Created: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 12:10 p.m. CDT
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The art of long snapping

By STEVE NITZ – snitz@shawmedia.com
Northern Illinois' Brian Mayer prepares to snap the ball Tuesday during practice at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb. (Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)

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DeKALB – Every long snapper has his routine, and it's no different for Northern Illinois' Brian Mayer.

The Huskies' primary long snapper the past two seasons, Mayer gets in his stance, wipes his hands with a towel to remove the sweat, and looks back at the punter or holder.

Mayer puts one hand on the ball like he's going to throw it, and puts his other one on top. When it's finally time for the snap, he's basically pulling the ball, sliding his hands straight back and bending his elbows. His forearms hit his inner thighs and the ball is forced out of his hands.

"Basically you're just pulling the ball back to the kicker or punter. You're bringing your head through, watching your snap for about half a second," the junior said after Monday's practice at Huskie Stadium. "You want to bring your head through because that will create drive in your legs and everything. That's where all the speed comes from."

Mayer has had low and high snaps during his collegiate career, but he hasn't had one that's gone over someone's head or hit the ground short.

It's all about repetition. NIU's specialists head out to the field roughly 30-45 minutes prior to practice, and Mayer said he snaps roughly 75-100 times each workout.

"In practice, the more you practice it, the more routine it gets," said Kevin Kane, the Huskies' linebackers coach and special teams coordinator, who was a long snapper when he played at Kansas. "All it is is throwing a ball between your legs. There's certainly little mechanical things you can correct and everything, but the more you can practice it and get into a good routine, the better you're going to be."

One thing Mayer does differently is not use the laces. He said they hurt his spiral, so he snaps with the laces down.

"I'm a little bit different. I've never really seen anybody else snap without laces," he said. "It's pretty unique I guess you could say."

Long snapper is a unique position in itself. Neither Mayer or Kane started in the position in a normal way, either.

Mayer didn't really start doing much of it until his uncle pulled him aside at a family party and taught him before his junior year of high school at Sandburg in Orland Park. Solely a long snapper with the Huskies, Mayer came to NIU as a preferred walk-on but is now on scholarship. He said it's not rare for a long snapper to get a scholarship right away, but that it's tough.

Kane, an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection at linebacker in 2004 and 2005, wasn't necessarily planning on long snapping in college, but ended up getting into it.

"It was one of those, who can long snap? I did it a little bit in high school," Kane said. "When I was a freshman in college they asked me to do it again, and I did it, and I never stopped."

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