The Most Unknown Seahawk? Clint Gresham No. 49
He happens to play a position that is perhaps the most unknown, or unnoticed, in the NFL or football in general. But it's one I played in high school and college, and my son played on the Kamiakin freshman team last fall. And it's a position I watch every Sunday, in every game on NFL Sunday ticket.
Gresham, who hails from Texas and attended Texas Christian University (TCU) is the long-snapper for the Hawks. He wears No. 49, and is responsible for air-mailing the football between his legs to punter Jon Ryan, as well as extra points and field goals.
Gresham, who's also technically listed as a defensive end, is pretty much solely on the team for his snapping skills, as are most such players in the league. One of the greatest snappers of all time was Trey Junkin, who's 17-plus year career included stints with Seattle and Oakland. Similarly sized to Gresham at 6' 3" 240 pounds, he was technically a tight end... but caught fewer than 10 passes his entire career. Gresham would probably only make it into a game on defense if the entire line got food poisoning before a game.
Gresham has played 64 games for Seattle, after being claimed off waivers from the Saints after 2010 season. He has made a number of tackles on the punt team, although most are made by the gunners. They're the outside speedsters who fly down as soon as the ball is snapped.
Long-snapping is usually a job nobody wants on a youth, middle, or high school team. It's one of those jobs you can either adapt to quickly or not. It involves sending a spiral back between your legs, hopefully about belt-high, and if you're precise enough, with the laces facing up when the ball hits the punter's hands. It has to be done in pouring rain, snow and mud. It's especially fun when the grass is long on the field -- it's like running fingers through grass that's trying to grab your hands!
It's a job I fell into in high school, and allowed me to make the traveling squad at Whitworth College (now university) in Spokane as a freshman. The average NFL snapper sends the ball back 13-14 yards in 0.7 seconds, pretty remarkable! They are considered specialists now, with most teams reserving a roster spot for them. While some have experience at other positions such as a backup TE, lineman or linebacker, half of them are not listed as a backup for any spot.
I taught my son Dhylan how to do it, he did it in Grid Kids, was the snapper for the Kamiakin freshman team last fall, and was quite good at it. Another local snapper to keep an eye on in the future is Southridge High freshman Flynn McPheron, who did it for their varsity this last fall.
But it's a job nobody really notices, until a snap gets airmailed over a punter's head, or squibs off the turf. Or a bad snap spoils a game winning field goal. Then, people notice! According to the Miami Dolphins website, several teams had snapping issues this season including the Raiders early in the season -- and it cost them some bad field position leading to scores. I recall watching a game where the Raider's guy plopped one on top of the punter's shoes, then one nearly over his head.
The average NFL salary for such a position is about $730,000. Not bad work if you can get it!
So when you watch the Super Bowl, now you know who the guy is that's staring back at the camera between his legs.