When Joe Martinek first found out he was back on the New York Giants as a member of their practice squad on Monday, he knew all of his hard work paid off.
Since the Rutgers graduate and state's all-time leading high school rusher was one of the 15 players cut from the Giants in August after he was signed to the team as a free agent a few months earlier, he knew it wasn't the end of his NFL journey.
Martinek didn't let the news in August discourage him, and kept up with his training with his personal trainer in Pearl River, N.Y.
"I was basically just working out with my trainer, just waiting for the opportunity, knowing that I could get the call anytime," Martinek said.
And he got that call Monday morning from his agent with the news that he once again, has a shot at playing for the defending Super Bowl Champions.
The former Hopatcong High School great said that when he first found out the news that he is able to join the practice squad, he felt "excited to finally get the opportunity to play again."
"It just feels good," he said. "And I'm going to take it one day at a time and make the most of the opportunity."
Martinek's father, Joe Martinek Sr., said his son's positive attitude and work ethic since August is what brought him where he is today.
"He remained positive throughout the whole thing, I give him a lot of credit for that," he said. "He never gave up hope."
Joe Martinek Sr. found out his son was back on the team right away, because he happened to be on the phone with him right when he got the call from his agent.
His son put him on hold to take the call, and then found out moments later.
"It was exciting, it was just a good feeling for him," Joe Martinek Sr. said of when he first heard the news. "When you work as hard as he does, good things should happen, and I'm glad that they did."
While the younger Martinek—who scored a touchdown in a preseason game for the Giants, helping the team in their 26-3 victory against the New York Jets—has come a long way in his football career, he still has a strong connection to where he came from.
After graduating Hopatcong in 2007 and moving on to Rutgers to play running back and fullback where he scored 17 touchdowns while rushing 391 times for 1,770 yards for the Scarlet Knights, he still appreciates all of the community support and goes back to the local schools to talk to the students and give advice.
"I have so much love at home, that keeps me motivated, that keeps me going," Joe Martinek Jr. said.
His family and Hopatcong High School Athletic Director Tom Vara also traveled in early August to Albany where he was training with the team.
When he starts practicing with the new York Giants in East Rutherford on Wednesday, he will start the next phase of his NFL dream when he is up close with the coaches and players.
"This has been a dream since he was 6 years old," the elder Martinek said, "and now to actually to help the Giants this week prepare for San Francisco on Sunday, that's a big deal. And for him, this is what he has always wanted to do, and it's a step towards being on the field trying to help his team win."