Dougherty: You wouldn’t believe what goes into long snapping

first_img Related Stories Snapshot: A look at Syracuse captain, 4-year starting long snapper Rodgers Published on September 2, 2015 at 8:24 pm Sam Rodgers ran through the basics for 15 minutes and was now standing seven yards behind me.I tried to remember all the tips and it made my head spin. Bend at the knees before reaching for the ball. Put your right hand on the ball like you’re going to throw it. Layer your left hand above your right and make sure your thumbs are parallel to each other. The outside line of the football should cut through your left shoulder. Don’t crane your neck to look through your legs. Make a double chin, instead. Then …Snap.“That wasn’t one of your better ones,” Rodgers, Syracuse’s long snapper from 2011-14, said as he lunged to his left to catch the wobbling ball. “You were thinking too much.”Of course I was. After spending an hour long snapping with Rodgers on a hot afternoon on Aug. 19, I learned that the best long snaps are, somehow, calculated and mindless at the same time. Rodgers spent four years perfecting the craft for the Orange, and spent time at Buffalo Bills training camp this past summer.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textNow he’s back — working at the Carrier Dome and training for another shot at the NFL — and Syracuse’s search for long-snapper stability will restart when it hosts Rhode Island at 7 p.m. on Friday.At the tail end of training camp, SU special teams coordinator Tim Daoust said true freshman Matt Keller will snap for punts, and that Keller and senior walk-on Keith Mitsuuchi were still competing to snap on field goals. Neither player has in-game college experience at the nuanced position, so I set out to learn how difficult long snapping really is.Reader discretion is advised. Don’t try this at home.“You’ll see it in practice, everyone wants to see if they can do it,” Rodgers said. “But most people are really bad. It’s hard.”I told Rodgers I should probably see him snapping a few times before I try. The first drill he does is a short 5-yard snap, then he moves to 7 yards and snaps in slow motion to emphasize technique. I do these with him and my lower back starts to hurt every time I bend down for a snap. He told me I’m not bending enough at the knees. My thighs start to burn. I look at the clock on my phone and we’ve been on the field for 12 minutes.“I’m at 10 yards now so it’s going to come in fast, can you catch?” he asked, setting the ball up at a distance in between punt and field goal snaps. I nodded.“I brought my gloves,” he continued. “There’s no shame in wearing them, my wife does when she catches for me.”I declined to wear the gloves and he shook his head as he got into his stance. He grunted as he snapped it and it looks like the ball was shot out of a pitching machine — an airtight spiral with the nose of the football bounding for my chest. The ball hits my hands and I think for a second that my thumb’s broken. When I look down there’s a five-fingered stop sign on the end of my right arm.“So that’s what it looks like,” I said to him, when what I really wanted to say was: “Did you feel that raindrop? We should call it a day.”Rodgers told me to try from 10 yards and I’m actually not too bad. The ball doesn’t zip like his but it gets there and is, for the most part, somewhat accurate. So he moved to 14 yards, which is about where the punter would stand.I bent down and looked through my legs and he looks like he’s standing on the other end of the field. He tells me that if I let my momentum takeover and get my legs into my follow through I should be just fine. When I let it go I don’t even look because I’m sure it’s anywhere but in his hands.“That could have been punted,” Rodgers said, which I learn is a real compliment in long snapping. “That was about 1.2 seconds, the goal is to get it to the punter in about 0.8.”He told me to try and get a little more on it and try for that 0.8-second mark. All the fundamentals and tips ran through my head and I let it rip, this time whipping around to admire my work.It bounced about 5 yards in front of him, skipped past his reach and rolled to midfield. It was one thing to complete one good snap, and a whole different beast to complete two in a row. I probably snapped around 50 times and got two votes of confidence from Rodgers: one “that could have been punted,” and one “that was fine.”When Syracuse’s new long snappers jog onto the field against Rhode Island on Friday night, I’ll be happy with my seat in the press box and sympathetic to any growing pains.“You did fine out there,” Rodgers said, smirking, after we finished up. “The first time’s hard for everyone.” Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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