I have an older brother by 5 years.
He came home after his freshman season of playing on the University of Notre Dame’s football team and was looking for a way to get on the field quicker. He thought being able to longsnap would help him out in that regard.
My dad contacted a family friend, Rod Dowhower, who coached for the Atlanta Falcons at the time, to find out any information on the art of longsnapping. Coach Dowhower gave us a small two page pamphlet with an outline of some basic information on how to longsnap.
My brother and I took the pamphlet and a football to the front yard and began working on longsnapping. This was 1989, the summer between my 7th and 8th grade year. My brother was working on his longsnapping and I was catching the snaps and throwing the ball back to him.
After about 15 minutes or so, I wanted a try. I bent over and snapped one back. It sailed back straight and with a spiral. It was not perfect by any means but this is when I figured out that longsnapping came naturally to me.
I understood the importance of the longsnapper position to a team and that August I decided I wanted to be a longsnapper on my 8th grade team. I had worked my butt off the rest of the summer to learn more of the craft. I won the job and took pride in being our team’s longsnapper for the rest of my high school career.
I was recruited to play college football as an offensive/defensive lineman but colleges also noticed my longsnapping ability. This helped get my name out there to more schools.
While looking at colleges, I took 4 official visits: University of Georgia, Boston College, University of North Carolina and Duke University.
After visiting each school, I knew that Duke University was the place for me. I ended up starting for 2 years on the offensive line but longsnapped all 4 years I played.
During my junior year I found out that the pro scouts had some interest in me. They had some interest in my offensive line play but more interest in my longsnapping ability. NFL Hall of Famer Joe Delamielleure, my offensive line coach at the time, told me that scouts were asking about me when they stopped by to look at potential pro prospects.
After he told me this I started to think that there might be a possibility of playing in the NFL. Fortunately, I had a Special Teams coach at Duke, Joe Deforest , who knew a lot about longsnapping and was instrumental in helping me to fine tune.
After the season I interviewed agents and decided to go with Don and Brooks Henderson who I had for my entire 16 year career. From there I began my combine/pro workout training. I moved back home to Atlanta to train with Chip Smith, because he is the best out there.
I was not invited to the Pro Combine but I had a few workouts back at Duke for the scouts. Luckily at that time, the rules allowed you to have workouts within 30 miles of your home. Keith Brooking was coming out of Georgia Tech that year and was a top prospect. I was friendly with the Georgia Tech coaching staff and they allowed to me to attend the Georgia Tech workout day. Because of Keith almost every GM in the NFL was in attendance for the workout.
I felt like I had a good day for me and was excited for what I put out there. Mark Hatley, the Bears GM at the time, was there and I knew they had some interest. A few weeks after the workouts I took visits to different teams: Tennessee Titans, New York Giants, Chicago Bears.
The draft was right around the corner and I had a feeling of what teams were interested and I had a feeling I was going to be a free agent signing to a late round draft pick. The Bears had shown the most interest throughout this entire process. After day one of the draft (back then there were only two days) I started to get excited to see where I was going to end up. When the 5th round came around I began to get nervous. Once it gets this late in the draft people told me it might be best to not get drafted that way you can choose between teams who want to sign you.
But I thought it would be cool to say you were drafted. The Bears did not have a longsnapper on their roster and picked me at pick 189, the last pick in the 6th round. When the clock started for pick 189 my phone rang. To this day I still do not remember who I talked to but they asked me if any other teams had been calling. A few minutes before the Bears called the Packers had called asking the same question but the Packers did not have their next pick until later in the 7th round. After I answered their question they said to check the TV because we just drafted you!
Thank God they did because they believed in me and gave me a chance to win the job. They told me if you can do it, it’s yours.
After the first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens I knew I could snap in the NFL.