Rex Sunahara Accepts Invite to NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
Morgantown, WV – Throughout the course of a season, it’s rare to hear a long snappers name. Generally, when their name is called, it usually follows a mistake but that’s not the case for West Virginia long snapper Rex Sunahara.
Rex led the put cover unit in tackles on the season with four. While that number isn’t staggering, there were only 16 punts returned out of 69. Out of that, there wasn’t one bad snap and as a result, he earned an invite to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Pasadena on January 18, 2020.
“He has really done a nice job since January of changing his body,” said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown. “He’s gotten significantly faster. He’s been a weapon. It’s almost unheard for your long snapper to be one of your leading tacklers on your punt team and he’s done that.”
It is rare that a long snapper is used as a weapon and seeing Rex sprint down the field and being one of the first defenders down the field on the punt return unit immediately reminded me of former Mountaineer safety Van Washington being used as a long snapper following an NCAA rule that didn’t allow the punt return team to place someone over the center.
While that’s not the case in today’s game, the return team has to allow the long-snapper to raise his head before making contact. Snapping it with precision and being one of the firsts down the field is impressive in itself, but Neal Brown also has a twist in his punt scheme.
Traditionally, the punter lines up directly behind the center, in West Virginia’s case, the punter is at an angle.
“I had never done that until coach Brown came in,” said Sunahara. That’s his scheme and his way of doing it. It was a little foreign at the beginning but we repped it a lot in practice and in pregame and we made sure it’s comfortable for us.”
Rex doesn’t snap the ball at angle but lines up to where his punter is right behind him. Which makes it more impressive that he’s one of the first down the field.
“When you snap it, your head picks up I go the way I’m facing,” said Sunahara. “So, I don’t try to fight my way back across. I just go the way I’m facing and then, gradually make my way back north and south, but I have to go a little bit east or west it’s OK that’s how you have to do it.”
“The thing that Rex does that probably different is, he really runs well,” said Brown. I think that really speaks to his athleticism. We’re able to do some things on punt team because of his athleticism that other teams can’t do, but he’s been extremely consistent. He’s going to play in a post-season all-star game… I think he’s got a chance to do this post-college.”
Long snappers don’t have a rich tradition in the NFL Draft. However, in the last four years they have been drafted in the sixth and seventh round. Sunahara has a chance to be the fifth in as many years.