December 18, 2012

My Story - Kyle Stelter Owner Of Special Teams University

I stole this from a friend but live my life this way

I want to give you a little background on how I got into long snapping and my story.

(Just a heads up, I have a horrible memory so digging deep into my past is tough...haha) The first memory I have of long snapping is from my freshman year of high school.

Like many freshman teams, the special teams portion is not quite developed and not many guys even know how to snap, kick, or punt.

Somehow I was wrangled into long snapping and knew just enough about snapping to get the ball back to the punter and holder.

My sophomore year I was once again the long snapper for the JV team, and that is when I had my first in-game experience of launching the football over my punter’s head. It was a horrible experience, but that’s when I started to understand the importance of being good at that position, instead of just doing it because no one else could.

By my junior year I hated the pressure of long snapping so much that one practice I snapped horribly on purpose, so that my backup would snap on the PAT unit during our next game, while I played right guard. At last I wasn't feeling the pressure of snapping the ball during crucial points in the game!

I played out the rest of my high school career on the offensive line as a guard and center—where I was named a team captain and my senior year earned All Conference honors. 

After my senior year, I made my coaches aware that I did not want to be done playing football and asked for advice on how to play at the next level. My offensive line coach Jeff Hahn, who had worked with me my entire high school career, suggested that I work on my long snapping in order to help my chances of making a team.

I was undersized at 6'2" 190lbs and had never played a different position in my life besides the O-line, so his suggestion made sense. He worked with me after school and taught me the fundamentals of long snapping.

A couple of months after football had ended, a few coaches from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls visited my school and spoke with me and two other guys from my team about playing for them. If you know about River Falls, you know it as a farm school, and, needless to say, I wasn't going to a farm school. So as soon as I walked out of that meeting I threw away the coaches business card and told my friends I was NEVER going there....little did I know.

We eventually made a highlight film of myself long snapping in pads in the high school gymnasium and sent it to the University of Wisconsin-Stout where I was interested in playing.

I heard back from the University of Wisconsin Stout and they were interested in me coming to play for them. They enjoyed my film and told me that I would most likely start as a freshman because they only had one other long snapper. As my first year of college approached I was excited to continue my football career!
Article about me making the team at Stout
warming up at Stout

But during the first week of football practice, I learned that not only would I not be starting at long snapper for the Blue Devils, but there were five other players capable of long snapping. I used one year of eligibility as a 4th-string long snapper and didn't get to travel to any away basically a great year of football.

At the end of the year I decided to transfer to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for a major change, the school I vowed never to go to.

Once at River Falls I decided to try out a position I never played before: tight end. I practiced everyday as a tight end and also snapped before warm ups everyday. At River Falls I was a third-string long snapper my sophomore year only because I was "too small" according to the head coach.

At 6'2" 200lbs I felt that I had grown enough to be a starter but I guess I hadn't. Every day I would get thrown into a long snapping situation after the other two snappers messed up and then would get praised for my long snapping along with a comment about how they wished I was bigger.

By my junior year I felt like I would be starting for sure, but was instead still deemed "too small" to play. However, I had moved up to second-string long snapper.
I did a lot of watching this year...

The day of our first preseason game against St. Johns University was a rainy one; the specialists were on the field warming up, and I was doing my job of shagging balls for the starters. The starting long snapper came up to me and asked if I wanted to start because he had his hands taped and could not get a grip on the wet footballs.

We went up to coach O'Grady and he approved our request with a disinterested "Sure, I don't care."

I nervously began warming up and felt great! I went into my first collegiate game and snapped 8 punt snaps and 2 PAT snaps—all of them perfect—in the rain. I was awarded my first Special Teams Player of the Week award for my performance. I finished out the season as the starter along with being a 3rd-string tight end.

My ver first collegiate snap

My senior year I decided that tight end was not for me. I wanted to try defense, and over the offseason I had bulked up to 215 lbs. hoping to play D-end along with long snapping. After two weeks of preseason as a D-end the coach brought me into his office and told me that he didn't want me getting hurt as I was the best long snapper they had.

I was very reluctant and was actually angry that they only wanted me to snap. I didn't want to be one of the slack-off specialists that didn't do anything all practice and just stood around, I was a football player! But after a couple weeks of resentment I embraced my role as a long snapper and it was AWESOME! Practice your skill for a bit before practice, go on the game field and mess around for a bit, then come together with the team and maybe do a handful of snaps. Life was great.

I had a great fan club my senior year.

After my senior year of football was over I decided that I wanted to yet again continue my football career but didn't know how. After researching online I found a team in the Twin Cities called the St. Paul Pioneers who had just won a semi-pro national championship.

I found out when their tryouts were and headed over. When I got there we were tested for our strength, agility, and speed. At the end of the testing they started the position specific workouts.

As guys were being tested I walked over to the owner and asked then the long snapping tryouts would be. He took me over to the corner and said he would catch some balls for me. I put him at 12 yards for a couple warm up snaps, I snapped the first one—SLAP!—he caught the ball and stumbled back a bit.

He told me to hold on as he went away and came back with 3 more coaches. He told me to snap again, this time to the head coach. I snapped—SMACK!—he caught it and shook his hands in pain. I snapped a total of 5 times before they welcomed me to the team.

With the Pioneers we won 3 championships and only lost 3 games. It was a great experience! However my goals were not complete; I wanted to snap at the highest level I could. I had heard about a pro camp in Las Vegas called the Aguiar/Husted Pro Camp where they rated you and gave you the opportunity to snap in front of pro scouts.

I went down in April of 2012 to Las Vegas and gave it a shot. I snapped very well there and gained a 5-star rating out of 5 stars—I also gained an Agent!

3 years....3 championships
After the camp I was excited to get a shot at playing at the next level. Nothing came from the NFL, but I did find out about an open tryout in Sacramento, CA for a team in the UFL called the Sacramento Mountain Lions. They were a professional team looking for players so I decided to fly out there and give it a shot.

Having been rated a 5-star long snapper I had some confidence going into the tryout, but I am also very hard on myself. So I went into the audition hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

UFL football from my tryout

There were 4 other long snappers vying for the job and I came out as one of the top 2 at the tryout. The special teams coach told me he liked me and that we would be in touch. I flew back home and about 2 weeks later I got a call saying that they wanted to bring me in for camp. This was probably one of the most exciting calls of my life!

Mt Lions Logo

I went into camp being the only long snapper. After 1 week they brought in another snapper who had been in NFL camps to challenge me, mostly because they thought I was too small again (That has never stopped me before though). I ended up winning the job and having a great season.

Snapping in my very first Pro game vs the Omaha Night Hawks

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long—if you follow the UFL at all, you know what happened. The league folded 4 games into the season due to well-publicized financial difficulties. But it was a great time while it lasted, and I managed to gain great game film from the experience that should help me land interest from NFL teams.

Now my goal is to reach the ranks of an NFL long snapper. I have made it this far being undersized and overlooked and I won't stop until I get there. I hope that my story inspires you to reach for your goals and to always adapt! I would have never made it this far if I was stubborn and unwilling to change.

UPDATE: On May 2nd 2014 I got the chance to fly to New Jersey to workout with the New York Jets. The workout was private and involved a handful of other specialists, a total of 4 long snappers. The workout went very well and at the end they pulled me aside to tell me that they liked what I did and wanted to bring me back for rookie mini camp.

Two weeks later I got the official call that I was going to rookie mini camp with the New York Jets! There was one other snapper invited, a kicker, 2 punters, and a combo guy. The weekend went very well and I snapped well in my opinion, the coaches and staff agreed and gave me very good feedback. Im now in the waiting process again to see what will happen next. You can read the full story about rookie mini camp here.

-Kyle Stelter

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