Q&A: Mike Schneck
Although some might believe that his job is a snap, the Steelers' long snapper says it's quite stressful
Monday, June 20, 2005
Steelers long snapper Mike Schneck (54) gets plenty of opportunities to talk with his kickers.
-- Photo by Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
It's a long way from Whitefish Bay, Wis., to the Steelers but Mike Schneck, 27, made the trip using one skill that, basically, does not require him to block or tackle. He snaps a football to the punter and to the holder on place kicks, usually fewer than 10 times per game.
Schneck (6 feet 1, 237 pounds) has made a relatively lucrative career out of his specialty as he prepares to enter his seventh season in the NFL at a salary of $540,000. He was a two-time all-league linebacker at Whitefish Bay High School but turned to his specialty of long snapping at the University of Wisconsin and in the NFL.
Without Schneck, punter Chris (Doc) Gardocki and kicker Jeff Reed could not do their jobs.
Schneck talks about the finer points of his football expertise with Steelers beat reporter Ed Bouchette.
What does a long snapper do?
Schneck: A long snapper, in its most basic form, snaps the ball between his legs, a tight spiral, waist high, 15 yards to the punter. And on a field goal he snaps it between his legs on a tight spiral 31/2, 31/4 rotations, hand-height back to the holder, 8 yards.
What makes a good one?
Schneck: There are a lot of guys who can do it -- on Saturday, but can they do it on Sunday with the pressure of the coach, the fans, the situation, and the other team trying to kill you? There are a million guys who can do it during the week.
Do you wish the position had a cooler name?
Schneck: I think it has a cool name. I take offense to that. Name another position on the football field that has a name like that.
Did you grow up wanting to be a long snapper?
Schneck: I grew up wanting to play baseball. It was always my favorite sport. By pure chance, I started goofing around long snapping before practice one day my sophomore year in high school. All of a sudden, everyone ahead of me on the depth chart got hurt.
What's the toughest part of your job?
Schneck: Dealing with the mental stress of it all. Physically, it's not tough, the practices aren't tough, but the expectation level in the NFL is perfection. It's unattainable, but that's what you're striving for.
Every year they bring in a couple young challengers to your job, and they have two this year. How do you feel about that?
Schneck: They're bringing them in to take my job -- I don't think there's any sugar-coating that. Those are the facts. I don't think I would be here this long if I wasn't good at what I do. Coach Cowher doesn't keep guys around who don't perform. But they're always going to look for somebody who's cheaper and there's nothing I can do about it. The longer you play, the harder it is to stay.
What do you do at practice when you're not snapping?
Schneck: Goof around with Jeff and Doc.
Does it get boring?
Schneck: It does because by about the middle of the season after going through training camp we've run out of things to talk about. It leads to trouble usually. It's funny because everybody wants to be us. They see us sitting on the sidelines. Then, all of a sudden someone gets injured and they're standing next to us and they'll say, "This is horrible." They're all so used to being out there and being active and practice going so fast for them, they don't realize it. Where it's an eternity for us sitting out there and watching. There's no novelty to watching practice anymore because all three of us have been doing it for so long.
Ever get a chewing out from Bill Cowher?
Schneck: I think you may be able to answer that yourself. Many times. He has a good eye. He's a special teams guy. He knows it. He lets me know. It's gotten better as I've gone on because he knows I'm good and that I'm going to correct it and I know what his expectation level is.
Have you done any commercials?
Schneck: No. Do you have any lined up for me? I'd love to if anybody wants me.
Are your hands insured?
Schneck: They probably should be. My wife put something down the garbage disposal a couple months ago and she wanted me to go down there and get it. I said, I'm not putting my hands down the garbage disposal. I try not to do anything too stupid.
Do you have a routine or are you superstitious?
Schneck: I'm anti-superstitious. I think it's the biggest waste of time, because all it does is occupy your mind with these thoughts, and if something happens where your superstition doesn't work out, you're done. You can see some people where it just breaks them. On the other hand, there's a routine, which is a totally different thing. Coach Cowher says you want to have the same routine so your mind gets focused, you know that this is game day and today I need to perform like a professional.
What advice would you give a youngster who wants to become a long snapper?
Schneck: It's probably the best way to get into the NFL right now. One, you need to learn the basic mechanics of how to do it first. I was lucky. I was taught the basics right off the bat. The next thing is practice as much as you can. I spent countless hours at the University of Wisconsin indoor facility snapping at a soccer goal bar. I learned if I wanted to get good at it, I'd have to hit that bar so I wouldn't have to chase the balls anymore. If you hit the bar, it would bounce back. I'd snap for hours.
Ever wish you played another position?
Schneck: I love snapping. But I'm along for the ride, and I would love to be more integral in that ride.