April 17, 2013
Recent Spring Football Stories:
New Mexico Lobos Football --- 2013 Spring Ball
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
If Steven Romero has his druthers - if he does his job perfectly - he will lead a quiet life as an unknown Lobo. He will be "Number 51" -- the Lobo who trots onto the field, snaps a football and trots back to the sidelines to sit in the shadows cast by Lobos with names.
"A long snapper is kind of a nobody on a team," said Romero, a redshirt freshman out of La Cueva High. "Nobody knows your name. A long snapper is only noticed or remembered by your failures.
"But if you send a snap over the punter's head, everybody all of a sudden knows your name."
Romero is the heir apparent to Evan Jacobsen, who actually made a name for himself as a Lobo long snapper. Jacobsen was recruited by UNM out of California because of his unique ability to snap a football.
Romero has similar abilities and, like Jacobsen, also is a pupil of Chris Rubio, a long-snapping guru who has sent more than 200 snappers into four-year universities from 2010 to 2012.
Of course, there is a reason long snappers are in demand on a football field. If you have a good one, he might go unnoticed because the kicking job is not a problem. If you don't have a good one, there will be blocked punts, bad snaps, missed PATs and missed field goals.
"It's a small job that makes a difference," said Rubio. "A long snapper has to be mentally tough. You have to be a machine because there is no margin for error."
It's also a job of timing, precision and hard work. Romero might not do as much running, tackling or blocking as some of the other Lobos, but watch him on the sidelines at practice and you see a blue-collar Lobo serious about his craft.
"If you want to be good at it, you have to put in a lot of work," said Romero. Romero already is good at it. But when you send a football spiraling back 15 yards to a punter, who has to kick the ball while a thundering herd bears down on him -- well, you really need to be perfect.
A flaw in a kicking game can be a huge momentum changer. You snap a football over the punter's head - or don't get it there quick enough - and a punt can turn into six points for the enemy. You flub a snap on a field goal attempt and you might cost your team three points.
Romero says a long snapper has less than a second -- .6 to .75 -- to get a football into a punter's hands. "That's where you want to be," he said. The clock starts at the first movement from the snapper.
"I'm usually between .65 and .70," said Romero. "I'm trying to always be under .70. If you can get sub .6, that's firing it back. But if you have a rocket snap that is high or low, that takes away from the efficiency of the kick."
In practice, Romero achieves his machine-like efficiency. His long snaps are quick, crisp and almost always end up in the pocket of the receiving net, where they are supposes to be. Romero also knows things might be tougher in a college football stadium with thousands of fans watching.
"I can snap perfectly in practice all day. It's different when you get in a game," said Romero. "That's when you have to be mentally tough and prepared."
As a college snapper, Romero is 0-for-0. He sat on the Lobo sidelines in 2012 and watched Jacobsen trot out and snap the football. "Without Evan, I would not be where I'm at today," said Romero. "He helped me tremendously."
"Nobody knows your name. A long snapper is only noticed or remembered by your failures."
Lobo snapper Steven Romero
Romero will snap the ball in 2013. He is listed as the No. 1 snapper with no one listed in the No. 2 spot.
Romero said he became a snapper in YAFL and got serious about it prior to his freshman year at La Cueva. "I wanted to be on the varsity at La Cueva as a freshman and I decided my niche was long snapping," he said.
Romero also got in some time on the offensive line for La Cueva and shopped around his 6-foot-1, 235-pound frame as an O-lineman. "I wanted to play D-one football, but I was too small for the line," he said. "I could have gone to some smaller schools, but my only option at (D-one) was long snapping."
Romero says after his career of at UNM he plans to take a shot at pro snapping. "Why not?" he said. "You have to aim high and there is nothing wrong with making some money as a long snapper. But right now my mind is on my job here."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.