Daily Egyptian

Long snapper: A true underdawg story

Saluki+junior+long+snapper+Josh+Jahnke+runs+off+the+field+Tuesday%2C+Sept.+6%2C+2016%2C+during+an+SIU+football+practice+at+Saluki+Stadium+in+Carbondale.+%28Luke+Nozicka+%7C+%40lukenozicka%29
Saluki junior long snapper Josh Jahnke runs off the field Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, during an SIU football practice at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Saluki junior long snapper Josh Jahnke runs off the field Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, during an SIU football practice at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Saluki junior long snapper Josh Jahnke runs off the field Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, during an SIU football practice at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

By Ted Ward

If you watch a football game you’ll quickly recognize some of the well-known positions, but there is one that’s often overlooked until the player makes a mistake.

Saluki junior long snapper Josh Jahnke may not be making plays like a quarterback on offense or a linebacker on defense, but he’s out there doing a job he said isn’t as simple as it looks.

His primary job is to serve as the special teams center, snapping the ball seven or eight yards to the holder on field goals or about 15 yards to the punter.

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“You have to be consistent where you snap the ball for both the punter and kicker,” he said. “For example, my punter will need the ball snapped at a certain angle that gives him a chance to punt the ball where it needs to be.”

Jahnke’s road to becoming a long snapper started his sophomore year of high school. He said he wasn’t big enough to play any other positions, so his dad persuaded him to try it out.

Standing at 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, the native of Crystal Lake said he went to a specialists camp and won the best long snapper award. He eventually worked his way up to participating in the Kohl’s Kicking Camp — one of the nation’s largest specialists camps for high schoolers — where he finished tied for third in the Midwest Showcase.

Although his skills improved, coaches told him he would best be suited playing Division III football. Jahnke set out to prove them wrong and ended up walking on to the SIU football team in 2013.

He started all 11 games last season and recorded two tackles on punt coverage. He already registered a tackle in this year’s season opener against Florida Atlantic.

Saluki junior long snapper Josh Jahnke talk with another player Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, during an SIU football practice at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Saluki junior long snapper Josh Jahnke talk with another player Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, during an SIU football practice at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Special teams coach Jay Nunez said it is important for a long snapper to be a specialist because it allows him to focus more on the fundamentals of one position rather than many.

“[Offensive linemen] are constantly cycling through all the drills in practice and they don’t really get to work with the special teams like [Jahnke] does,” he said. “With him, he’s there to work specifically with them and he’s done a great job for us.”

Relationships have been big this season for SIU football and Jahnke had a new one to form after last season’s punter Derek Mathewson graduated.

MORE: SIU football building family atmosphere on and off the field

Jahnke’s relationship with redshirt freshman punter Lane Reazin, who is also his roommate, developed as a result of a fishing trip the two took over the summer.

Reazin said although they didn’t catch anything, the special teams unit bonded over the experience.

“It’s really important to have that relationship because if there are days where one of us is not having a great practice we’re all there to pick each other up,” Reazin said. “Especially with Josh, if I’m not exactly hitting my spots on punts, he’s there encouraging me.”

Although he isn’t likely to have his name in the news for scoring a game-winning touchdown or a game saving tackle, Jahnke said he enjoys playing the underdog role.

“It’s a very under the radar position and it’s one I embrace because the coaches allow me to just go out and do my job,” he said. “It may not be a well-known position, but it’s a position that I try and play to the best of my ability.”

The Salukis host Southeast Missouri at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or @TedWard_DE.

To stay up to date with all your SIU football news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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