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Archive for Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Snap judgment

Long-snapper position high on pressure, low on prestige

Kansas long-snapper Kayl Anderson (56) lines up next to Russell Brorsen (81) during warmups prior to KU's game against Sam Houston State. Anderson says the position comes with a sense of anonymity that suits him just fine.

Kansas long-snapper Kayl Anderson (56) lines up next to Russell Brorsen (81) during warmups prior to KU's game against Sam Houston State. Anderson says the position comes with a sense of anonymity that suits him just fine.

September 30, 2008

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Long snapper fills niche on the team

It's no secret that the star of any football team is normally the quarterback. So, who receives the least amount of attention while, at the same, doing an extremely important job? The answer just might be KU long snapper Kayl Anderson. Enlarge video

Most likely, you do not know the name Kayl Anderson.

He is a fourth-year student at Kansas University. He is originally from Tulsa, Okla., and he is currently a widely unknown member of the Kansas football team, where his duties include, mostly, throwing footballs under his butt.

Anderson is the Jayhawks' starting long snapper, which means that, a few times every Saturday, he bends over and shoots a ball through his legs toward a waiting punter or kicker before quietly making his way to the sideline until his services are needed once more.

There is no place for him in the stat book. No ways to evaluate his performances quantitatively. No opportunity for applause or the vaguest sniff of formal recognition.

In fact, save for a small bio in the Kansas football team's media guide (his favorite local restaurant is West Coast Saloon and his favorite athlete is Larry Bird, in case you were wondering), there is no significant evidence of Anderson's football existence.

Which, as it happens, is exactly how he likes it.

"Most of the time, if someone knows who you are, it's because you screwed up," says Anderson, a fourth-year junior. "So I guess it's better for fans not to know who I am."

Anderson's job rundown is relatively simple: Get the ball to where it needs to go. Do it quickly (0.75 seconds is considered a quality collegiate time), and do it accurately. Assuming the aforementioned steps go off without incident, do your best to block the defender charging toward you - which, because the shortest point between two distances is a straight line, is oftentimes the fastest player on the opposing defense.

Because hurriedly throwing a ball backwards between your legs is not the most natural of human acts, however, coaches say it takes a special kind of athlete to succeed at the position.

"That's kind of a misnomer about a long snapper," says Lawrence High football coach Dirk Wedd of the simpleton's view of the position. "You're snapping the ball between your legs, and it takes a lot of coordination. ... (You've) got to have some talent as far as hand-eye coordination goes."

At the same time, there is not a prototypical body-type best suited for the position, at least as far as Kansas coach Mark Mangino is concerned.

"I've had guys that are 270-pound linemen do it, I've had 195-pound receivers do it, I've had linebackers do it," Mangino says. "... There's no set profile for that guy, what he should look like, what he should be."

Take Anderson. He is 6-foot-2, 250 pounds. Built like a Mack truck. But in junior high, he realized he was too small to start on the offensive line and figured his best shot to get onto the field was to work as the team's long snapper.

He has been doing it ever since.

At Lawrence High last year, meanwhile, the Lions' quarterback moonlighted as the team's long snapper.

Down the road at Free State High, Jack Caywood - a waterbug who wrestled in the 140-pound weight class last year as a member of the Firebirds' wrestling team - is currently handling long-snapping duties in addition to playing linebacker and running back.

Despite the anonymity afforded by the position, though, there is no lack of available information on the subject of long-snapping.

Various camps exist solely for the purpose of teaching young men how to successfully execute a long snap - Anderson, for instance, has attended camps in Chicago and California in an effort to hone his blocking and accuracy, among other things - while the Web site ProKicker.com has taken the liberty of compiling a list of the top 100 high school long snappers in the country.

For athletes hoping to crack that list one day, meanwhile, the fine people at www.essentialsoflongsnapping.com would like you to know that you can purchase their instructional video and manual for the special introductory price of just $44.95 (plus shipping and handling).

All this for a position that goes largely unnoticed by 99.6 percent of the football-watching population.

But Anderson's not complaining. When not refining his technique during the Jayhawks' practices - he snaps approximately 40 times per practice before retiring to the sideline - he has an all-access, behind-the-scenes pass to the country's 16th-ranked college football team.

"It's kind of cool, because I'm a huge fan," says Anderson, sounding the part. "So I get a front-row seat to watch these guys every day."

Comments

Rickyonealku 6 years, 2 months ago

The Kicking Game starts with the deep snapper....bad snap results....bad field position....

cellogrl 6 years, 2 months ago

But Kayl is awesome so we don't have to deal with bad snap results. You rock Kayl! Yay West Coast Saloon! Best burgers in town!

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