Joseph, a Johannesburg, South Africa native, moved to South Florida when he was seven-years-old, and did not kick a football until the spring of his junior year of high school. He persevered through that late start and the adversity that followed it by relying on his cool head and powerful leg.
Kicking in the NFL was not always in Joseph’s plans, growing up in Johannesburg he had soccer aspirations instead.
“I can’t say that it was a dream as a kid, but it is definitely surreal that it is happening, I am definitely excited that it is happening, and I am going to – like I said – give it everything I’ve got to put my head down, work, and control what I can control,” Joseph said.
Six years ago the football coaches at Delray Beach-American Heritage were looking for a new kicker, and after seeing Joseph star as a center back for the soccer team, they knew exactly who was right for the job.
Joseph eventually joined the football team, his booming leg strength quickly tantalizing the coaching staff. His power was obvious, but the other parts of his game did not transition quite as fast.
“I could kick a ball far, but it doesn’t mean it was going to go through the uprights,” Joseph said. “Changing up my form from soccer to football was a big step but I can’t say I was good at all,”
Despite being named a Max Preps All-American kicker in his lone high school season, he did not receive a scholarship offer from FAU. Joseph walked on for the Owls and after sitting out as a redshirt his first year, starred as FAU’s place kicker for the next four seasons, graduating FAU as the Owls’ career scoring leader.
After a junior year where he converted 10 of his 14 field goal attempts, Joseph began to realize the NFL was a possibility for him.
“I have come this far, I was a walk-on, earned a scholarship, came that far, I was busting my butt, so I figured if I have come this far, why not give it a shot?” Joseph said. “I know I have a long way to go, I know where I am at and I am thankful for it but that is all behind me now and the real work begins now, and I am going to continue as long as I can.”
Miami Dolphins special teams coordinator and associate head coach Darren Rizzi drove up to Boca Raton to see Joseph’s leg in person during the pre-draft process. He was impressed with what he saw, giving Joseph his only NFL contract offer.
“A really big leg, he has got a really good kickoff leg and he has got to work to fine-tune some stuff with the field goal, but he is another guy when you guys see him kick, you will be very, very impressed with his leg strength,” Rizzi said of Joseph.
Joseph will be competing against seventh-round draft pick Jason Sanders from the University of New Mexico. Despite Sanders’ draft position, Rizzi promised Joseph that the competition is wide-open and that if he outperforms the former Lobo, he will earn the job.
Both Joseph and Sanders’ field goal conversions were in the 70 percent range – slightly lower than NFL standards – but Rizzi said that is “one of the last things” he looks at when evaluating college kickers, adding there is a huge difference in operations at the next level.
Power is something Rizzi focuses on instead, because, “You can’t teach leg strength.”
Rizzi backed up his assertion of college field goal percentage not being important in evaluation by pointing to the long careers of Phil Dawson, Matt Bryant, Stephen Gostkowski, and Matt Bryant, who all kicked in the 70 percent range before entering the NFL.
“I agree with coach Rizzi. It’s a stat, it’s there, but what is more important than that is how you get better from that point,” Joseph said about college field goal percentages. “When you really have time to worry about you, you worry about your body, you worry about everything you can control, and that’s when you can really make some strides and I believe I did that”
Joseph learned about both the mental and physical details of the game from his time training with Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey this offseason. Parkey, a Florida native, served as the Dolphins kicker last season. Little did Parkey know he might have been training his successor.
If Joseph wins the starting job in Miami, he would match-up against his training partner in week six when Parkey’s Bears travel to Hard Rock Stadium to play the Dolphins.
One of the hardest things for Rizzi to evaluate in college prospects is mental toughness, and Joseph’s pre-kick process shows he is prepared for the immense pressure that comes with being an NFL kicker.
Joseph has grown exponentially since picking up the pigskin a half decade ago, but he knows he must keep improving to find long-term professional success.
“The point where you say you are good is probably, you know, close to the end, so I’ve still got a lot more work to do and I think it is a good thing I got the mindset that I have to realize that” Joseph said. “Living for today only, I am not worried about tomorrow. I am not worried about next week. I am just worried about what I can control.”