By Patty Hsieh
July 13, 2012

This week, we continue our player interview series with second-year long snapper Jake McQuaide. McQuaide took a similar route, walking onto the team at Ohio State. He tells us about his transition from tight end to his current position, about being a professional in this league and how long snappers are unique football players.

Ohio Football

McQuaide learned the basics of long snapping his first year of playing football in the sixth grade. It was then that a coach on his junior varsity team, who had previously played the position at Ohio University, literally taught him how to snap a football.

“Coming out of high school I could have played tight end in a small school,” said McQuaide. “You may not know a lot about Cincinnati football, but high school football is a big deal.” I knew it came close to Texan-type proportions, but I didn’t know exactly how big until he dropped this little number on me.

“I’m from Elder (High School) and our stadium held 11,000 people,” he said. That roughly equals double the student body of my alma mater, Washington University. Double! There are times where I wish I had gone to a Division I school, and none more so than during football season.

“I didn’t want to go somewhere where football wasn’t important to people. I had an opportunity to walk on at Ohio State where I wouldn’t be playing tight end.” Switching positions would seem like a sacrifice, but when you love to play the game you want to be a part of it and, in his case, a part of the great Buckeye football tradition.

The immediate question that comes to mind is why couldn’t he play tight end at Ohio State? Well ... there just happened to be a guy by the name of Ballard. Jake Ballard. Heard of him, have you?

“The tight end in my class was Jake Ballard (former New York Giant and current New England Patriot). He’s like 6-7 or 6-8 and weighs 265-270 pounds. As soon as I got to Ohio State, I knew tight end is out the window. But I can be a part of the team and I can find my niche at long snapper. I worked from there and learned from the older guys there.”

And he did just that as he handled long snapping duties for three years during his tenure in Columbus. For the record, McQuaide is listed as 6-2 and 247 pounds. He could have easily played tight end at a lesser college football institution, but something tells me he doesn’t regret making that decision.

On Being Professional

It was only a year ago that McQuaide was on the other side looking in. Then incumbent long-time veteran long snapper Chris Massey was about to start his 10th season with the team and McQuaide came into camp as the undrafted rookie.

I asked him if this offseason feels different now that he has a year of experience under his belt. His answer didn’t surprise me at all. In fact, the first part of his reply was something I’ve heard very often around camp – and that’s been a very good thing.

“As a whole I feel like the whole team is just completely different. The feeling around here is just lighter, more positive.” Lighter, positive, more fun and just a greater sense of trust in the new coaching staff are definitely in the air about Rams Park.

“For me personally, I approach it the same way,” McQuaide said when asked about competing with Tripucka. “Coming in last year I wasn’t worried about comparing myself to Chris (Massey). That’s not what I was here to do. Chris Massey is a great snapper and he does certain things well. I do different things well. We do some of the same thing well. He was great with whenever I asked him something. He gave me a helping hand.”

He said, “I try not to live a comparative lifestyle. I don’t worry about other people. I know what I need to get done and I know what I need to do well, what I need to work on. This year I try to take some of those things from last year and watch my film from last season. I have plenty of things I need to be better at.”

“There’s definitely no tension,” he said. “All the older guys they were a rookie once. They know what it’s like when you’re trying to bust into the league. It’s tough, but you try to get in and you try to pay rent on that locker as long as you can. It’s not yours; you’re just renting it.”

I loved the “It’s not yours; you’re just renting it” quote from McQuaide. This was my first time talking with him, but I can imagine even as a rookie he probably would have been just as focused, polished and all business then, too. He has his head in the game and his sights on paying rent on that locker for as long as the powers that be will grant him occupancy.

The Yin and Yang of a Long Snapper

It takes a certain type of person to play special teams. And, for the most part, I was thinking along the lines of kickers and punters being quirky and at times marching to the beat of a far different drum. The great Jim Brockmire will wholeheartedly disagree with me when I say punters and kickers are people, too. In fact, they are actual football players. Yeah, I went there, Mr. Brockmire.

“You can’t just go out there and be gung ho,” said McQuaide. I chuckled a bit when he said gung ho. “You can’t be like a linebacker or lineman. It’s more of a skill especially for a kicker or punter.”

He said for a snapper, one has to find that happy medium because snapping is not something one can be all revved up to do. As soon as that ball is let go from a snapper’s hands it’s, as he put it, “Time to get down to it.” The snapper has to be able to flip the switch from “let’s go to your hands” to “let’s be super, super aggressive.”

I don’t know how many of you have actually watched what the snapper does after the ball has been kicked off. It’s definitely something I took for granted. We are all too busy tracking the pigskin to appreciate the subtle or not-so-subtle blocks and takedowns that result in those spectacular returns put on by the Devin Hesters and DeSean Jacksons of the league. We as fans should stop and appreciate the less acknowledged phases of the game.

It bears mentioning that McQuaide’s name wasn’t brought up much throughout the season, meaning that he did his snapping duties very well. He’s got the yin/finesse part of his happy medium down pat. As for the yang/brute strength aspect of the job, he commented that teams want to find out what young players are capable of.

“As a rookie, a lot of teams test you. Even this year I’ll be seeing new teams I haven’t seen yet so they are going to want to test me. Let’s see what 44 can do and see if he can block somebody. As you become a guy like Chris (Massey), some teams will be like, ‘Okay, Chris Massey, he’s proven that he can block. Find somewhere else.’ When you see a rookie it’s, ‘Let’s see what he can do because nobody’s seen him on film.’ So this year, I’ve played some of the teams, I know what they do and have played against some of the other guys they’re still going to test you.”

Sounds like he’s telling the opponents to “bring it on.” His name is McQuaide. Jake McQuaide. And he will out maneuver you one way or another. He can snap the utmost perfect spiral and then lay a crushing block, sending you into orbit.

It may not take a rocket scientist to play football, but you may have to be an aeronautical and astronautical engineering major like McQuaide to be a successful long snapper in the NFL.