2016 NFL Season

Walker: Oh snap — Saints’ Justin Drescher relishes unheralded role of long snapper

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Chances are, you don’t know Justin Drescher’s name.

Most Saints fans don’t.

And, unless he makes a major blunder in a game, you’ll probably never remember his name.

Drescher has no problem with that.

“I like it that way,” he said. “I like to keep a low profile.”

Drescher, despite entering his seventh season with the Saints, has managed to keep a low profile. That’s easy to do when you have the most unheralded job on the team.

It’s why the Saints’ reliable long snapper answered “not many” when asked how many interviews he has done while in the NFL. It’s also why nobody ever realizes he’s an NFL player when he’s out and about around town.

“They only realize it if I’m with (punter) Thomas Morstead, because he has that long hair and he introduces me,” Drescher said. “But I like being under the radar. I prefer to just come to work and do my job, trying to keep Thomas and (kickers) Connor Barth and Kai Forbath happy.”

It’s a thankless job, one that Drescher knows most fans take for granted.

“Absolutely,” he said. “If you ask the average NFL fan, some don’t even know what a long snapper is. Others just think the ball just magically appears and they kick it and it’s good. But it’s a position. We have to block and run downfield. It’s taken for granted, but as a long snapper, we all have a fraternity and we understand the pressures and the nuances of what goes into it.”

He has handled the pressure well so far. There was one snap against Indianapolis last year that he wasn’t particularly pleased with, but for the most part he has been consistent.

“He’s been great,” Forbath said. “There’s a reason he’s been here for going on seven years. I don’t have to worry about the ball not being there.”

There’s little room — and little time — for error.

The goal is 2 seconds or better from the time Drescher snaps it to the time Morstead punts it. He wants to get the ball in Morstead’s hands between 0.72 and 0.75 seconds.

On field goals and extra points, the total time of operation is expected to be 1.3 seconds or less. And on those kicks, he has to make sure the laces are just right by the time they reach the holder’s hands. It’s why Drescher snaps the ball up to 70 times a day, perfecting his skills.

He has been dedicated to his craft since his father first suggested he give it a try during his days at Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas. The school has put its share of special teams players in the NFL, not to mention ex-Saints quarterback Chase Daniel. Former Saints kicker Garrett Hartley went to high school there, graduating two years ahead of Drescher. Ex-kicker Kris Brown played there.

“I just think we have kids that see their roles, and many of them just take it to heart,” said Robert Drake, special teams coordinator at Carroll High. “The guys realize there is a chance to make something out of it.”

Drescher was a 265-pound lineman in high school, but he saw a chance to have a future in long snapping. He pitched and played first base on his high school baseball team, which explains why he has won the home run derby the past two years at the Saints’ annual charity softball game.

He briefly considered playing junior-college baseball but decided to stick with football. He earned a scholarship to Colorado as a long snapper, a rarity considering most start as walk-ons.

“The rest is history,” he said.

Now he has seven years in the league at a position where players can stick around for twice that long. Mike Leach spent 16 years as an NFL long snapper before retiring in January.

Whenever Drescher decides to get away from it, he likely will use his finance degree. Or, he said, perhaps he’ll go into coaching, helping instruct at a position that has become specialized and more popular in recent years.

Long snappers around the country have made YouTube videos to show off their accuracy. Videos of players snapping footballs and hitting targets have gone viral.

Drescher isn’t into that, though.

“It’s pretty incredible, but I don’t do trick shots,” he said. “I just focus on my 14 yards (for punts) and 8 yards (field goals and PATs). If I can do that, I don’t worry about throwing it 30 yards into a trash can.”

Unlike the fans, he knows he can’t take his job for granted.

“Every snap matters. Every play matters,” Drescher said. “It’s a game of inches, a game of centimeters. The pressure is there. I always tell myself, ‘I’ve done this a million times. So just do it a million and one times.’ ”

If he does that, you’ll probably never remember his name.

And that’s just the way he wants it.

FOLLOW ROD WALKER ON TWITTER, @RWALKERADVOCATE.

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