Tyler Ott faces untold pressures and challenges as the new Seahawks long snapper heading into the playoffs.
But at least he knows that he’ll have a better holder for placekicks than he had at some recent workouts.
His wife, Ashley, just never could get the hang of it.
“I snapped a couple to my wife, but she couldn’t really handle it,” Ott said of his practices while unemployed.
Ashley tried her best, but considering she was a forward on the Harvard women’s hockey team, the demands of holding for placekicks was outside her area of expertise.
So, Ott practiced at his old school, Harvard, until he was called this week to take over for Nolan Frese, who was injured in Sunday’s game at San Francisco.
The best advice Ott can draw upon at this point, heading into a wild card round game Saturday against Detroit, is some he remembers from Harvard coach Tim Murphy.
“He always preached that we had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Ott said.
The snapper, with his inverted perspective, is always a little uncomfortable. They’re involved in roughly 150 plays a season, all of which are scoring plays or potential turnovers or huge losses in yardage.
Their world is one of velocity, precision placement, blocking and then coverage. But the most important quality is reliability.
It’s all tough enough in the regular season, but in the postseason, when every point and possession is precious, the snap can be crucial.
Sadly, whenever a new snapper is brought on board for the playoffs, the name Trey Junkin arises.
Junkin played 281 games over 19 seasons. In 2002, he was brought out of retirement by the New York Giants for a wild card game against San Francisco. A bad snap on a field goal was key to the Giants’ loss.
Forgotten in all this was the fact that Junkin was one of the all-time great NFL snappers, who probably had close to 3,000 perfect snaps. With the Seahawks (1990-95), he was unerring, absolutely perfect.
I recall after one game when he was in a celebratory mood, having just crossed an NFL milestone of some note. It might have been his 2,000 snap without a miss — something huge.
It went unnoticed, of course, and his final snap for the Giants was a very misleading and insensitive epitaph to a great career.
Junkin may have been the best of the Seahawks’ snappers, but Blair Bush had to have been close. He was still so good at long snapping, even after his playing days at center were over, that the Hawks had him just show up on game day to deep snap, without requiring him to practice.
Few along the way have been that effective.
If you haven’t been paying close attention, you might have thought Harper LeBel was a singer in an 80s hair band, Derek Rackley was a B-movie star, and Boone Stutz was a character on The Dukes of Hazzard.
Nope, all were snappers over the years for the Seahawks.
J.P. Darche, who snapped in 97 games (2000-2006) may have been the most interesting snapper in franchise history. Darche was a French-Canadian medical student who had already completed two years of medical school when he tried out for the Seahawks and turned into a snapper with surgical precision through the early Mike Holmgren years.
He finished his nine-year NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, wrapped up his med school at Kansas, and is now Dr. Darche, MD, in Kansas City.
Probably the most athletic of the group was Jeff Robinson, who had been a two-time defensive player of the year in the Big Sky Conference as a defensive end for Idaho.
In the NFL, he snapped for 15 seasons, earning a Super Bowl ring with St. Louis and being the first snapper to be honored with a Pro Bowl berth.
After Rackley and Stutz struggled in 2007, Robinson was hired late in the season — much like Ott’s current situation. Robinson, though, was 37 at the time and hadn’t played in almost two years.
“I thought we’d hired a new coach,” Holmgren kidded. Robinson continued to snap full time the next season, and finally finished up in 2009.
This season, the Seahawks took a chance on replacing veteran Clint Gresham, who had gotten expensive after having reliably snapped 96 games, 2010-15.
Frese won the job and had been mostly steady, but a bit imprecise on his short snaps, which can affect the delicate timing of placekicks.
He suffered a high-ankle sprain early in the San Francisco game, but toughed it out as the Hawks had no options. Without a solid base under him, Frese launched one snap over punter Jon Ryan’s head for a safety.
After trying out with the Hawks in the offseason, Ott had played three games with Cincinnati this season before biding his time and waiting for the phone to ring.
So the playoffs are a new experience for him. That’s fine, he’s happy to have the job.
And everybody’s happy that his wife isn’t holding.