By Samuel Njoku
Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Nose Tackle, #96
Hometown: Pule’anga Fakatu’i’o, Tonga
Experience: 10 years
Headed to the 2012 season, many expected Ma’ake Kemoeatu to provide depth along the defensive line. With rising star Terrence Cody holding the nose tackle spot, Kemoeatu would provide a veteran presence at the position. Instead, Kemoeatu showed the Ravens coaching staff enough to earn the starting role on a defense with a surplus of stars. But the road leading him to this point was not an easy one.
Ma’ake Kemoeatu started his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens. He would come in as an undrafted free agent from Utah. Kemoeatu was a three-year starter at Utah starting 35 of the 43 games played in his collegiate career. In that time, he would finish his career with 160 tackles and nine sacks. There wasn’t a lot of buzz surrounding Kemoeatu, but the Ravens saw enough to give him a shot.
In Baltimore, Kemoeatu became the run stuffing nose tackle the Ravens need when playing in a 3-4 scheme. His success at the position made it harder for offenses to account for the Pro Bowl linebackers the team would field on a weekly basis. But the amount of success that kept Kemoeatu on the team, eventually led him off the team. As a free agent, Kemoeatu gauged plenty of interest, including interest from Baltimore. But Carolina offered him more than Baltimore could offer, and was forced to leave in 2006. With a huge void left in the middle of the defense, Baltimore would be forced to draft Haloti Ngata in the next NFL Draft.
When players for the Ravens’ defense sign with other teams, their production on the field diminishes. That wasn’t the case with Kemoeatu. The run stuffing tackle gave the Panthers a much needed boost on the defensive line. But his time in Carolina came to an abrupt in the beginning of the 2009 season, when he suffered a torn right Achilles tendon. The Panthers would release Ma’ake at the end of the season.
Ma’ake would later sign a two year contract with the Washington Redskins for the 2010 season. Following the 2010 season, Kemoeatu would be released and would not sign with a team for more than a year. The former starting nose tackle was out of work and reached an astonishing 425 pounds. Still looking for work, Kemoeatu turned to a familiar friend. The Baltimore Ravens tried out the veteran defensive lineman, but decided against signing him because of his weight issue. Luckily, that wouldn’t stop Kemoeatu from trying again.
“I considered shutting it down,” Kemoeatu said. “Then I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to give this another shot.’”
Five months after being turned down by Baltimore, Kemoeatu sent Baltimore a workout tape along with pictures of his sudden transformation. The veteran defensive tackle had lost 70 pounds. After another workout with the team, the Ravens signed him to a one year contract.
“This situation could not have been more perfect. I’m coming back to a defense that I know how to play in,” Kemoeatu said.
In camp, the Ravens saw flashes of what they’d seen from the nose tackle 6 years ago. That was enough to give him the starting nose tackle spot. That was enough to give Kemoeatu another shot at football.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Ravens news, see CBS Sports Baltimore.
Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.