Imagine if you could watch a VHS and immediately learn how play quarterback in the NFL. You would definitely watch that video. Even if you were too afraid of Patrick Willis to play an NFL down (which is completely reasonable, by the by), you could at the very least school all your friends in Thanksgiving pickup football.
Well, Seattle Seahawks long snapper Clint Gresham didn’t take a route to the NFL that was much different than the one in this seemingly outlandish hypothetical.
As a high schooler, Gresham wanted to play college football. His father had played at the University of Texas. Football was in his blood. His only problem was that he hadn’t figured out a way to compete at the next level.
“I was kind of a jack of all trades,” says Gresham, who acted as a bit of a Swiss Army Knife for W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi, TX. “I played quarterback, tight end, tackle, guard, defensive end.”
Calm down, Clint. You’re exhausting us all just explaining that schedule.
Becoming a long snapper wasn’t necessarily something Gresham knew he’d stay with long-term. Really, how could he have possibly known? What 16-year-old star of his high school team wakes up one day and says, “You know what, guys? Today, I am going to become a long snapper”?
“I was really just looking for a way to beef up my résumé,” he explains. “I ordered this VHS tape and I just taught myself how to [long snap] in the backyard.”
And that’s when Gresham uttered those two magic words: Shane. Hackney.
Hackney, who goes by “the Snap Doctor”, is the man who put together that instructional video. Hackney organizes camps. He makes videos. Think of him as a long-snapping preacher. He just spreads the word of the long snappers. And he says his goal is to help his players find a way to play in college.
Gresham needed that alternative way. “I wasn’t a very good quarterback,” he half-heartedly jokes. And since finding success as a long snapper, he’s fostered a relationship with his once-virtual coach. Now, the Seahawks’ long snapper feels like he owes Hackney much of his career.
“I actually tried to get him to come out to the [Super Bowl],” explains the gracious Gresham. “He wasn’t able to come…I went to his camps every year. He taught me everything I know.”
Sometimes – and this isn’t only true in football – what’s more important than talent is finding a niche that few other people have discovered. The Snap Doctor realized that. So did Gresham. And because of that, Gresham will get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, a game he never would’ve played in had he stayed at any of the multitude of positions he played in high school.
Fred Katz is the managing editor of all things Jets at cover32.com. His work has appeared on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network, Bleacher Report, and RotoWire. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz or contact him at Fred@cover32.com.