Defensive lineman Johnny Maxey grew up in Canandaigua and is making the most of his chances as a rookie

Whatever you consider to be your best Christmas present ever, Johnny Maxey can top it.

On Dec. 24, the 6-foot-5, 283-pound defensive lineman was promoted from the practice roster of the Pittsburgh Steelers to the active roster. So not only does the kid make it to the NFL, he gets the call on Christmas Eve.

If you’re not familiar with the name Johnny Maxey, talk to just about anyone who graduated from Canandaigua Academy in 2011. Because they walked the halls with Maxey and sat in classes with him at CA. Maxey was on track to graduate CA in 2011 before his family moved away in 2009.

Since then, Maxey has been a football junkie. He’s worked his skills and honed his instincts, playing his college football at Division II Mars Hill in North Carolina. Last summer, he signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent and spent most of the season on the team’s practice squad.

But as injuries mounted on Pittsburgh's defensive line, the services of Maxey were needed and on Dec. 25 against the Baltimore Ravens, Maxey made his NFL debut. In the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns, Maxey registered his first solo tackle.

He remained on the active roster for both playoff games, wins over Miami and Kansas City so yes, the Steelers are 4-0 with Maxey in the lineup.

On the sideline with the Steelers for that win over Kansas City was Jordan Quayle, a 2011 CA graduate who has remained in touch with Maxey over the years. By sheer luck during a recent workout at the Canandaigua YMCA, Quayle was approached by someone who said the Steelers needed help on the sideline for the game in Kansas City.

Being a Steelers fan for life, Quayle couldn’t resist, and didn’t. So he was there last Sunday to help make sure the team’s computer tablets were in the right hands of the right coaches, not to mention cheer on his Steelers and Maxey.

“It was surreal,” said Quayle. “I’d never been to a Steelers game before.”

Quayle got to catch up with Maxey in the locker room after the game and then stayed in the same hotel as the team, so they caught up for breakfast as well.

Quayle said he’s known Maxey since they were in Mrs. Wink’s first grade class together in Canandaigua and they grew up together playing football and basketball. And while Maxey wasn't the tallest kid on the block, there was one noticeable feature.

“He always had huge hands,” said Quayle. “He was palming a basketball in eighth grade. He wasn’t the tallest kid growing up, but he was always big.”

Quayle said Maxey gave him the gloves he wore during the game against the Chiefs. How big?

“They’re 4XLs,” said Quayle.

Maxey moved from Canandaigua after their sophomore basketball season, but Quayle said Maxey has stayed in touch with him and other friends like T.J. Gillen, Jordan Wethington and Justin Powers. 

And all along, Quayle said he believed Maxey had a chance to do big things.

“I always told people that he would have a shot at the NFL but people never believed me,” said Quayle. “It’s really neat to see that he made it, and he hasn’t changed at all."

Chavez is sports editor at The Daily Messenger. Contact me at or follow me @MPN_bchavez