Call him a throwback, minus the leather helmet. Adam Snyder will do whatever coaches ask of him, and he'll do it to help his team win. In a year where everything has been about the team, the team, and of course, the team, Snyder has been a major factor in San Francisco's recent resurgence and stranglehold of the NFC's No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
The seven-year veteran has been through tough times, complete with position changes and coaching changes, and yet Snyder has never experienced a change in attitude. The 49ers third-round draft pick in 2005 has done something not many offensive linemen can lay claim to.
As of Week 3 in Cincinnati when starting center Jonathan Goodwin limped off the field with a minor injury, Snyder came off the bench to snap the ball for the first time ever. At that point in time, Snyder had played a down at every position on the offensive line in an NFL game.
"It's a cool story to tell your kids, 'I played all five positions on the offensive line in the NFL,'" Snyder said. "Not many people can say they've done that."
Snyder went on to make his first start of 2011 at right guard the following week in Philadelphia, kicking off a stretch of five straight 100-yard performances by Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore.
And while Snyder had to go through difficult times to experience his best year of his professional career in 2011, the versatile, unselfish player has continued to do what he knows best, go to work while taking immense pride in everything he does.
"Saying it's a double-edged sword is kind of harsh," said Snyder of his plight. "The versatility has kept me in the league this long I think and that's a good thing. It's going to continue to be something I can do, but I think at the same time, having the opportunity to play one position, I think I've shown if I'm able to lock into one thing, I can be a really good football player."
DOING IT ALL
At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Snyder is big enough to play tackle and nimble enough to play guard or center. Call it a gift. Call it a curse. Snyder calls it doing whatever's needed from an offensive lineman. And that's even if it means playing any position on the line at a moment's notice, as was the case in Cincinnati.
"He's been asked to do it and never really made a big stink about it," said 49ers Pro Bowl left tackle and Snyder's closest friend in the locker room, Joe Staley. "He's always accepted it and I'm just happy he's gotten the opportunity to play one position. He's done really well."
Position flexibility dates back to Snyder's time in college at the University of Oregon. Current teammate Justin Peelle was also with Snyder in Eugene, recalling how good of an attitude a then bleach-blonde Snyder had when it came to football.
"He just wanted to work hard – you could tell," said Peelle, a 10-year veteran in his first season with the 49ers. "He was a big recruit from what I can remember. He was highly touted but he didn't come off that way. He just worked for the right to play."
Snyder was a three-year starter in college, who played in 49 games at three different positions: right guard, right tackle and left tackle. He later won the Morris Trophy given to the Pac-10's top lineman and was picked 94th overall by the 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Versatility on the offensive line followed Snyder to San Francisco. Though he's yet to start a game at center, Snyder has made 69 starts in 107 career games. The breakdown goes as follows: 21 starts at left tackle, 10 at left guard, 17 starts at right guard and 21 at right tackle.
"It's hard enough to play one position on the line," second-year right tackle Anthony Davis said. "That's why you've got to respect that man. He's just a football player."
There's been a stream of blood trickling down from the bridge of Snyder's nose at various times this season, usually a result from the most physical encounters in the trenches. It's not a concern to Snyder. He just puts on his helmet and goes back to work.
"I've always had the attitude that it's my job to come here and do whatever they ask of me," Snyder said. "I'm going to try and do the best I can."
So if he's asked at a moment's notice to play at tight end or fullback in the team's jumbo formations, Snyder is up to task. In doing so, Snyder has endeared himself to teammates, especially the ones he spends the most time with in the team's offensive line meeting room.
"I just love playing with Adam," Davis added. "Snydes is a player. He can play every position on the line at a starter's level and he's a good dude, one of my favorite people of all-time. I feel like away from home, that's my big brother."
So why would a 22-year-old lineman from Piscataway, N.J., relate so much to a 29-year-old from Fullerton, Calif.?
"He's the kind of guy I want to go to battle with," Davis said. "I know he has my back. I know I have his."
Not only does Snyder display toughness, key to the success of a lineman in the National Football League, he shows compassion towards his younger teammates. Chalk it up to his experience inside the 49ers meeting rooms with the likes of Eric Heitmann, Larry Allen and Barry Sims, to name a few.
"That's what they did for me when I was younger," Snyder shared. "Those guys took me under their wing and showed me how to do it, showed me how to be a professional. I look at it like paying it forward, treat those guys that are coming here with respect, they're my teammates."
And that even means opening his doors to let young linemen hang out with him, his wife Erika and two sons, 3-year-old Kael and 1-year-old Zane.
"Part of being an offensive lineman is you hang out with that group of guys and you get to know them on and off the field," Snyder detailed. "We have a great room, a great group of guys and it's been that way for seven years."
San Francisco's pair of rookie linemen, Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person equally appreciate Snyder's wisdom and generosity.
"He's a true professional," said Kilgore, who's played center in practice this year in addition to guard. "He's usually the first one here, sitting in the hot tubs, cold tubs, getting his workout in. His work ethic inside the facility and on the field is tremendous."
"I feel like he's done it whole-heartedly," Person added. "He always helps all the young guys."
When Staley arrived in San Francisco as a rookie in 2007, it didn't take long for the outgoing lineman to find a friend in the easy-going Snyder. "He was a goober," Staley remarked of his first impression of Snyder. "I still think he's a goober… Naw, Adam's a great guy. He's one of the best guys I've known."
It didn't take long for the two to become close friends, if not best friends.
"He's a huge family man," Staley continued. "He has a great family, great kids. He really works hard. There's not enough good things you can say about him as a person."
But are they best friends?
"He's like my fifth," Staley joked. "No, yeah, he probably is."
As Staley evolved into a media favorite, starting his own 49ers.com show in 2008, Snyder was always around to take part in the antics of "The Joe Show," now on its fourth season. He wasn't the official co-host, but Snyder's frequent appearances made him a regular on the show.
It also gave the duo another vehicle to share their brand of humor.
So what does Snyder actually bring to "The Joe Show?"
"Nothing," said Staley with a deadpan glare. "He's really not funny. His segments are just ehh… Really, there's just a lot of inside jokes. Adam and I have a lot of inside jokes. From the outside looking in, they're not really funny. But it's hilarious to us."
In-house banter translates to success on the field. Though the friendship can be tested in tough moments in competition, the bond has allowed all the linemen to succeed throughout the year.
"We're like brothers," Snyder said of his relationship with Staley. "We can get into some fights. We don't get along all the time, but we're best friends. It's a unique relationship to have that with somebody in the NFL. You think the NFL being about guys not really hanging out with each other, but we've gotten to know each other really well."
TALKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS
It's not hard to spot Snyder on 49ers game film. According to teammates, he's the one always around the ball looking to finish his blocks. Time and time again, it's a repeated tradition, seeing No. 68 moving all over the place in order to get in front of an opposing defender.
"He's always finishing his blocks," Kilgore said. "His approach to the game as a whole and the professionalism he brings to the table is just unreal."
When Snyder's not demonstrating how to finish every play on the field, he's answering questions in the meetings rooms, aiding line coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno.
"He's a guy who keeps our offensive line room sane. He's the ringleader. He's our leader," Kilgore added. "In our offensive line room, we go by what Adam Snyder says. He takes control and we do what he asks. We stand behind him."
Snyder's professionalism and on-field demeanor has rubbed on his younger teammates, Davis especially.
"He makes you want to do your job so he can get what he deserves and what we all deserve," Davis said. "I know we've all been working, but guys like that, deserve it especially."
The 49ers will have to earn their way to the NFC Championship game by beating the New Orleans Saints on Saturday in a matchup against an aggressive defensive line the 49ers saw briefly in the preseason opener on Aug. 12.
Snyder will be focused on his playoff debut, but will continue the preparation habits that have made him such a consistent contributor.
"I'm going to do the same things I always do which is study hard and know what I'm doing on the field," he said. "The bye week was for getting your techniques dialed in so when we do play on Saturday, we'll be at our finest."
Snyder's teammates expect him to be just that, at his finest.
"Adam will be the first one to tell you, we don't care about it being our first time in the playoffs," Staley said. "We just want to play football and win. The past is the past. We're focused on this season… And he's been a big reason for why we are here."
An unsung hero?