Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Long snappers are athletes too

Morgan Feltz / Advance-Titan — UWO long snapper Casey Webber warms up for a game during the 2023 football season.

Only one player for the UW Oshkosh football team played every possible snap at their position during the 2023 season. The player: Casey Webber. The position: long snapper.

“People forget about us long snappers until we mess up and only upon mishaps are we seen,” Webber said. “In some ways, the goal of a long snapper is to go unnoticed and unseen, which usually means you did your job.”

According to Webber, long snappers are one of the most forgettable positions in football. Snappers are usually seen yards away from their teammates during games and practices throwing balls between their legs with as tight of a spiral as a quarterback. Practically the definition of a “specialist,” long snappers rarely see the field during games, only entering play when their team needs a field goal or punt.

Webber said that most people he meets in public have no clue what a long snapper is.

“I have spent a lot of time attempting to explain what a snapper is and have often been met with looks of confusion,” Webber said. “I have to break down the position for people pretty regularly, and I’m typically met with either a look of complete confusion or a nod of the head as if the person knows exactly what I am talking about, even though it is very clear that they do not.”

Former UWO long snapper Noah Phillips said that long snappers are a vital part of special teams, one of the three phases of football.

“They are responsible for snapping an accurate and timely ball to the holder on a field goal and extra point and to the punter on a punt,” Phillips said. “A long snapper needs to be an athlete. This means delivering a perfect snap, having the strength to withhold a block and to have enough speed to run down the field in coverage to pursue the returner.”

Webber saw anywhere from six to 12 plays during Titan football games last season during his junior year, his first full year as a starter. He said even though snappers don’t get much playing time, they still have to be ready at all times because they never know when they’ll be needed to sprint out onto the field and throw a perfect snap between their legs.

“It is definitely weird not knowing when you will be called upon and in what situation, and this forces the utmost focus at all times during a game,” Webber said. “Regardless of the snap count, the focus and process remain the same: take it one snap at a time and treat every snap like it is my last. In other words, I do not get ahead of myself and think about the future, but rather focus on the here and now.”

According to Sports Illustrated, from the beginning of football up until the 1980s, long snappers were just back-up tight ends or other position players who were called into the game to snap a few balls and then went back to playing their original position.

While George Burman is credited with being the first dedicated long snapper in the NFL when he played for Washington in 1971, Steve DeOssie revolutionized the position when he was drafted as a linebacker and long snapper by the Dallas Cowboys in 1984. According to Sports Illustrated, DeOssie was one of the first long snappers to start handling rushers one-on-one, transforming the position into one not just about snapping the ball, but also about tackling and blocking.

Since DeOssie’s playing days, the position has become a lot more specialized. Webber and former UWO snapper Alex Meyer said that they both started long snapping in middle school, almost by accident.

“I believe I got into long snapping in sixth or seventh grade when they were looking for someone to try it out, and I gave it a shot and loved it,” Meyer said.

Webber said he was taught how to long snap by coach James Halford, an ex-marine who snapped for Indiana University.

“I first got into long snapping as a middle school football player after I was the only one that volunteered to try at the time,” Webber said. “In high school, I was the only one willing and the only one with a little experience, so I once again gave it a shot. Long snapping was very much a secondary thing that I did in high school to help the team, and only once I got to college did I start to really focus on it solely.”

Phillips took a little different route to becoming a snapper after he was recruited to go to UWO as a wide receiver. He said he battled injuries his first three years and was going to quit the team and coach until he found out that the long snapping position was open.

“I then proceeded to practice without any experience,” Phillips said. “I started watching videos and learning how to throw the ball in between my legs.” 

Phillips said he grew his skillset as a long snapper after visiting snapping coach Kyle Stelter in Eau Claire.

“Coach Stelter trains collegiate and professional long snappers,” Phillips said. “I learned so much from him and really polished up on my snapping. From there, it was repetition and countless hours of practice.”

Webber said that being a long snapper is just like any other position on the UWO football team.

“At the end of the day, we are all trying to have fun and win football games; it just happens to come in different forms regarding our impact on the team and duties on game day,” he said. “We all have the same goal in mind and the same mindset, which is to win as many games as we can.”

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