- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before speaking with Notre Dame commit Scott Daly, my knowledge of long-snapping came, in large part, from former Penn State snapper Larry Federoff's hilarious YouTube montages. Daly, sadly, had never heard about the videos until I told him.
The second Irish player ever recruited to play long-snapper (Jordan Cowart is the first), Daly has been busy honing his technique from the fifth grade on. A former pitcher and first baseman, Daly originally had his sights set on baseball before giving it up for something more during his sophomore year of high school. He picked the Irish over Northwestern and now hopes that his sister Caitlyn, a high school sophomore, can be the one in the family to earn a scholarship on the diamond.
Daly will arrive on campus this summer, and he hopes to major in business. Here, the Downers Grove (Ill.) South senior and inaugural Chris Rubio Award winner discusses the uniqueness of his position and circumstance, one he never envisioned when he first took the gridiron as a kid.
Not too many kids grow up wanting to be a long snapper. How did you end up at the position?
Scott Daly: Well really I started in fifth grade. I really started off because I was the only kid who could long snap, and [I] didn't really think much of it. But my coaches kept on telling me that it came natural to me and that if I keep up I could possibly snap in college, and I didn't really think much of it at first because I was a baseball player. I thought I was going to be playing college baseball. But I kept at it and then my sophomore year my sophomore head coach told me to go to a few camps because I was really good. So then I hooked up with Coach [Chris] Rubio who ended up being my long-snapping coach from then on, and just stuck with him, fell in love with him and he's just an incredible person and without him I wouldn't be in the position that I am today.
When you were told to go to camp for long-snapping, was that something that you even knew existed at the time?
SD: I honestly did not. I was willing to do the whole long-snapping and football everything — again, I was more of a baseball player. But the second I went to his camp it was just so well-run. It was so organized. Focusing on the drills more than quantity over quality. And just very well-run. Coach Rubio's a phenomenal person and a phenomenal instructor. And he told me that I had a lot of potential and I just kept sticking to it. I worked my tail off snapping every day, doing drills every day, working out. And then starting last year I started doing yoga to increase my flexibility, doing speed training and just working my tail off, and that's why I'm in the position I am today.
What position were you playing before you were asked to snap?
SD: At first I was actually playing center. I played center for about three years, and then my eighth grade year I was a tall and lanky baseball player so they put me at quarterback that year. And my freshman year they put me all over the place — I played long-snapper, tight end, quarterback, fullback, linebacker. And then my sophomore year I played long-snapper and offensive tackle. And then my junior year they moved me to tight end as I got a little more athletic, along with long-snapper. And then this last year I played tight end along with long-snapper.
How far back do your football dreams go? Did you ever envision yourself going to the third-winningest college football program of all-time because of your ability to snap the ball between your legs? Is that something that even crossed your mind maybe eight, 10 years ago?
SD: Absolutely not. I never dreamed of this, but I'm so very blessed and I thank God every day to have this opportunity. [It's] just more and more motivation for me to keep my game better and to make myself better each and every day so I can enjoy every moment when I get there and I can make an impact the second I step on campus in June.
Jordan Cowart was the first-ever Notre Dame player to receive a full scholarship for long-snapping. Have you talked to him at all, and is there an understanding with the different kind of pressure that comes with gaining a scholarship at this position?
SD: I haven't really talked to Jordan that much. The visits I've been to Notre Dame, I've only gotten to talk to him once but it wasn't very long. I think there's definitely a lot of pressure coming as a long-snapper as you're only out there for a few plays and they expect perfection out of you. It's not like any other positions where, if you're a quarterback, if you have a bad play you shake it off and then you get another play right after that. Long-snapping you have to go out there for one play every 20-30 minutes and then you gotta think about that play after, either if it's good or it's bad, and then gotta go out there and do it again. So it's a very pressure-filled situation, but Chris Rubio's definitely helped that. He works on mental toughness a lot, putting you in pressure-filled situations, and it definitely helps.
Was there a point or a moment where it really hit you that, Wow, I can get a free education out of this position?
SD: It didn't really cross my mind until I started going to college camps and getting myself out there and being proactive about getting myself out there, being recruited by these schools. The camp I went to at Northwestern, the coaches really started approaching me and telling me that they were very interested in me and possibly talking about recruiting me and then possibly offering me a scholarship later. And it was just such a shock to me. I never thought that I'd be getting scholarships. And hearing from Chris Rubio that only a few guys at first, the top couple guys, would get scholarships.
But now more and more guys each and every year are getting scholarships, because these coaches are now seeing how important special teams is and how, if you look at games like the NFC and AFC championship games, all coming down to a field goal. And even these big college games are coming down to special teams, and it's that one-third of the game that can really make a difference, and it's a very big part of the game.
How do you work on it? What are some of the drills and exercises?
SD: Chris Rubio does a lot of great drills and workouts to help everyone perfect their long-snapping drills. And just working on my form is really huge. Just doing a lot of slow-motion drills with snaps. Doing slow-motion drills, following through and then do quick drills, like full-speed snaps without a ball, to work on that quickness. And then also like I said, doing yoga to increase that flexibility because it's very key, so if you can be more flexible it allows you to get a lot quicker with your hands and your legs and allows your speed to get faster and with that muscle-memory comes your accuracy and consistency, and that's very huge for any long-snapper. You wanna get it under that right hip every single time so it makes it a lot easier for your punter. So doing those drills every single day has really helped me become a top long-snapper and I just continue doing those drills and snapping every single day so I can keep on getting better and better.
What are the differences between snapping for a punt and a field goal? Is it kind of the same thing with just a tweak here or there, or is it a completely different exercise?
SD: It's pretty much the same thing except for on field goals you wanna widen your legs a little bit so it's more of an arm movement and not so much of a leg movement — seven or eight yards, depending on each school, but really on PATs you wanna make your legs a little bit wider so you can have more arm movement instead of leg movement so you're more accurate and it allows your feet not to fall back because the offensive guards next to you, the second you snap that ball, they're putting their legs behind your ankle so it causes you not to get a kind of ankle injury or Achilles injury.
What is your range of timing with field goals and punts?
SD: College coaches really look for around a 0.8 snap time to the punter, and I've been timed by Chris Rubio at 0.6 and I've worked extremely hard to get there and I think that's very fast. I've been told it's very fast. So I just keep on working my tail off and I think definitely with yoga and weight-lifting and doing the drills to create that muscle-memory, because once you get your form down then your speed's gonna come, because once you have that form down it makes it a lot easier for you and makes you a lot more consistent and muscle-memory and not even thinking about it. And with PATs and field goals, I haven't really been timed for that. I think coaches really don't look for that. For the time of the snap to the kick, I think you want around a one-second range, but I haven't really been timed for that.
Is there anyone in college or the NFL whose technique you study or can learn from?
SD: Oh absolutely. Christian Yount, he was one of Chris Rubio's first long-snapping students. He's been an incredible role model to me. I've gotten to know him over the past few years from Chris Rubio and at the camps that I've been attending. He's a phenomenal snapper. He's right now snapping for the Cleveland Browns. He was a two-time Playboy All-American at UCLA. He's just a phenomenal person and a phenomenal long-snapper. He does not miss at all. He's a phenomenal hard-worker and just a great person and he's a role model to me and I only hope that I can be as good as him some day.
Most of the recruits coming in are big names. People will recognize them on campus. Obviously with long-snappers, the general public only hears about you when you commit a big mistake. What kind of mentality does it take to master this position and to have the wherewithal to go get it every day, and to know that you're probably not gonna get the proper public recognition?
SD: It is what it is. I think long-snappers deserve a little more recognition than they have right now. But like I said, it is what it is. Just like you said, they don't get recognition until either they've had a perfect career or they've made a bad snap that could cost a team a game. But I think it's great to be under-the-radar at first, but like you said, if you mess up, then all eyes are gonna be on you and everyone's gonna be talking to you. So I think there's a lot of pressure to it, but again, Chris Rubio has taught a lot about that to me about mental toughness and I think that's gonna help a lot.
Is that something you've learned to live with? As you grow older is that something you almost embrace, being the unsung hero, for lack of a better term?
SD: Oh, absolutely. I think that's great. Just like you said, the unsung hero that nobody knows about and staying under-the-radar when everyone's getting all the camera and the TV time. But I think it's great. I'm just looking forward to getting that Notre Dame education and being a part of the football team and hopefully winning that national championship in the next few years.
Who recruited you?
SD: Coach [Chuck] Martin was my main recruiter but Coach [Mike] Elston was also a coach I kept in contact with. And now that Coach [Mike] Elston is just a defensive line coach and Coach [Scott] Booker is now the special teams coach, I've gotten to know him very well. I've known him before since my previous visits but now I'm starting to build that relationship between him a lot better.