowan’s football radar.

“Tim Hagerty . . . spoke just so highly of John in terms of a person, his work ethic, and what kind of player he would be in the program,” Head Coach Jay Accorsi said. “And anytime an alum does that, you know that certainly piques your interest and I think Tim Hagerty was dead on. Everything he said about John has been true.”

On the field, it has been a tale of immense growth for Maldonado as his role with the offense has been increasing steadily since his freshman season.

“I knew I was capable of playing, but I came in with the mindset of ‘head down’ and do what the coaches say and work hard,” Maldonado said. “I just stayed with that mentality throughout my freshman year and saw the field a little bit. And that’s what kind of got me onto the field.”

But it wasn’t just hard work that helped Maldonado obtain this success. He had the guidance and mentorship from teammates along the way.

“Sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to play alongside two senior wide receivers, Nick Grosso and Eli Rehm, that just kind of took me under their wing and paved the way for the work ethic and how to handle myself and how to lead the team and be a captain and stuff like that,” Maldonado said. “So that definitely helped out a lot as a young player and being a first time, full time starter with them two as my co-receivers.”

Now, just a season removed from being under the wing of two captains, Maldonado finds himself in that same position of leadership. On a team where 77 players were not on the roster in 2019, the role of captains is more important than ever and Accorsi believes that he has been an excellent leader for the young squad.

“I think it is well deserved and earned,” Accorsi said. “John probably is one of the hardest working players on the team. So when John speaks about working hard and doing well in the classroom, which he does, and all of those other things, players have to notice it. They have to listen because of what he’s earned in respect.”

With a lack of football season in 2020 due to COVID-19, Maldanado was forced to adapt not only to the new responsibility of being a captain, but for the first time since a child, he had to spend a year away from the game he loved.

“Two years away from the game, that’s the first time ever in my life, maybe, since I was about four or five years old that I didn’t play football,” Maldanado said. “It definitely was hard, but being out there –even though we haven’t gotten our first win yet– just being back out there with the crowd, the team, and the environment– just hearing the crowd yelling and the atmosphere of playing the game again is something you can’t explain.”

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