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Motto for Cal Long Snapper Slater Zellers: No News Is Good News

If you know his name he is probably doing something wrong

Slater Zellers has been performing his unique skill for two seasons at Cal and has received no publicity. He must be doing a good job. He wants to receive no publicity again this season.

“It’s nothing like anyone else,” Zellers said Wednesday when asked to describe his position, long snapper. “It’s the most interesting position on the field, but also you just don’t really want to hear my name.”

If Zellers is requested for a postgame interview, it means one of his snaps went awry, causing a missed kick, and he has to answer for it.

“I just want to kind of fly under the radar,” he said.

Precision is expected, and anything less brings unwanted notice. Fame is impossible; infamy is the only route to recognition.

Imagine a long snapper meeting someone unfamiliar with football at a cocktail party.

Guest: Hello, what do you do?

Long Snapper: I’m a long snapper.

Guest: You are a big fish?

Long Snapper: Uh, no.

Guest: So what do you do?

Long snapper: I blindly propel a football back between my legs at a high velocity with pinpoint accuracy.

Guest: And you get paid for this?

Long snapper: It paid for my college education, and I can make more than a million dollars a year after that.

Guest: Hmm.

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Three former Cal football players – David Binn, Nick Sundberg and L.P. Ladouceur -- have earned a more than $1 million a year in the NFL for performing the skill of blindly propelling a football back between their legs accurately. Zellers would like to follow their paths into the NFL, and Sundberg has tutored Zellers in the fine points of the skill (as Zellers notes in the video atop this story).

That long-snapper pipeline to the NFL played a small part in Zellers’ decision to accept a scholarship offer from Cal to blindly propel the ball between his legs for the Golden Bears.

He proved worthy of a scholarship in high school by being the varsity long snapper at Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, Arizona, for four years, earning Under-Armour All-America status and being ranked the third-best high school long snapper in the country by 247Sports, and No. 1 by Kohl. 

He has been perfecting this split-second skill for a long time, hoping the five or six plays in which he is on the field go off without a hitch.

Zeller’s snaps on place kicks this year required a minor adjustment because Cal’s kicks are now placed eight yards behind the line of scrimmage after being seven yards back for most of last season.

That means the ball needs to rotate slightly slower than it did for the seven-yard snap. The ball needs to wind up in the holder’s hands with the laces hitting his top hand, so he can put it down with the laces facing away from the kicker. Zellers doesn’t know how many rotations the ball makes on its way to the holder; he just knows it comes out right with his current mechanics.

The 15-yard long snap to the punter is a little less precise in terms of rotation, the goal being to get the ball back to the punter as quickly as possible targeting either the punter’s left or right hip depending on whether he’s left-footed or right-footed.

Zellers’ weight-room routines are similar to those of other offensive linemen’s routines, but he says the lats (latissimus dorsi), hamstrings and hips are the muscle groups that are the most influential in his activity.

“It’s interesting and it’s difficult, but it’s really just a lot of muscle memory,” Zellers said.

And he needs to do it the same way, time after time after time, so no one notices.

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Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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