MADISON, Wis. — Adam Bay and his Wisconsin specialist teammates recognize the kind of dedication required to be the best high school long snapper in the country, but it might sound ridiculous to some people. A private coach? Two-hour round trips four days per week after school? All to play a position fans only care about when he screws up?
No, the life of a long snapper is not for everyone.
“Honestly, I have no idea why someone would want to be a long snapper besides if you’re good, you get free school to snap a ball,” Wisconsin punter Anthony Lotti said. “That’s kind of how all specialists are. Long snappers are a crazy group of guys. Really, the only time you hear their name is if they do something wrong. So they’re really in a pressure position. We have nothing but respect for our long snappers.”
Bay, a freshman from Mesa, Ariz., has earned that respect in short order.
In high school, Bay completed all 440 snaps he attempted at Desert Ridge High. He became the No. 1-ranked long snapper at the prestigious Kohl’s camp and earned an invitation to the 2017 Under Armour All-America game.
Despite those accolades, it’s quite likely that through four games this season you have not noticed Bay on your television screen or inside the stadium. That’s because he has continued to successfully complete all his snaps as Wisconsin’s long snapper on field goals and punts.
“If people don’t hear my name, I’m doing my job,” Bay said. “That’s what I like to see.”
The path Bay has traveled to anonymity has required intense focus and an unwavering discipline to master his craft. Bay said he began long snapping when a coach on one of his youth football teams asked for a volunteer and Bay raised his hand. In eighth grade, Bay began seeing Ben Bernard, a private long-snapping coach who has helped more than 50 long snappers earn college scholarships and five reach the NFL.
A typical day for Bay outside of football season involved coming home from school around 2:30 in the afternoon and napping for an hour before hitting the Arizona highway for an hour on his drive to see Bernard. He would lift weights for an hour, snap footballs for another hour and return home, only to do it all over again three more times each week. Bay’s parents drove him to those sessions until he turned 16 and could take himself.
“I know that drive, and it sucks,” said Bay’s high school coach, Jeremy Hathcock. “That drive is terrible. He just kind of got the bug, and he understood that, ‘I’m probably not going to be a D-IA player with my body type unless I figure this part out,’ and he just loved special teams.”
Hathcock said he recognized Bay was dedicated to his craft during his sophomore season. Bay was among the best players on his freshman team the previous season and could have dominated at the junior varsity level as a defensive end. Instead, he told Hathcock that he wanted to focus exclusively on being a long snapper for the varsity team.
“So I knew that he was putting all his eggs in one basket,” Hathcock said. “Once you do that, you don’t really develop your football skills as much as you do your special skills. He decided that was his lane.”
Bay said he found motivation and encouragement when high school teammate Justin Leeper joined Utah State’s football team after playing long snapper for one season at Desert Ridge. If Leeper could make the college transition, Bay thought, what could he achieve with multiple years of practice?
“The goal was to get a free education,” Bay said. “But I really didn’t realize it until about the start of my junior year when I started working with Kohl’s heavily and I started getting ranked one of the top snappers in the nation. Then I realized I could start making a life of it.”
Bay began attending Kohl’s long snapping camps in eighth grade, but his first couple years there were a struggle. Hathcock said Bay would routinely report back to him that he had misfired during competitions because he lacked confidence. But as Bay continued to work, the results appeared. Before his senior season in high school, he earned the Kohl’s No. 1 long snapper designation.
He said evaluations were based on hitting a particular target for long snaps and short snaps at camps. Snappers earned four points for hitting the target, two points for hitting the side, and could earn a bonus point if the snap was fast enough.
“It’s just fine-tuning,” Bay said. “It’s all about speed and accuracy. You’re not a good snapper, in my opinion, if you can’t get it on the mark every time. So that’s something I really try to work on.”
Bay noted that Wisconsin was his top school during his recruitment. But Wisconsin offered a scholarship in its 2016 recruiting class to long snapper Jake Caesar, so Bay committed to Missouri. When Caesar left the program last fall, an opportunity opened for Bay.
Initially, Bay was hesitant to de-commit from Missouri because he didn’t want to go back on his word. But Hathcock pointed to a conversation he had with Bay that helped change his mind.
“I said, ‘You go to Wisconsin, you’re going to play in a Rose Bowl,’ ” Hathcock said. ” ‘You go somewhere else, you’re not. You can go to 117 teams, and that’s great. But Wisconsin is always in the top 10, and they have a lot of people at their pro day. So if you’re thinking about going to the next level, you might want to consider Wisconsin.’
“He said, ‘I’ll take a look at it.’ He did, and the rest is history. I mean, when Ron Dayne talks to you on your recruiting visit, it’s a pretty big deal.”
Added Bay: “I knew that in my mind, this is where I wanted to be. I made the right decision, in my opinion.”
Since arriving at Wisconsin, accuracy and timing haven’t been an issue for Bay, who snaps to holder Connor Allen and Lotti, the punter. Allen estimated he and Bay collaborate on “roughly 30 or 40” field-goal snaps a day. Lotti said Bay snaps him as many as 75 footballs in a practice. Those reps extrapolated over several months have created a rhythm as though Bay has been with the program for years.
“When Adam came in, it was kind of a pretty quick transition because he was doing a great job since he got here,” Allen said. “So it was easy. You didn’t have to teach him too many things. He just kind of rolled right in with us and has been doing great since he started.”
The biggest adjustment for Bay was switching from a spread punt system in high school, when he ran downfield after the snap, to staying in and blocking at Wisconsin. He said he has taken to the new responsibility. Just another reason why the best high school long snapper in the country has remained anonymous in college.
“It’s a very important position,” Badgers defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said. “Obviously it’s going well when nobody knows who the long snapper is. It is a thankless position. A football team, the players, the coaches, they realize how important the position is because when you don’t have it, there’s lots of issues.
“I’m very excited for him to be able to come in as a freshman and handle the responsibility and just continue to grow. He works every day. There’s a reason he was highly rated. He’s good at what he does, but he works at it and puts in the time.”
The post Wisconsin long snapper Adam Bay has mastered his craft in anonymity appeared first on Land of 10.