Football’s Unsung Hero: The Long Snapper

By Bob Labbe

The sport of football is usually highlighted by outstanding plays by the offense, tough defensive plays and kicking gems that sometimes win or lose games. Throughout the entire tough physical action in football stands one unheralded, unsung hero…the long snapper.

The long snapper has quickly become a treasured commodity of any football team and college football scouts scurry the country for that player that can handle the “art” of long snapping a football on punts and place kicking plays. A good long snapper can name their destiny in college football and into professional football.

Just ask each of the head coaches at the two high schools here in Madison and you’ll receive an answer that echoes the statement that long snappers are gold for any football team.

“It is impossible to produce a championship football team without quality long snappers as they are vital to having a good kicking game,” said Kevin Rose, of Bob Jones.

“The long snapper is a difficult position to fill because of the technique involved. It’s like a golf swing. If your technique is not perfect, the result is a bad snap,” stated Bill Stewart, of James Clemens.

Bob Jones utilizes two long snappers in its program. Dylan Haraway snaps on punts while Hunter Card has the same difficult duties on place kicking plays.
At James Clemens, Ryan Parris is responsible for all of the long snapper activities.

Long Snapper Training Camps

Parris has attended several long snapping camps over the last two years and his talents have put him in the 2013 National Long Snapping Competition to be held next January in Las Vegas. Over a two year period Parris has visited long snapper camps as far away as Los Angeles. In the City of Angels, Parris was among 50 elite long snappers from across the country. Within the camp, a long snapper competition was held and the 15-year old Parris finished among the top 10.

“I found out these camps were available so I began attending as many as I could,” said Parris, a sophomore for the Jets. “Attending these camps I quickly saw what talent it takes to be a good long snapper and what I needed to learn to go to the next level at that position as I also play center for our team.”
Camps for this specialized position have grown tremendously over the past decade. College teams are now searching for a lineman who can handle the talents of a long snapper. The position is crucial for any team.

Earlier this season, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders found out just how important a long snapper is to a team. The squad’s long snapper was injured during a game, the backup came into the game, but his talents were not up to a good caliber and those talents were showcased as several bad snaps caused the Raiders to lose its game.

Bob Jones Snapping Duo

For the 16-year old Haraway, a junior for the Pats, he played football in the local youth leagues and at Liberty Middle School before making his way to Bob Jones where he plays linebacker for the Patriots’ defense and gives his best as being a long snapper.

“I just started long snapping this year as our team needed a snapper so I tried out,” said Haraway. “Coaches showed me how to hold the football and I soon found out I had pretty good form and have stayed with it throughout the season. I go through about 30 snaps at each team practice. By the third week of the season, it felt natural for me to be a long snapper.”

For Card, he is strictly a long snapper for the Pats. He attended a special team’s camp this summer at Mississippi State University as a punter, but picked up a ball and began to long snap before the watchful eyes of the coaches at the camp.

“Yeah, those coaches encouraged me to possibly look at becoming a long snapper,” said Card, 16. “I went home and began practicing in my backyard. I also watch intensely to Alabama’s long snapper, Carson Tinker, who recently was awarded a full scholarship for the Crimson Tide.”

In just his second year of playing football and being seen by coaches at practices snapping the ball, Card tried out as a long snapper at Bob Jones. He quickly excelled at the skill position and became the starter on place kicking plays.

All In The Family
For Parris, the junior began his long snapper escapade while playing football at Liberty Middle School. His inspiration to tryout for the position came from his father, Butch Parris, who once was a long snapper during his playing days. The father-son duo would spend a lot of good personal time together in the family’s backyard going through long snapping drills and instructions.

“My father would tell me to snap the ball harder and harder over and over again to help me get to where I was pretty good,” said Parris. “He taught me to use my whole body in making a long snap. It’s vital to making that perfect snap as you want to put the ball at the punter’s waist in height so the ball can be properly handled. On place kicks, the ball needs to be right where the holder asks for the ball to be snapped to. My father did a great job of teaching me.”

Parris knows how important the long snapper position has become to college and professional teams and he’s making plans now to try and make it to college for a full scholarship ride through his talents as a long snapper. He has sent out videos of his long snapping talents to colleges. Parris added, “This may be the easiest way for me to obtain a scholarship as I’m not big in size and probably won’t play on the offensive line at the next level.”

Practice Makes Perfect

“Its repetition,” said Haraway, whose older brother, Dustin, is a senior linebacker for Bob Jones. “Practice is essential to making a good long snap.”

There are four basics ingredients that make up a good snap on a punt or place kicking play. First, the snapper must have a good balanced, comfortable stance as he leans over to grab the ball. Second is good flexibility. The snapper must have the ability to bend over, grab the ball and look between his legs at his target. Thirdly, and most importantly, a great follow through after the release of the ball makes for a perfect spiral and direction of the snap and quickness needed to get to the awaiting target.

“Ryan is an accurate snapper with great velocity,” said Stewart of his talented long snapper. “That is critical when it comes to the kicking game. Ryan works very hard at perfecting his skills.”

Rose added, “A player that can perfect this skill will be able to find a home in college football and a way to get on the field.”

“I feel confident 100-percent of the time that I will make a good snap. It’s a special skill to have,” said Card.