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Photo: Silas Walker/Getty Images

On Sunday, Justin Tucker kicked the game-winning field goal to give the Ravens a thrilling 20-17 win over the 49ers. Snapping the ball was Morgan Cox, a former walk-on at Tennessee who signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and has been their long snapper ever since.

Why it matters: During his nine-year career, Baltimore — led by former special teams coach John Harbaugh — has had one of the most consistent kicking and punting units in the NFL. (Tucker has the best career field goal percentage ever; that doesn't happen without Cox.)

Interview: I spoke with Cox about life as an NFL long snapper.

1. How does one get into long snapping?

  • "I just started doing it one year in youth football, and every year after that I raised my hand when the coach asked who could long snap. In high school, I went to snapping camps at the University of Tennessee. I didn't even know guys were recruited to play long snapper in college — I just went because I wanted to do well for my high school."

2. What's unique about playing long snapper in the NFL?

  • "What's unique is that technically we're 'specialists' and lopped in with the kickers and punters, but we actually get to be real football players — blocking, running down the field and (attempting) tackling."
  • "On field goals, I'm looking through my legs while multiple 300-pound men are waiting to run through me. On punts, I snap the ball then I'm blocking/reacting and running downfield to bring down their best athlete. Then I go sit down for 10–30 minutes."

3. What's the best and worst part about the gig?

  • Best part: "The lack of notoriety. I get to be in the NFL and be good friends with some of the biggest stars in the sport while also being completely anonymous."
  • Worst part: "How few chances you get to be perfect. Other positions might play 65+ snaps per game, whereas I might have 12 snaps in a game. If something goes wrong, everyone knows about it. If you have the best snap of your life, virtually no one knows."

4. Who is your backup?

  • "This season, it's one of our tight ends, but it changes year-to-year. When I was a rookie, my backup was actually Willis McGahee, who had done some snapping in practice at the University of Miami."
  • "Funny story, actually: In Week 16 that year, I tore my ACL mid-game. I ended up playing through the injury, but I remember the fear in Willis' eyes when it dawned on him that he might have to go in and snap."

5. Who is the best NFL long snapper ever?

  • "A lot of people in my era look up to Patrick Mannelly and David Binn. Patrick played in the Windy City for 16 years and there's a college long snapping award named after him. David had a long career with the Chargers and was known for dating Pamela Anderson in her 'prime.'"

6. Do you have a favorite memory as a football player?

  • "It would be easy to say winning the Super Bowl in 2012, but the memory that first comes to mind was from eighth grade football. We had 16 players on the team at my small Christian private school and lost seven straight to start the year.
  • "During our final game, we had a chance to kick a game-winning field goal. Good snap ... good hold ... kick was shanked. BUT roughing the kicker was called.
  • "Our kicker was injured on the play, so our star player and running back came in to kick the second attempt. Good snap, good hold, GOOD KICK! Finished the season feeling like Super Bowl champs at 1-7."

7. How do you describe what's happening with your team right now?

  • "This team is so fun to be a part of. I've never seen anything like it."

Go deeper: Catching up with Michael Phelps 3 years after his last Olympic race

Go deeper

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.

4 hours ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to form team to solve consulate dispute

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meet in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel are planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by then President Donald Trump in 2019. Senior officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.

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