Unfortunately, long snappers are usually amongst the least known players because of their highly specialized and not very visible role on the field. There is very little real recognition or claim to fame. Unless you mess up, then everybody knows your name. But the good part of being a long snapper is unlike most positions on the field, there is no real size or weight requirement. If you can hike the ball fast and accurately enough, then you could will have a long career ahead of you, perhaps even beyond the college level.
But chucking a pigskin through your legs is not as easy as it looks. The skill it takes is phenomenal. You have to be quarterback, offensive linesman, blocker, and a defender all rolled into one. And most importantly, you have to be accurate. As one coach put it: The long snapper must be able to throw the football at a small target, some 15 yards away, from an upside down position, with a number of huge, muscle-bound defenders bearing down on him. And a good long snapper has to have a combination of speed, accuracy, consistency, athletic ability, have some size, and be able to block. It also helps to be a mentor to holders, kickers and punters.
The snapper is an integral part of any football team. Besides being able to hike the ball to punters or holders on field goals and extra-point attempts, he has to have the ability to take over at center occasionally, and get the ball to the quarterback. Before specialization, the long snapper was often a player who primarily played another position, perhaps other than center. Some old school coaches still follow that line of thinking, but most now recognize that a team lacking a skilled long snapper can be at a serious disadvantage. Successful teams are always looking for good, consistent snappers---and therein lies the rub: long snappers are made, not born. One of the major problems a college team is likely to have is that many coaches simply do not know how to coach or properly train a snapper. That is true for many teams in the Mountain West Conference as well and it often reflects in their onfield performance.
Luckily, there are snapper camps to help the aspiring long snapper wantabes and most MWC coaches take advantage of them. The Chris Sailer Kicking and Rubio Long Snapper Camp is one of the best of those. They sponser spring, summer, and fall camps nationwide that help and train both kickers and snappers. Many of those camps are held in the states within the MWC footprint so Mountain West snappers can usually find a camp and/or snapping event to attend in their area. Besides the Annual National Kicking and Snapping Event that was held in Las Vegas this past January, the company also hosted snapper camps in Texas, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and a large number of locations throughout California. And most snappers attend the camps as part of their scholarship.
So who are these unsung heroes of the Mountain West Conference teams?
The University of New Mexico Lobos have #54 junior Evan Jacobsen, 6'1" 230. He was ranked #1 in 2008 by Chris Rubio when head coach Mike Locksley and his special teams coach recruited him. Since he first suited up in the Lobo Locker room, the two year starter has taken every special team snap in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Looking at Jacobsen's size you would guess he was a linebacker. He is physically one of the strongest snappers is the country and has a fast snap time of .65 seconds. He is so good, in fact, that he has spent the past two years as a snapping instructor at regional and national camps and competitions. Aztec fans might remember him last year as the player who recovered a bad punt during the game against San Diego State. He ended last season with 1.5 tackles and as one of the leading snappers in the nation with 85 punt snaps.
San Diego State takes its long snapping postion seriously and goes after the best in the nation. And when the Aztecs recruited #58 senior Aaron Brewer, 6'5" 225 lbs, back in the summer of 2007, they got one of the very best long snappers in the country. "Aaron has become the top long snapper in his class," Longsnapping coach Chris Rubio said at that time. "He has all of the tools: great form, consistancy, speed, blocking and size." San Diego wanted him as a true long snapper. He was the starter from the outset and appeared in all 12 games in 2008, all 12 in 2009, and all 12 in 2010 for both punts and field goals. He is a MWC all-academic pick and SDSU scholar-athlete with ten career tackles.
As Brewer begins his senior year, San Diego has already found another long snapper to replace him for next year: That is Encino, CA native # 62, Brandon Koletsky, 6' 2" 220 lbs. A product of Campbell Hall, North Hollywood, CA, he played both lineman and long snapper, earning an all-Alpha League selection during his junior and senior years. He also is a product of the Chris Sailer Kicking and Rubio Long Snapper Camp. As a redshirt freshman last season he traveled to every Aztec game.
It seems like Texas Christian University has always had top-notched long snappers on their rosters. This season is no exception with #50 sophmore Daniel Shelley, 6' 1" 228lbs, hulking over the ball. Joining the Frogs in 2008, he redshirted his first season. In 2009, he saw his first field action against San Diego State and made the Frog's roster as the back-up snapper to current Seattle Seahawk Clint Gresham. Last season Shelley found his footing and took over as the 2010 starter, playing in all 13 games in his first year as the deep snapper. TCU went up against some formidable opponents last season, but to his credit the Frogs did not have a kick or punt blocked. He recorded his lone tackle at New Mexico.
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas is one of the MWC teams who like to have both a center and long snapper. That is one reasons they have signed #36 Troy Aoki 5'10" 230. He is a Baldwin High School standout from Maui, Hawaii and comes to the Rebels by way of a transfer from the University of Montana Western, Dillon, MT, where he played football for the Bulldogs. An academic performer who makes the dean's list, he has been an unproven comodity at snapper duties. But he has had extensive experience at TE and DL.
The University of Wyoming is looking to replace LS Jordan Van Royen who finished his career with the Cowboys ranked as the 12th best Long Snapper in the 2011 NFL Draft. Enter freshman recruit Zach Ewan, 5' 10" 230 lbs, who could end up as a starting long snapper on the Wyoming squad. Ewan is known as a strong and explosive snapper with a unique abilty maintain his composure and concentration under pressure.
Most of the snapping dutes for Boise State has been done by #44 Chris Roberson, 6' 0" 232 lbs. The junior long snapper started in both 2009 and 2010, after walking on in the 2009 season and started that year in all 14 regular-season games for the Broncos. In 2010, he played in all 13 Bronco games but showed some shaky snaps and inconsistency. He is getting a challenge from #51 LS James Crawford, 6' 1" 207 lbs, so it will not be decided until fall camp who will win the starting snapping duties.
Although not a true long snapper, #94 Byron Hout, 6'0" 223 lbs, a linebacker, sometimes gets the call to handle the Bronco snaps. Hout, you may recall, was the player who got punched in the face on national TV during the 2009 Boise State-Oregon game by LeGarrette Blount. Last year, Hout missed the final four games of the season with a broken left foot, but he was still a big contributor on the field and will be back for his final year on the Blue, and no one would be surprised to see him hiking the ball.
When Scott Albritton, the Colorado State long snapper suffered a season-ending knee injury last year, he was replaced by #53 redshirt freshman Tanner Hedstrom, 6' 1" 225 lbs. Hedstrom went on to play in eight games for the Rams, handling every snap for the rest of the season. Hedstrom was no stranger to long snapping when he stepped in from off the bench last season. He played both center and long snapper at Fort Collins High School from 2004-2007. This past season he was one of only 35 student-athletes to have earned academic all-conference awards for work in the classroom and in competition last fall.
The Air Force Academy has a good long snapper in #59 Bobby Dunn, 6' 1" 245 lbs. The freshman from Carol Stream, Illinois has more aspirations than just playing football: he intends to study biology and becoming a doctor and has the grades to make it happen. He was a straight-A student in HS. But for now, Dunn is wanting to be the Falcon's long snapper and has attended specialty camps that helped him develop and hone the skills he will need. Prior to joining the Air Force team, Dunn was an accomplished long snapper at the high school level where he also started at right tackle.
Being a long snapper is not all that easy. But if they are good it a MWC snapper could end up on the fast track into the pros. Competition is stiff---there are only 32 of these guys in the NFL---and only two of those long snappers are former MWC players: Miami Dolphins LS John Denney (BYU) and Seattle Seahawk LS Clint Gresham (TCU). Within a few years other MWC long snappers will certainly find themselves sitting quietly on a pro-team bench waiting patiently to snap a ball while pulling in a $310,000.00 yearly salary. But long snappers have to be content to being overshadowed by the showboats and publicity-seeking wide receivers and ego-driven NFL quarterbacks.
I can think of worse ways to make a living.