Today's Sideline Report is with Kansas sophomore long snapper Reilly Jeffers.
Jesse Newell: What’s the best part about long snapping?
Reilly Jeffers: The opportunity to get on the field. Being a part of the team and playing my role. There’s not a whole lot to it, but at the same time, there’s a whole lot to it.
Compared to other positions that I’ve played in the past, it’s a lot more mental. Just being focused, and if you screw up, you’ve got to go get the next snap.
JN: Is the toughest part mentally, then?
RJ: Yeah, I’d say it’s definitely the mental. Because it becomes a point where it’s muscle memory. You’ve got to focus on where you do it the same way every time. And if you screw up, it’s different from other positions. If a guy misses a tackle, you’ve got the next play. It maybe 20 or 30 plays before you get your next snap.
You’ve got to stay locked in mentally. I think that’s the biggest thing as far as the specialists go, kicker or snapper. If you screw up, you’ve got to go get it the next time. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself.
JN: When did you start long snapping?
RJ: My dad taught me how to do it in the third grade. I used always throw the ball around when I was younger. I looked up to Eric Crouch at Nebraska and quarterbacks.
I like throwing the ball, but I was a lineman-sized kid. So my dad was like, ‘Well, bend over and throw it between your legs.’ I did it in high school a little bit. I got hurt my junior year when I would have snapped it. Then my senior year, they were like, ‘Well, there’s no point. You didn’t do it last year.’ But I always knew how to do it. I was good at it. Coach Weis brought me in as a walk-on lineman, and they needed a backup long snapper. ‘Well, I know how to do it.’ The rest is history.
JN: How did that conversation go? They were looking for somebody to long snap?
RJ: They had some struggles as far as a backup long snapper my freshman year. They knew that I knew how to do it, because I had mentioned it. They were like, ‘Well, let’s check you out.’ After practice, I gave about five to 10 snaps, and they were like, ‘OK, you’ve got a job.’ I was like, ‘All right, well that works for me.’
JN: So all that happened when they took you out there?
RJ: Yeah, it was just after practice. Coach Bowen, when he was running punt team, was like, ‘All right, let’s see what you’ve got.’ I threw a couple back there, and it worked out.
JN: What’s a common misconception about long snappers?
RJ: Not athletic. (laughs) Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Dexter McDonald out there flying around.
I guess it would be they’re not really football players; they’re just kind of out there doing their thing. I think (teammate) John (Wirtel) and myself, we’d be able to play another position if we had to.
JN: What position would you play?
RJ: I’m not fast enough. I’d play offensive line. That’s what I played the whole time. I’d say that’s probably the biggest misconception.
JN: So you could play elsewhere?
RJ: Ah, if they needed me in a pinch.
JN: What was the highlight of your offseason?
RJ: Really seeing the guys come together as a team.
I think when you go 1-11, it can really run a team down. I don’t think that happened with this team at all. I think we came closer together as a team. I think we worked harder together as a team. I think we worked smarter together as a team. I think you could really see things start to mold together, and you could see that these guys really cared and bought in and wanted to win games. As far as me — because I want to win games as much as anybody else — I think seeing that, it gives you hope that, ‘No, we’re going to get this done.’ That would be the highlight for me.
JN: Do you have any routines or superstitions?
RJ: No, I’m kind of a chill guy when it comes to that. When I walk out there, I just kind of feel it. Like last year, when I played against South Dakota State, I thought I was going to be real nervous and everything. I kind of just went out there and was like, ‘All right, I got this.’ You just get loosened up and get ready to go. Just lock in.
JN: Do you have to be like that to be a long snapper?
RJ: At least for me, I know if I start thinking about something or I start tensing up, that’s when I’m going to screw up. I’m a relaxed, outgoing guy to begin with, so if I start locking up and start thinking about too much, that’s when I know I’m going to screw up. So I need to be out there kind of having fun.
I think that’s the biggest thing for me. Don’t turn it into a pressure situation for myself. Because when you get out there in front of 60,000 people, there’s going to be enough pressure already. So don’t put it on yourself. I’ve just got to go out there and have fun, sling it back there and I’ll be all right.
JN: Do you remember the first time you met Charlie Weis?
RJ: Sixth grade. My dad is in the media in South Bend (Indiana), and I used to tag along with him around Notre Dame and see what’s going on. I remember him just being out there. I introduced myself. He introduced himself, and that was it. It kind of just went on from there.
JN: What was the first impression when you met him?
RJ: This guy’s in charge. I don’t think that’s changed since. Through camps and school and sports and everything, I developed a pretty good friendship with Charlie Weis Jr. Tre' Parmalee and I have been friends since freshman year of high school. We would always be hanging out together.
It’s kind of crazy how it all worked out and we all ended up in Lawrence, Kansas.
JN: So did you have some interest in KU when Weis came here?
RJ: Definitely, yeah. My uncle had gone to KU. I’d always been a mild fan of KU. When coach Weis got the job, it was really like, ‘Oh.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ Then they asked me if I wanted to walk on, and I was like, ‘I definitely need to check this out.’ I kind of took a chance, and it all worked out.
JN: How much do you guys talk other sports in the locker room?
RJ: Right now, it’s the awkward time in sports. Football hasn’t really started. You’ve got baseball that some of the guys talk. We talked a lot of basketball when the playoffs were going on. You had a lot of LeBron supporters, you had a lot of anti-LeBron guys. It’s fun to watch them jaw back and forth.
Sports are the channel that is pretty much always on downstairs. We go back and forth on it. Then during football season, it’s always … you’ve got a bunch of Cowboys fans, a bunch of Texans fans.
JN: Who’s the loudest when it comes to cheering for their team?
RJ: Probably Ty McKinney talking about the Heat.
He’s not even from Miami, so I can’t even take him seriously as a Heat fan.
JN: Ever cried at a movie?
RJ: I’m sure I have. I can’t remember. Oh … when I was in third grade, I cried at Monsters, Inc., because it made me miss my mom or something.
It was weird. I was a little kid, and looking back, I was like, ‘What was I doing?’
JN: That’s not the usual response, you know.
RJ: I know. It got me.
JN: What’s something that would stand out if I walked into your room?
RJ: It’s actually clean. (laughs) Yeah, (offensive lineman) Joe Gibson and I try to keep our apartment pretty tidy. I think that would be your surprise: two college football players actually keeping their apartment pretty tidy.
JN: What do you hope to accomplish here at KU?
RJ: Win a lot of games. And get to that point where you’re like, ‘KU’s a basketball school, but their football team is damn good.’ I want the culture to change, and I want to win a lot of games, and I want to win bowl games. I want to get back to that level of the Orange Bowl victories and the Insight Bowl victories and year in, year out, you’re competing for the Big 12 at the highest level.