By Carol McCracken
It’s beach weather alright, but that doesn’t stop some from thinking about professional football. No doubt that’s because football is back in the news – Tom Brady’s back and so is Michael Vick, apparently. But for Jamie Keefe, of the Portland Fire Department, stationed at Ladder 1 on the Hill, his professional football memories go back twenty-two years ago.
Jamie always wanted to play professional football. When he was four years old, an uncle gave him black and gold Steeler pajamas. That did it. From then on he wanted to play ball. “All litle boys and girls have a dream. They want to be a jet pilot or a fireman. A very lucky few actually live those dreams,” said Jamie, sitting out in front of the firehouse on this hot afternoon. “I wanted to be a pro.”
Jamie had just completed his senior year at the University of Maine, Orono, from where he’d received a full football scholarship. “I had a really good senior year, tackling everyone in sight. The Jets had been showing interestin me all year,” Jamie said. That was 1987. Joe Walton, head coach of the Jets called the University, who told him to call the coach who told him to call Jamie. Jamie showed up for the Jets training camp which was on Long Island in New York – about l l/2 hours from his Danbury, Connecticut home.
Of training camp, he says: “It was hard, fun and exciting and I loved every minute of it. I knew I could play with these guys, but I’d have to play my very best every day. That was hard todo – especially against the competition I had. But it was doable.” He was a middle linebacker. Three weeks into training camp, one of the assistant coaches said Walton wanted to see him and “bring your playbook.” Coach Walton told him it was “a nice run, but I’ve got to get the roster down to 50. It was the greatest three weeks of my life” Jamie said. “It still hurts,” he admitted.
There were three other teams who wanted him; the Raiders, the Chiefs and the Packers. He chose the Jets because they were closest to his Connecticut home. At 6 ft. 3 in. he weights 240 lbs. which is 10lbs. less than he did back in 1987 when he was in training camp. “Your body is a tool and you have to make it right for whatever you do, he said.
Jamie says that he believes that Michael Vick should be reinstated in professional football, despite his conviction for dog fighting. He’s paid his dues. Playing football is his job. He predicts that quaterback Tom Brady of the Patriots will be “phenomenal, if he stays healthy.” If Brady stays healthy, the Patriots will go to the Super Bowl and play against Dallas. “That would be quite a game,” he said.