Adam Schefter never met Joe Maio.
A graduate of Boston University, Joe Maio worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and rose through the ranks to become director of equity derivatives.
He was one of the company’s 658 employees (of 960 in New York) who died in the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Schefter learned about Maio and described him as “a golden boy. He was charismatic. He was smart. He was successful. He was handsome. He was charming. He was sensitive. He was beloved. He was respected. Honestly, he was the kind of guy you’d want your daughter to marry. You might ask, how could anyone be that good? If you read the memorial tributes to him that poured in after he died, he was that good.”
Joe Maio was 32 years old when he died, a loving husband and the father of a 15-month-old son.
He and Schefter shared the same birthday, their grandmothers had the same birthday and Maio’s son Devon was born on Schefter’s half-birthday and the day Schefter’s grandfather died.
Weird. Kismet. Karma. Chance. Destiny.
All of that and more, most especially when Adam Schefter realized that he would marry Joe Maio’s widow Sharri, a girl he had known in the third grade.
Adam Schefter, not yet 52, is at the top of his class. He is a cut above, both as a sports writer and television analyst, but more importantly as a human being.
A 1989 graduate of the University of Michigan where he was an editor at The Michigan Daily, he then attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism from which he graduated in June 1990.
While there he worked as a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune and then became an intern for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He relocated to Denver later that year writing for the Rocky Mountain News before moving on to The Denver Post in July 1996.
Schefter joined the NFL Network in 2004 and also wrote for NFL.com. Occasional appearances on NFL Total Access and ESPN’s The Sports Reporters and Around the Horn (subbing for Woody Paige) led to some sideline reporting for NBC twice in the summer of 2008, first with Al Michaels and John Madden during the Redskins-Colts Pro Football Hall of Fame Game and then in the Redskins-Jaguars preseason finale.
For three consecutive years (2009–2011) Schefter was voted as the best NFL insider in USA Today’s surveys and fan polls.
This was quite a feat in ’09 when he edged ESPN’s Chris Mortensen 34%-32% despite the NFL Network reaching fewer than half as many U.S. households as the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports.”
He became part of Mortensen’s extended television family joining ESPN as a football analyst in 2009 and his on-air career blew up.
By October 2010 Sports Illustrated writers included Schefter in its “Top 40,” a select listing of the NFL’s top officials, executives, coaches, players and media members.
From that point forward the accolades and awards targeted him as if his singular presence was the epicenter force of a powerful magnetic field.
And the hits just kept on coming.
In 2014 Schefter racked up the “Most Influential Tweeter in New York” award presented by New York magazine in February; the “Best Newsbreaker” prize sponsored by the sports media website Awful Announcing in its second annual “People’s Sports TV Award Winners” in May; and finished with SI.com’s “Media Person of the Year” honor.
It was no different in 2015.
He scored another hat trick with his selection as “The Cynopsis Sports Media Personality of the Year” presented annually to the individual whose work in the sports industry has transcended how sports connect with fans; an honorable mention recognition for “Sports Illustrated Now’s 2015 Media Person of the Year”; and the Tampa Bay Times “2015 Sports Media Personality of the Year” laurels.
In the interest of full disclosure, his career in broadcast journalism has not been unblemished however, as in characteristic dogged pursuit of the story he inappropriately accessed and then tweeted a medical chart photo of Giants DE Jason Pierre Paul’s right hand showing that his index finger had been amputated and his middle finger was sporting an extensive skin graft, all courtesy of a July 4, 2015 fireworks mishap.
Two individuals from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami were terminated after a lengthy investigation for violating HIPAA laws and both Schefter and ESPN were sued for breach of privacy by Pierre-Paul.
The lawsuit was settled in February 2017.
As eminently successful as he was, Schefter’s personal life left him unfulfilled.
A failed marriage (of 15 months) and the grim reaper-like presence of profound loneliness catalyzed him to consent to a blind date with a woman on Long Island which changed his life and the lives of others.
Sharri Maio was up-front from the start.
She was a 9/11 widow and the mother of a fifteen-month-old son. Schefter was unfazed and undeterred. After an 11-month-courtship they married. Together they have a nine-year-old daughter, Dylan and the blended family is by all accounts thriving.
Still in many ways, Schefter’s life is defined by a man he never knew.
And as a testament to his character and makeup he is more than fine with that.
He respects the powerful impact Joe Maio had on people and the love and affection he showered on his wife, his son and his parents.
He is self-effacing enough to realize that all of this not only preceded him but continues to share space with him.
And will forever.
Two years ago around the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 — on the opening Sunday of the 2016 football season to be more precise — ESPN ran a feature on Joe Maio.
Says Schefter, “I couldn’t believe the response. Two straight days of emails and texts from hundreds of people from all walks of life — people in the White House, actors, actresses. Everyone was moved by the tribute to Joe.”
And Schefter considered it a privilege to help raise Devon.
“It has been one of the great honors of my life,” he proudly admits. “It’s hard because you love him as your own, but Joe is still his biological father. So when a difficulty comes up you don’t always want to be as hard on him as maybe you would otherwise. There are challenges all the time. Sometimes I fall short. I’m sure there were times when Sharri was thinking — what would it be like if Joe were here? But there was nothing I could do about that. Devon is 18 and this fall he’ll be attending the University of Michigan, my alma mater. It was a decision I let him and his mother make.”
Adam Schefter is busier than a one-armed paper hanger. His name is synonymous with NFL football and many think of him as a legend. He has worked diligently to carve out a niche for himself and is the best at what he does. Surely he is proud of his achievements and why not?
But each morning when he looks in the mirror, he sees a good and decent man, committed to doing the right thing and making those around him happy.
This is his greatest legacy.
Joe Maio would have loved him.
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in September 2018.]