There are certain positions on a football team that fans generally do not pay much attention to nor could name the player on their favorite team that plays that position.
Long snapper, a special teams specialist whose duty is to snap the ball over a long distance for punts and kick attempts, is one of them. Make perfect snaps over and over again to your punter and field goal holder and you have done your thankless job well. Make one errant snap that leads to the game-winning field goal not being attempted or a punt attempt fumbled away to the other team and returned for a touchdown and your name is blasted everywhere.
Coach Casey Casper, Lead National Snapping Instructor and Evaluator and the Director of the Kohl’s Snapping Division, believes that long snapping, while not a glorious position, is crucial because the role is “involved directly in scoring points on a field goal or extra point” and “if there is a bad snap and a punt is blocked there is roughly a 90% chance your team will lose the game.”
Because of the impact that a bad long snap can have on the outcome of a game, coaches began training and recruiting true long snappers over the past two decades instead of continuing to fill the role with a backup lineman. According to its official website, the Patrick Mannelly Award, handed out to the nation’s top long snapper, was created two years ago so that “football’s unsung workhorses can finally bask in the warm glow of appreciation.”
So how do athletes end up as long snappers? Ryan Wintermeyer, a 6-foot-1 and 210 lbs senior at Cactus Shadows High School in Scottsdale, AZ, and a 2021 SDSU commit began long snapping in 8th grade when he trained with Ben Bernard at Arizona Elite Snapping. Wintermeyer was able to meet and train with long snappers of all levels including current NFL players Nick Sundberg from the Washington Football Team and Kyle Nelson from the San Francisco 49ers. “I knew if I worked my butt off I would achieve my goals of being an Under Armour All-American and playing D1 Football,” Wintermeyer said this week.
Also present at those Arizona Elite Snapping training events was Turner Bernard, Ben Bernard’s son and most recent SDSU long snapper. Bernard just completed his senior season and is eligible for the upcoming NFL Draft on April 29. Bernard was selected to the 2020 and 2021 All-Mountain West first teams as long snapper by Phil Steele Magazine and named a semifinalist for the Patrick Mannelly Award. According to NFLDraftScout.com, Bernard is projected as a 7th round/undrafted free agent prospect.
Wintermeyer is also well aware of the two long snappers that played at SDSU before Bernard. Aaron Brewer was signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He was the long snapper for Matt Prater’s NFL record 64-yard field goal and won a Super Bowl as part of the 2015-16 Broncos. He has played for the Arizona Cardinals the past five seasons as part of his nine-year (and continuing) NFL career.
Jeff Overbaugh, who succeeded Brewer as SDSU’s long snapper, was signed by the Los Angeles Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He bounced around between several teams in the NFL over three seasons, playing in two games, before leaving the NFL in 2018.
“Aaron Brewer, Jeff Overbaugh, and Turner Bernard have set a standard at long snapper while at SDSU and I plan on being the next one,” Wintermeyer states.
Wintermeyer is the #3 ranked long snapper in the United States, was named 2021 Under Armour All-American, and selected as the 2020 Special Teams Player of the Year in the Arizona 5A NE Region.
Despite his accolades, Wintermeyer was not flooded with scholarship offers. The COVID-19 pandemic did not help his cause as not only did it halt college camps and recruiting visits which would have given him a chance to “show special teams coaches what [he] can do,” it also limited many of the 2021 scholarship opportunities. A disappointed, yet resourceful Wintermeyer turned to Twitter and posted numerous videos showcasing his long snapping accuracy for college coaches and recruiters to see.
Wintermeyer received a scholarship offer from the Air Force Academy and preferred walk-on offers from Akron and SDSU. According to the Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), a preferred walk-on offer gives a player a guaranteed spot on the roster at the start of the year (unlike the typical walk-on who needs to earn a spot on the team through tryouts), but the school does not provide financial assistance at least for the first year. Wintermeyer committed to SDSU on January 5 as a preferred walk-on with hopes of eventually earning a scholarship. While acknowledging that part is out of his control, he is “going to work hard and do everything [he] can to help our team.”
Thankful-Prepared-Committed! Ready to follow in the footsteps of amazing snappers at San Diego State! #GoAztecs @CoachDeakinSDSU @Matt_Razzano @KohlsKicking @KohlsSnapping @HKA_Tanalski @CSHS_Football @Coach_Casper @CoachSidders @gridironarizona @AztecFB @GoAztecs pic.twitter.com/cMMnWzKIeW
— Ryan Wintermeyer (@ryanwint54) January 5, 2021
The Aztecs were always Wintermeyer’s first choice because despite being in Arizona, he grew up an Aztec fan (his mom is an alumni.) “Each summer we would escape the desert heat to the beaches of San Diego and I absolutely loved it,” Wintermeyer recalled, echoing the sentiments of most Arizonians.
It also made his decision easier watching coach Deakin, SDSU’s Special Teams Coach, help Turner Bernard prepare for an NFL long snapping job. “I think the coaching staff understands the importance of special teams and how it impacts the game.”
Top Classes (Long Snappers) pic.twitter.com/DnRbWrUvLV
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) February 17, 2021
Coach Casper, who met Wintermeyer four years ago at one of his camps in Arizona and has worked with him since says Wintermeyer has the drive to be great and “works tirelessly and has always been a student of the game and receptive to coaching.” Wintermeyer’s player profile on Kohlskicking.com states that he won the Under Armour competition with a 0.67 snap time as well as snapping all three of his attempts through the target. “The ball rips off his hands with tremendous rotation and velocity. Wintermeyer is hands down one of the best snappers in America and can play for any program in the Nation.”
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Wintermeyer calls the new Aztec Stadium, slated to open in 2022, a “game-changer” and cannot wait to snap there. When he is not out working everyone on the field or in the classroom, he plans to be playing golf on many of America’s Finest City’s beautiful golf courses. If his aim, precision, and excellence as a long snapper translate to his golf game, expect his handicap to be much lower than the typical college student.
Avid sports fan and historian of basketball, baseball, football and soccer. UC San Diego and San Diego State alumni living in America’s Finest City. Diverse team following across multiple sports leagues, but Aztecs come first in college athletics.