Long snappers rarely receive accolades, but one errant snap can garner plenty of grief and guilt. "Trust me, if I make a mistake—whether it’s in the first or fourth quarter of a game, or even at practice—I’ve got two coaches and six players yelling at me to get it right," says Washington Redskins long snapper Ethan Albright.
"To avoid bad snaps, I constantly work on my technique at practice," he says. "I take my job very seriously, because many games come down to a last-second field goal or the ability to get off a punt to end a game," says Albright, who was rewarded with a spot at the 2008 Pro Bowl.
Most snapping techniques are universal, but below, the 13-year NFL veteran shares his expertise, offering some of the finer points that can improve your skill. Read his advice and practice your technique; your reward might come in the form of a D-I scholarship.
Pro Bowl Technique/Grip [for right-handers]
• Grip the ball’s laces like a QB, with your right hand
• Place your left hand directly on top of the ball as a guide hand
• Use a shoulder-width stance for punts. For field goals and extra points, widen your stance and drop your hips to get lower to handle the rush from D-linemen
• Keep your head down the entire time, focusing on the target. Ball control and location are more important than anything
• Get a pre-snap read on the defense, then have a teammate call out any formation shifts when your head is down
• Avoid trying to guide the ball during follow-through, which leads to erratic snaps
• Hit the punter between his thighs and chest; on FGs/ XPs, aim for holders raised hand
Mastering Albright’s Art
• Start refining your longsnapping skills early. Continue playing other positions, but great long snappers can attract attention from colleges-even if you’re slightly undersized or a hair too slow for D-I
• Practice, practice, practice so snapping becomes second nature
• Performing special wrist exercises or using a weighted ball are unnecessary. At practice, just grab the punter/holder and pump out perfect repetitions