Owls' uphill battle motivates Joseph

BOCA RATON - Greg Joseph remembers his first encounter with Florida Atlantic football vividly. It was 1998 and he was in middle school.

He was with his father at church, which was holding its services at the FAU auditorium on the main campus.

"There was this sign saying, "FAU Football Coming Soon," Joseph said. "Right then I knew I wanted to play here."

Joseph never lost that desire, and after helping Dr. Michael M. Krop High in Miami make it to the state playoffs in its third season, he came to FAU in 2004, the year the Owls began their transition from the Championship Subdivision to the Bowl Subdivision.

"I love new programs, where it is always fight, fight, fight. I love that uphill battle," said Joseph, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior, who is expected to start at safety this season.

"Greg Joseph can cover any back, he can cover inside receivers or the tight end. He is one of our best cover guys and had good spring of coming up and making tackles," coach Howard Schnellenberger said.

Defensive coordinator Kirk Hoza said Joseph's commitment to the program is evident by what he has gone through since 2005, when he became a starter as a redshirt freshman after the previous starter was injured.

Joseph had 67 tackles and two interceptions that season, but lost the starting job when Taheem Acevedo returned from his injury.

Then Joseph hurt his knee in 2006, had offseason surgery and missed spring practice. He saw action last season, but again as a backup.

"First he was relegated to second team, then he had the injury," Hoza said. "His character and patience were tested, but he never hung his head."

This spring when he dislocated a finger on his right hand, Joseph could have sat out some of the drills and scrimmages, but he had the trainers fashion a special cast and never missed a practice.

"He was determined to let us know he could handle the job," Hoza said.

After winning the Sun Belt title and New Orleans Bowl last season and finishing 8-5, the Owls are preseason picks to repeat both.

But Joseph said he is still in the mode of taking the program higher and not just repeating last season.

"Some people can say we are in the spotlight, but we feel we are still going uphill. There is still greatness to be achieved, still more to be gained," Joseph said.