He grew up around the sport of wrestling, where his father, Pat, coached Highland Oaks Middle School in North Miami Beach, and opened and built Flanagan High in Pembroke Pines.
On Tuesday, Joe McNamara, who started his football and wrestling career in the ninth grade at Chaminade-Madonna under Mark Guandolo, announced that he would head west to attend Stanford University, which is one of the most prestigious programs in the nation.
While wrestling was important to McNamara, who advanced to the state tournament this past season in the 285-pound division, football began to share the spotlight after leaving Chaminade and following his father to Cypress Bay, where he was reunited with Guandolo, who had always predicted big things from this line prospect who ran under 5.0 (over 40 yards).
At Cypress Bay, the 6-2, 275-pouner started in the 10th grade and was singled out as being one of the most athletic linemen in the state of Florida. While very few had heard about him, the Miami Herald watched this impressive athlete play, rating him in the top 20 before the spring of this year, which paved the way for several offers.
Before letting Stanford know that he was going to head to Palo Alto next year, McNamara was offered by Wisconsin, FIU, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Iowa State, an area where his parents grew up and many of his family members still live.
The spring also brought out schools such as UCLA, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Boston College and UConn.
"I was sold on Stanford the first time I saw the campus," McNamara said. "The school, the tradition and the direction they are headed all played a key role in the decision.
Last season, McNamara was responsible for helping the Lightning reach the playoffs before losing to rival Miramar.
Attending very few camps, McNamara's appearance at the Elite Scouting Combine in April was one that cemented his standing among top line prospects in the state of Florida.
"From the first time we watched him as a 10th grader, there was something about the kid that you knew was special," said Charles Fishbein of ESS. "He was in great shape, was quick and had tremendous strength. Stanford came into Florida and got a very good player who will accomplish some big things out there."