UB's Joe Licata is 'Buffalo Joe'

Fan should appreciate what Joe Licata did for UB football

It’s fair to say there’s been little stability in the UB football program over the past few seasons.

The Bulls have had a coaching change. They’ve seen the highs of a bowl game in 2013 and the lows of back-to-back five-win and bowlless seasons the past two years.

But through it all there has been one constant – Joe Licata, a local high school quarterback who stayed local and shattered most of the passing records at UB.

Buffalo’s loss to Massachusetts last week brought about the end of the Licata era – an era that gave the Bulls the reassurance that even if they were overmatched in other areas of the field, they’d always have a steady leader under center.

Licata was the undeniable leader of the Bulls for three-plus years. He had a hardworking and salt-of-the-earth persona that teammates and coaches could appreciate, as well a charismatic charm that always got at least one laugh from the media during press conferences. He took pride in playing for his hometown city.

Quarterbacks like that don’t come along often – especially not at smaller programs like UB.

After a decorated career at local Williamsville South High School on both the football team and basketball team – he was so good that opponents called him Joe Li-cheat-a because he was so talented it was almost unfair – Licata got offers from larger programs.

But he chose UB to play in front of family and hopefully make a big-time statement in his own backyard. He grew up not far from UB Stadium and hoped to one day be the Bulls’ starting quarterback. Goals like that don’t often happen.

His presence was felt around Buffalo. You can’t see a UB football advertisement without him. He takes time out to respond to fans that both criticize and praise him on Twitter. There were even Joe Licata costumes this past Halloween – jersey, eye black and all – circulating around the town for young Bulls fans to wear.

Licata would give credit to all of his teammates, even if his play is what won the Bulls the game. He would take the blame after losses regardless if his play truly hurt the team or not.

And in a day in age where so many college athletes – including quarterbacks, as we’ve seen this season – have issues off the field, Licata was never a distraction to his team. The worst thing he ever did was accidentally reveal what his favorite Buffalo wing is – Cajun Honey Mustard Wings from Elmo’s in downtown Buffalo – when NCAA stipulations wouldn’t allow him to release it. And he always made a point to strike up a small conversation with the reporter before beginning an interview.

And let’s not forget he was one heck of a quarterback on the field as well.

In his three-plus years in Buffalo, he accumulated a 21-19 record. He threw more than 9,000 career passing yards and 76 touchdown passes, making him one of the best quarterbacks to not only play for Buffalo but the Mid-American Conference as well. He led the program to its second-ever Bowl game and was one successful drive away from possibly bringing it to a third.

UB students don’t share the same interest about their football program that other students do at larger programs – which probably has more to do with wins on the field and the size of the program than students’ love of the game. The announced attendance at home games doesn’t usually matchup to the actual volume in the stands. And there was only a handful of fans in the stands to witness Licata’s final game – a game played in rainy and windy conditions during Thanksgiving break.

But the fans that did come to UB games the past four years probably have an appreciation of Licata.

Buffalo may not have a quarterback like him for a while.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com