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Joey Maher fights for position during Indiana’s 2-0 victory over DePaul on Aug. 29, 2023 in Bloomington. (HN photo/Kallan Graybill)
Joey Maher fights for position during Indiana’s 2-0 victory over DePaul on Aug. 29, 2023 in Bloomington. (HN photo/Kallan Graybill)

Captain, mentor, brother, pasta-lover: Joey Maher makes soccer look simple, but that doesn’t mean he is

The senior defender's leadership will be key as he pursues his goal of winning a championship at Indiana

Joey Maher will tell you he’s a simple guy. He’ll say he loves soccer and posting clean sheets, he’ll do whatever he can to win, he’s a Hoosier through-and-through and all he really wants is to win championships.

He can point to his collegiate statistics so far — 66 starts, two NCAA College Cup finals appearances, one Big Ten Tournament championship and one Big Ten regular-season championship — and bring you to another simple conclusion: he’s an exceptionally talented soccer player.

But Maher also loves to eat chicken parm, FaceTime his brothers daily, watch “Suits” and play Settlers of Catan (and he thinks he’s pretty good at it). He’ll say he’s much more vocal on the pitch than he is off of it, but if you get him talking about the right thing — like Da Vinci Pizza and Pasta in Bloomington — you’d never believe him when he says he’s a naturally quiet guy.

Now entering his senior year, the defender is one of the captains for Indiana men’s soccer and has taken up the helm of the primary leader on the back line. Maher’s goal for the season is straightforward: win championships. Eager to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Jack — the former IU standout currently playing in the MLS for Nashville SC — Maher wants a Big Ten regular-season championship, a Big Ten Tournament championship and a national championship before he graduates.

Both Maher brothers have accomplished two of those feats by winning various Big Ten championship titles; Jack won the regular-season and tournament titles in 2018 and 2019 and Joey did the same in the 2020-21 season. But neither has won a national championship.

Joey has come closest to tasting that level of victory, as he was a part of both squads who reached the NCAA College Cup final in 2020-21 and 2022. Those almost-but-not-quite experiences made him want a national title even more, but something can also be said for the added motivation of being able to one-up his older brother.

After all, that friendly brotherly competition played a significant role in Maher’s journey from the time he was a child.

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Joey Maher (left) and his older brother Jack battle for the ball as young children. (Photo courtesy of Joey Maher)

The first time Maher realized he wanted to play soccer was when he was watching his older brothers play youth soccer in their home of St. Clair County, Illinois. As one of four boys, and the third youngest, Maher has always been naturally competitive and wanted to do everything his brothers were doing. Jack, who is only two years older than Joey, was the main source of inspiration for Joey to start playing soccer.

“I was just trying as much as I can to just play with (Jack) and mess around with him,” Maher said. “We’re a big competitive family so I was like ‘I’m going to try to beat Jack at this.’”

That thought set in motion a series of events that changed Joey’s life. What began as kicking a ball against a wall at home became playing youth soccer with Jack in shin-high grass, and eventually led to a realization that soccer was the thing he most “wanted to be a part of,” as Maher put it. High school became a time to focus on the goal of playing soccer for as long as possible.

When Jack was recruited by Todd Yeagley and Indiana, Joey had a front-row seat and once again decided he wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

“From day one, when I saw Jack step on the field his freshman year, I was just like, ‘Man, I want to do everything I can to be a part of this program,’” Maher said. “When he was doing his recruiting visits, he couldn’t say a bad thing about the program.”

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Joey Maher (left) poses with his brothers (from left) Jack, J.D. and Josh on the square in Bloomington. (Photo courtesy of Joey Maher)

The Maher brothers were unable to overlap at Indiana due to Jack leaving after two years for the MLS, but given the success Jack had as a Hoosier, everyone knew who Joey was and who he was related to. He was OK with that.

“I understood that that was going to be a big thing,” Maher said. “Jack was an unbelievable player here, and he helped this team win many, many championships. But kind of just working as hard as I can to gain my teammates’ respect was the biggest thing I wanted to do early.”

Maher’s drive, personality and propensity for lockdown defense quickly made him a team favorite. He started 15 games his freshman season and has only seen his minutes increase since then. Now, as a captain, he has a complete understanding of what’s expected of him and what he needs to do to lead Indiana to success.


On the field, Maher is one of the most laser-focused, determined players out there. He can see what needs to be done in terms of positioning and organization and knows how to help his teammates play to their strengths, which in turn makes the team stronger as a unit.

“I want the guys to know I will do whatever it takes to win,” Maher said. “I’ll be the best teammate, role model for guys on the field and guys off the field.”

Don’t just take his word for it, though; his teammates know exactly what Maher brings to the program, and they don’t take it for granted.

Fifth-year defender Brett Bebej has witnessed Maher’s growth over the years, acting as a mentor and helping him evolve from a naive freshman into a self-assured senior.

“He’s just more confident, (has) more swag,” Bebej said. “He does everything right. Everything.”

Senior defender Jansen Miller grew up playing with Maher on club teams in Illinois and knows Maher always had an unparalleled level of motivation and work ethic.

“He was more disciplined than we were,” Miller said. “You could always tell he was that more mature guy, the way he just went about everything. You can see that here, but it started when he was 14-15. He’s the same person he was.”

Maher’s maturity shines through on and off the field, with one of the only exceptions coming when he’s leaping around, celebrating a goal or a victory with his team. And yet, he always seems to know when and how to take in those moments before moving forward and staying focused on what’s ahead.

“He’s professional about everything in life,” Miller said. “Schoolwork, on the field, off the field, how he takes care of himself, how he interacts with people.”

That approach to life was instilled into Maher at a young age, something he fully credits to parents. His entire family has been instrumental in shaping who he is today, from playing games of spoons and Sequence to teaching him how to keep perspective and work hard.

“I get everything that I got in terms of my parents,” Maher said. “I was able to get taught from a really young age to never say no, refusing to quit, like those couple of traits that were infused in me at such a young age. And I just have this motivation to do well because of what I was taught such a long time ago.”

Maher works hard for himself, but the underlying reason behind his drive goes beyond anything personal. He knows what wearing the cream and crimson means, and never takes it for granted.

“I know the bigger things that come with playing at IU,” he said. “Playing for the best coaching staff in the country, playing with the best teammates in the country and with the best alumni. It’s a motivation and it’s a discipline as well.”


Some of Maher’s traits, like his work ethic, are easy to see and understand. But his personality is a little more difficult to pinpoint.

“To be honest, I felt when I first knew about him, I thought he was going to be a very strict guy, but it was completely opposite,” Hugo Bacharach, a new transfer into Indiana, said. “He’s a funny guy, a respectful guy and I really, really like him.”

Indiana defender Joey Maher eyes up against Seton Hall (HN photo/Danielle Stockwell)

Maher has one of those personalities where it seems like the more you get to know him, the more questions you have. He’s intense but not overbearingly so, he’s calm but energetic, he’s quiet but has a voice that will echo down hallways when he’s excited.

He likes competition and winning strategy games — no doubt an influence on his ability to direct play on the field — but approaches everything good-naturedly with an air of humility. It’s the combination of all of those characteristics that make it difficult to sum Maher up in a few words, and while he is anything but simple, it’s easy to see what Maher means to his team.

“He’s just a happy guy,” Miller said. “He’s got all those qualities you want in a captain.”

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