On the list of the most underrated jobs in football, there sits a player who no one notices until a mistake is made in his area of expertise. Games are all too often decided on his touch, but credit for winning a game is never placed upon his shoulders.
Welcome to the life of a long snapper. One bad snap can break a career. One great snap is all in a day’s work.
Long snapping is an art form not for the faint of heart. Guys like Denver Broncos long snapper, Lonie Paxton, aim to fly under the radar. They like to paint an image that has their kicker nailing the game winning field goal on account of the perfect snap to the place holder’s hands. A misguided ball can be a misguided loss.
A bad snap on a punt late in the game can cost a player his spot on the roster.
The level of specialization requires a more perfect spiral than what comes out of the quarterback’s hands. The snap must be executed while blocking and being hit by a handful of players. There’s no amount of “easy” associated with this job.
There aren’t many people who grow up dreaming of being a long snapper. There are no t-shirts that say “Chicks dig the long snapper.” The job is far from glamourous, and not many players have the skill or the character to grab the position by the cojones.
In the past, long snappers were merely big offensive linemen that just had to snap the ball, but now they have to snap, block, and run. It takes a real athlete to be a long snapper. Many people may not perceive it this way because long snappers can often be found hanging with the kickers on the sidelines at practice. Their practice routine is seen as easy, but not many teammates would trade positions with a long snapper when the game is on the line.
NFL.com put out a short video detailing The Life of the Long Snapper. It’s definitely worth a look.
The Broncos have a gem of a long snapper in Lonie Paxton. Paxton will enter his 12th season in the league. There are no amazing stats for Paxton except for the fact that he’s remained in the league this long and he’s only missed three games. He played nine seasons for the dynamic New England Patriots under Bill Belicheck. That leads anyone to believe that the guy has a good head on his shoulders.
For a team that was on its way to a 4-12 season, there was no room for mistakes on special teams. Paxton had a hand in preventing any mistakes on special teams from the get go.
For a long snapper who doesn’t take his job seriously, his time in the league will be short-lived. That’s the nature of a job where one play can change the trajectory of your career in, well, in a snap.
Extra credit: Watch this fun trick shot video made by rookie Zach Enyeart.