*Brian Jennings is one of the elite long snappers in the NFL and
has played each of his seven seasons for the 49ers. In both 2005 and 2006, Jennings recorded no errors, handling wet and windy conditions with ease. He was named to the 2004 Pro Bowl and is one of the best tackling long snappers in the league. Below, he shares his thoughts on how to become effective at the often unheralded position of long snapper... *
Most Important Quality:
Well, you have to be able to throw and hit targets. A lot of guys who are long snappers grew up playing baseball and sports like that where you have to have accuracy. You have to have great hand-eye coordination. If you go throw a dart, shoot a basketball or throw a baseball, you have to have the hand-eye coordination to know what's going to happen with whatever you're trying to get done.
Basically, you want to put yourself in a position where you can't miss. It sounds easy, but you want to get yourself in a position where you can keep your legs and your hips low so you don't miss and send the ball over the punter's or the holder's head. You don't want to miss high, so you really have to keep your hips low. Then with your arms, it's almost like a chest pass in basketball. Your right hand and your left hand are working together.
When I'm coaching, I have guys start out by snapping with a round ball so they learn good body position first and they learn how to create a spiral last. I'll have them use a basketball, volleyball, soccer ball, something like that. Even a very light medicine ball from 4 or 5 yards can really teach guys to use their hips and their lats and the biggest muscles in their body so they can be consistent when they snap a football.
The last thing that I try to teach is the spiral. That's the magic! That's the art! That's really the hardest part. That's where the size of your hands, and where the ball is in your stance really play a huge role. Everything goes into making the ball spiral, and that's the part that's very hard to describe. When I was a kid, we had a 'nerf turbo' and in order to make it spiral you had to put your index finger on the end of the ball. That's basically my grip with my right hand - the 'nerf turbo' grip. In my other hand I put I my index finger on the opposite seem of the laces, so that way my hands are symmetrical on the ball. They're each doing about half the work. My right hand does a little bit more of the work because I'm right-handed. You really want it to be a 50-50 split. I'm about a 60-40 split. It helps me get a consistent, accurate snap every single time and the ball turns into a spiral after I let it go.
A lot of long snappers aren't blocked after they snap the ball. That's why last year, I was really able to make an impact by making some tackles and making some plays down field. When I'm not blocked at the line of scrimmage, I'll maybe try to chip for one of the other guys and get down field. I've been fortunate enough to go down there, read the return, recognize what they're trying to do and every once in a while the returner runs into me and I drag him down. I'm just trying to do my job and help out as much as possible. So, even if you are a long snaper, be prepared to make tackles. Your job isn't done once you snap the ball.
Dealing with Bad Weather Conditions:
You have to practice to the point where you know that there's nothing bad that can happen. You need to get to a point where there's no conditions, not wind, not wet, and not cold that can prevent you from delivering the football accurately. It all comes from repetition and if you want to be the best, if you don't want to be the guy to cost your team a game because of a bad snap, you have to put in the effort. You have to have the confidence to know that there's nothing mother nature can throw at you that will prevent you from doing your job flawlessly. So, that means, when conditions are bad, go out and practice!
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