It's no shocker that a St. Thomas Aquinas High School senior has accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Notre Dame. The Fort Lauderdale football powerhouse has two players in gold helmets already -- offensive linemen Sam Young and Dan Wenger. Another, senior punter Ben Turk will be the third when he enrolls next fall. The shocker is what the newest Aquinas Irishman, Jordan Cowart, will do in exchange for his world-class private education: He will snap a football. Long.
Cowart is a "long snapper." To those who aren't football junkies, the long snapper's job is purely to hike the football when his team is either kicking a field goal or punting. These hikes are longer than the norm: roughly eight and fifteen yards, respectively. Hence the name. It's a specialty because the longer one snaps, the greater margin for error.
But while it's an important job, it's not the kind of skill that, by itself, yields college scholarships. Typically, the job is a consolation prize for a blocker who can't crack a team's starting lineup. Since the NCAA puts limits on the number of scholarships a Division I team can hand out (85) most coaches would rather identify a long snapper from among his bench players than waste a scholarship on one. Any relatively coordinated person, the logic goes, can learn to snap long, right? Or are there guys out there who were born to be long snappers?
If so, maybe Cowart's that guy. Besides, with all the times Notre Dame punted this past season, maybe their existing long snapper tore a rotator cuff. We'll try to reach Cowart or his coach this week, though the team's liable to be busy trying to advance to the state finals.
-- Thomas Francis