Long-snapping has become a true art form and the best at their craft are sought out by college and NFL football teams knowing that precision and timing are everything.
Belleville East graduate and Western Kentucky University long snapper Nolan Dowling made his way onto the prime-time edition of ESPN SportsCenter’s “Top 10” Wednesday with an incredibly detailed long-range snap captured on video.
The redshirt junior fired off a snap from inside the Harbaugh Club near the top of WKU’s Houches-Smith Stadium that traveled over the stands and landed directly inside a red trash can down on the field below.
“Right as I snapped it, I got up right away and looked out the window,” Dowling said. “It was just slow motion from there with the timing and everything. I freaked out, I was so happy.”
Of course incredible feats like this aren’t done in one take.
“It's not really that easy, you've got to account for the wind,” Dowling said. “It took us around 50 tries to do it and we just kept going until I made it.”
The videos were made first public on Twitter by Western Kentucky kicker Jake Collins and team manager Max Winebrenner. There were two different angles on the video, including a slow-motion view from the field shot by Winebrenner. Later they were contacted by ESPN about using the video as part of the prestigious ‘Top 10’ segment.
Dowling’s act came a few days after a University of Buffalo long snapper fired off a snap inside the locker room that took a Gatorade bottle off another player’s head.
Dowling and his friends watched his now famous snap on ESPN’s “Top 10” segment(it came in at No. 10) and he called the whole thins a little bit “surreal.” His phone was under siege from family and friends who enjoyed Dowling’s newfound celebrity status.
“A bunch of my friends and family started texting me and calling me like ‘Dude, you're on ESPN,’’ said Dowling, inspired by similar high-degree-of difficulty videos posted by long snappers from Buffalo and Southern Mississippi. “I wasn’t really doing it do be on SportsCenter, I was just trying to mess with the other snappers that had done things.
“I was just doing it for fun at the beginning. My quarterbacks saw it and they were like dude, we have got to get this done.”
Dowling outdid himself Thursday at practice, this time snapping a ball from a higher location in the stadium’s press box.
“I got it twice,” he said. “Today we were about 60 feet higher up in the air and 20 or 30 yards back farther from the field, plus I had to snap it over a table. I hit the trash can twice; it took me about 20 tries to get two of them.”
Belleville East has a tradition of solid long snappers going back to longtime NFL longsnapper Nathan Hodel. Hodel, who played at Illinois, was in the NFL for nine seasons from 2001 to 2009, primarily with the Arizona Cardinals.
“When I was at East I heard a lot about Nathan Hodel and all the other snapper that had been there before,” Dowling said. “I really just wanted to build on the tradition.”
Dowling is in his third season as the starting longsnapper at Western Kentucky. His job is a tough one indeed.
When everything goes right, no one notices him. But if he makes a bad snap, all eyes are on him.
“It’s just your margin for error,” Dowling explained. “If your hand is off by even a couple inches, or centimeters even, it's going to throw your snap off completely. You want to make sure your hands are in the same spot every time.”