Joel Rivera is easily one of the most gifted wide receivers in the A7FL but it was actually baseball where he’d find himself being drafted right out of High School. “After completing my senior year in high school I was the 429th pick in the 15th round of the 2003 MLB draft to the Milwaukee Brewers. I played Rookie ball in the Brewers minor league system in Arizona for a year and a half before ultimately deciding to walk away from the game for family reasons,” says Rivera who is a father to two daughters ages 13 and 2. “My children are my world. I had Liana at the young age of 19 years old when I was in the minor league system. I decided to walk away from the game of baseball because I believed raising my daughter was more important. My father was not around much for my brothers and I as a child so I did not want my daughter to experience the heart ache I felt. Liana is a polite selfless and intelligent girl. She’s also an athlete and plays softball/track… Ayva is an energetic little girl I call caterpillar. She might be small but her personality is a big as an adults. She dances her life away to just about anything that has a beat. My girls are my life and they will always come first.”
Rivera would later attend William Paterson University to give football a shot as a walk-on. Not only did he make the team but he broke 7 records and was selected to participate in the New York Jets Rookie camp. Born and raised in Hoboken, NJ Rivera stands at 6’1, 205lbs but at 33 years old he realizes professional sports has passed him by. “Every athlete has dreams of becoming a professional athlete but due to my parental responsibilities I had to make a decision on pursuing a degree and entering into a career field that will allow me to take care of my family or continue to pursue my own dreams of becoming a professional athlete. Being a big family man I chose to continue my education and graduate with a degree in Sociology with a concentration in Social Services,” says Rivera. Joel is currently working in his degree field of Mental Health for the state of New Jersy at the Meadowview Psychiatric facility.
I went on to ask about the 2019 season and his expectations for The Paterson U. “It’s not a secret that the Paterson U has a bad taste in our mouths from losing in the final four three years in a row. With our new additions this year I believe we can break our streak of bad luck in the final four and go back to the championship. My ability as a pure receiver and grinder in crunch time coupled with the talents of all my fellow U members I am confident that we will be representing New Jersey in the Championship, says Rivera.”
While I’ve always acknowledged Rivera’s talents he might not have been featured in so many highlights possibly because his teammates Kareen Moon and Marcus “Hardbody” McKinney have soaked up most of the attention. “My style of play isn’t flashy but it’s productive. It’s tough to rattle me on the field because I view this league as an escape from my every day stress and not a league where I need to prove something to others. I love and respect this game of football. For me I have always strived to be the best at every sport I participate in because I viewed it as my way of escaping the hardships I faced as I child. As an adult I play this game strictly for the love of competing. I love this game and appreciate the league for allowing me to continue feeding that beast I call my competitive side. I don’t need the recognition or to be on top of anyone’s favorite list. Just know when I am on the field you will always have to be on the look out for number 19, says Rivera.”
Off topic but I was curious if Joel has or wanted to visit other parts of the world. “I would love to visit Tibet. Growing up in the projects in Hoboken my brothers and I would always watch the Discovery channel and as an adult I am an avid viewer of the Travel channel and food network. Tibetan culture, cuisine and architecture has always fascinated me so I plan to visit one day and experience the Tibetan culture first hand, says Rivera.”
The Paterson U will take on the Pennsylvania Immortalz April 7th at 4pm. Watch it live on FaceBook.
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