Consistency is the calling card for Clint Gresham, the Seahawks’ long snapper
Long snapper likes the pressure situations, by treating them just the same as a drill in practice
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — In five years with the Seattle Seahawks, Clint Gresham has handled about 1,000 punt, field goal and extra point snaps in preseason, regular season and playoff games.
And if there’s been a really bad one, no one remembers it.
“He’s been as close to perfect as you can get in the last five years,” said Jon Ryan, who as the punter and holder on PATs and field goals has caught almost every one (one exception being the ill-fated field goal Ryan himself tried last year against Tennessee).
This is the time of year, though, when it just takes one errant snap to go from being so quietly dependable that few even know your name to suddenly the answer to an unfortunate trivia question.
Trey Junkin snapped 19 years in the NFL, six with the Seahawks from 1990-95, but is remembered largely for misfiring on a snap in the last game he played, costing the Giants a playoff victory over the 49ers in 2002.
Gresham, though, doesn’t fear such an occurrence.
To the contrary, he says he can’t wait for his next high-stress snap.
“I’ve always felt I do better under pressure,’’ he said. “I like having the ball in my hands when we’ve got a pressure situation.”
Ryan says Gresham has the perfect temperament for such a job.
“For any specialist’s job, you have to have a short memory and a thick skin,’’ Ryan said. “It’s easy to have a bad kick or a bad snap and come off the field and you might not get another chance for 45 minutes or an hour sometimes and it’s pretty easy to sit and dwell on that and then one bad snap turns into two.’’
What Gresham also has, though, is the comfort in knowing this is the role he has prepared himself for since he was a sophomore at W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi, Texas.
That was when his father, Jim, who played at Texas from 1974-76, ordered his son some tapes on how to long snap.
Clint Gresham was a quarterback until his freshman year when he became a tight end and lineman. A “jack of all trades,’’ he says, who realized he might want to “beef up his résumé’’ if he wanted to realize his dream of playing college football.
“It (snapping) was just kind of a way to set myself apart,’’ he said. “I figured it’s the same thing as throwing a football over your head — it’s just between your legs.’’
So he watched the tapes and as he says, “Just sort of taught myself how to do it in the backyard.’’
He constructed an A-frame in his backyard that had a box, 1-foot by 1-foot, onto which he stapled a net.
“I would snap footballs into this thing all the time,’’ he said.
He got good enough that Oklahoma offered a chance to walk on with a shot at a scholarship. When that didn’t work out, he transferred to Texas Christian, where he eventually landed a full scholarship and became the only long snapper invited to the NFL combine in 2010.
That led to being signed by the Saints, who then cut him just as exhibition games began, with the Seahawks picking him up the next day. And since then, the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime hasn’t had to worry about a long snapper, something that had been a revolving door the previous few years.
During the season, the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder keeps to a fairly strict routine.
He goes through individual drills regularly with the linebackers to “get some actual football contact.’’ He’s made five tackles in his Seattle career.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, he does about 60 snaps, tapering off to about half that on Fridays.
He also does some drills, such as having coaches throw medicine balls at him as he snaps to replicate the feeling of snapping in a game and then having to block. For field goals, he’ll snap at a taped-off eight-inch square on a pole.
The goal for punts is to get the ball back to Ryan on his right hip in less than .80 seconds. It’s usually in the .68- to .72-second range.
For field goals, the objective is for the entire operation — snap, hold, kick — to be completed in 1.35 seconds. Gresham says the Seahawks usually get it done in 1.21.
The aiming point is Ryan’s left elbow, and the goal also is for the laces to be on Ryan’s hand, rather than facing the kicker. They’re successful, Ryan says, at least “nine times out of 10.’’
“Some people don’t realize how difficult that all is,’’ Ryan says of Gresham, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2014 season after signing a two-year deal last season paying him $1.655 million total.
Gresham, though, knows that anonymity at his position is sort of the goal.
“I don’t treat a game-winning field goal snap any different than I would when I am by myself doing a drill,’’ he said. “That’s kind of the nature of this organization that you treat every opportunity the same and I do the same thing snapping.”
• Monday, the Seahawks signed defensive tackle Landon Cohen to its 53-man active roster. Cohen, originally a seventh-round choice of the Lions in 2008 out of Ohio, has played 40 games with eight starts in stints with Detroit, Jacksonville, New England, Dallas and Chicago. Cohen fills the open 53rd spot on the roster that was created by the release of defensive tackle Travian Robertson before the St. Louis game.
• Jordan Hill suffered a knee injury against the Rams and his status for the playoff game Saturday is uncertain, and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs still is recovering from an ankle injury suffered against the Eagles.