Tale of the Long Snapper
The first time I stepped onto the field to start my first-ever football practice, my ten-year-old self envisioned 60-yard touchdown runs, college scholarships and the NFL. I had it all planned out. I was going to be the most electrifying running back this world has ever seen.
That dream died quicker than the goldfish I won at a carnival. Unable to look past my portly appearance and “unique” running style, my coached told me that my talents would not be needed in the offensive backfield. Instead, I embarked on a career that would be defined by anonymity and would be absent of all glory: the offensive line. As much as I loved the position, there would be no electrifying 60-yard touchdowns. Under appreciated and unknown.
However, there is one man on a football field that gets less respect and glory than an offensive lineman. That man, recognized more by his butt than his face, is the long snapper. The common fan may ask, “What is a long snapper? You mean the center?” No, the center and the long snapper are not the same thing. The long snapper lives a high risk, low reward lifestyle. Only gracing the field to snap the ball on punts and field goals, the position is like Hailey’s Comet. You don’t see him often, but when you do, it is magical.
To educate you, the common fan, about possibly the most special of all the special teamers, Cornell long snapper Mack Pope has given us an inside look into his career.
RC: How has your preparation for a game changed compared to when you played a skill position?
MP: It hasn’t changed that much. I still play tight end as well as long snapper. I have had to devote some time during practice and before games to warm up for snapping prior to warming up for tight end.
RC: How do you think the pressure you feel on an important snap compares to the pressure felt by your kicker?
MP: I think that it is a similar pressure The kicker and I both have jobs that require precision and speed and any variation in the operation can cause us to miss a kick or get a punt blocked. I am not going to lie though, it can be pretty nerve racking. That’s why you practice, to make the tough movements come natural to you even under pressure.
RC: What does playing such a niche position mean to you?
MP: It means a lot to me. Snapping isn’t my favorite aspect of football by a long shot but I want to help the team any way I can. By helping in the operation, I can help score points and change the field position which makes me feel that I am contributing to the team in the best way I can.
RC: One a scale of one to 10, how much should the Ivy League game plan for you?
MP: Probably a seven. On punt I am usually one of the first ones down the field so I feel that the other teams have to take me into consideration when they draw up the scheme for returns.