Dec 3, 2019

Life as an NFL long-snapper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports

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."

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