Vance McDonald Takes Pride in Backup Longsnapping Duties

"The more you can do" – a popular mantra that is heard in every NFL locker room.

Most players use it around the time of final roster cuts.

Special teams is often the best avenue to showcase versatility. Players stray from their normal positions to make an impact on coverage teams or help protect on punts and field-goal attempts.

Garrett Celek's roster spot was never in danger, but that doesn't stop the San Francisco 49ers starting tight end from doing his part in the third phase of the game. The fourth-year pass-catcher is also the team's second-string longsnapper.

That's right. If something were to happen to Kyle Nelson on gameday – a situation we hope remains a hypothetical – it's McDonald who would have his number called. It's a role he's held since entering the league in 2013. The depth chart released earlier this week confirms he still owns the job.

"During my rookie season, our special teams coach yelled me over to start deep snapping," McDonald remembered. 

The 49ers had seen McDonald's college game film at Rice University. San Francisco's tight end began longsnapping in high school and served as a backup in college.

Unlike his time in the pros, McDonald was called in to action at Rice. The Owls were without their starting longsnapper for games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in 2009.

"I had to go out as a true freshman and deep snap in both of those games," McDonald said. "I was terrified. … It's so nerve-racking. My thing is that I just throw it back as hard as I can.

"I didn't have a bad snap. I remember praying and just waiting to hear the ball kicked. But I was good every time."

One half of action during McDonald's senior season was the extent of his longstapping career at Rice. So when called upon at practice as a rookie with the 49ers, the tight end was a bit rusty.

"I'll never forget my first snap," McDonald said. "I launched it over the fence, into the parking lot because it had been about a year since I'd done it."

McDonald gets 20 reps at his secondary position every other day after practice along with starter Kyle Nelson. The two have friendly competitions, and McDonald jokes that he's coming for Nelson's job.

The back-and-forth, however, is just that – jokes. Nelson's job is safe.

"Let's hope that we stay healthy in that position," he laughed.

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