October 22, 2012
By David Driver
For the Deseret News
Used with permission
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who played for the Washington Redskins during the 2010 season, spent last year living in Northern Virginia and watching NFL games on television.
But that was not good enough for the former University of Utah standout, who had spent nearly a decade in the NFL. He decided to return to the NFL and is now with the Baltimore Ravens, the team he broke into the league with 10 years ago after completing his collegiate career with the Utes.
"I still felt like I could play football," said Kemoeatu, a 33-year-old defensive tackle, as he stood by his locker last week prior to an afternoon practice session here in suburban Baltimore. "This game is not forever. I want to play as long as I can and then I will go find something else to do.
"To get back in (the league), you have to dedicate yourself. It is a full-time job. There is a lot of stress on your body," he added.
Kemoeatu, who is signed through this season, certainly did dedicate himself before heading to training camp with the Ravens. He said he worked with a trainer and changed his eating habits, trading a heavy meal at night for a shake. Kemoeatu said he lost more than 70 pounds and his body fat went from 25 percent to 19 percent.
What did he miss the most about sitting out last year?
"Just the camaraderie of the locker room, and playing football on Sunday," said Kemoeatu, now listed at 6-foot-5, 345 pounds. "When I did not play last year, I would sit at home and turn on the TV and see guys I came out of college with who were still playing. I felt like I needed to get back into it again."
He started six of the first seven games this season and had 11 total tackles, with seven solo stops, beating out Terrence Cody for the Ravens' starting job.
From Tonga, Kemoeatu was a four-year player at Utah and started 35 of 43 games, ending his career with 160 tackles. He was All-Mountain West Conference honorable mention as a junior and senior. He came to the Utes from Kahuku High in Hawaii, where he played football and participated in track and field. His brother, Chris, played guard for Pittsburgh from 2006-11.
He signed with the Ravens as a non-drafted free agent out of Utah in 2002 and played with the Ravens from 2002-05. Kemoeatu then played with Carolina from 2006-08, with a career-high 46 tackles for the Panthers in 2007. He played in 14 games, with 12 starts, for Washington in 2010.
"It has been good. I started my career here," he said of being back with the Ravens. "I think I was the only Utah guy here (about 10 years ago). I go away and come back and there have been other Utah guys to pass through like Paul Kruger and David Reed.
"It is great to be back," he added. "This organization is where I began. Coming back here is like coming back home. It has been great."
The past two games have been rough for the Baltimore defense, however.
Not only did the Ravens give up 227 rushing yards in a 31-29 home win over Dallas on Oct. 14, but the team lost star middle linebacker Ray Lewis and defensive back Lardarius Webb to injuries that could keep both of them out the rest of the season.
"We have to tackle better," Kemoeatu said prior to Sunday's game against the Texans. "We have to shore up basic things as a defense. Every week is a different team and a different challenge. It is going to be a challenge against the Texans. We will go up there and try to get a win."
Then the Ravens lost, 43-13, at Houston on Sunday, and their defense allowed 420 total yards in the lopsided loss. Baltimore is now 5-2 and has a bye this weekend.
"I am concerned about everything," Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh told reporters in Houston. "You can talk about pretty much everything today."
It was the most points allowed by the Ravens since 2007.
Kemoeatu said he will have to monitor his body even more down the stretch this season.
"Being older, I have to take better care of my body," he said. "I have to get my eight, nine hours of sleep."
Other Ravens with ties to Utah include defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (Highland High, Salt Lake native), outside linebacker Paul Kruger (Utah) and tight end Dennis Pitta (BYU). Wide receiver David Reed (Utah) is on the PUP list with a knee injury.
Senior offensive assistant coach Craig Ver Steeg is a former Utah assistant; tight ends coach Wade Harman played and coached at Utah State, and strength and conditioning coach Bob Rogucki had a similar role at Weber State.