Arizona Wildcats football: the life of a longsnapper
The most important Wildcat you've never heard of
Kelsee Becker / Arizona Daily Wildcat
#50 Long Snapper Chase Gorham practice for the upcoming Fall 2013 season on Monday afternoon. Spring practices began on March 2.
Long snapping isn’t the sexiest position on the football field, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
Arizona long snapper on place kicks Brian Chacon is entering his senior season, but most Wildcat fans have never heard of him, despite his status as a two-year letter-winner.
“If you’re a long snapper and people know your name, it probably means you’re not doing your job,” Chacon said.
A position that almost always goes unnoticed, the long snapper is involved in some of the most important parts of a game.
Last season, Arizona place kicker John Bonano was second on the team in scoring. Bonano racked up 102 of the Wildcats’ 496 total points from made field goals and extra points. Bonano’s job would have been much more difficult if Chacon wasn’t there.
“[A long snapper] is vital,” special teams coach Charlie Ragle said. “It can be the difference between winning a game and losing a game. It’s one of those deals, whether it be three times a game or seven, you have to be perfect; you can’t afford to make a mistake.”
Long snapping has become so crucial for football teams, there are even camps specifically geared toward teaching and improving football players of all ages’ technique on snaps. Chacon began snapping early in high school, and after taking lessons got progressively better until he was offered a preferred walk-on spot at Arizona, even after breaking a bone in his hand his senior year.
“I got into snapping when my high school coaches just asked who could [long snap],” Chacon said. “I gave it a shot and was decent. I was recruited as both a snapper and offensive lineman, but as I started getting better at snapping … I kind of got away from the offensive line.”
Chacon, who stands at 6-foot-3, 246 pounds, is a big man, but for a Division I offensive lineman, he isn’t quite big enough. Chacon missed his freshman year at Arizona due to surgery on his injured hand, but when he returned, he knew long snapping was his best chance of seeing playing time.
Chacon has been snapping for the Wildcats ever since he returned from his injury in 2010.
Following Arizona’s 56-0 victory over South Carolina State in 2012, Chacon was named special teams player of the week by UA coaches.
Special teams player of the week might not get the same recognition as other awards, but Chacon’s teammates have appreciated his success.
“Without a good long snapper, us kickers and punters wouldn’t be able to do what we do as well,” Arizona punter Drew Riggleman said. “Brian and I work closely together every day at practice and he’s a great guy to work with and we’ve got a pretty good relationship.”
Although a majority of Wildcats fans don’t know the man responsible for 20 percent of Arizona’s points, it doesn’t faze Chacon. He takes his job very seriously.
The senior said he would like to turn long snapping into a professional career in the future. But right now, he’s focused on snapping in a Wildcats’ jersey, even if no one knows his name.
“A good or a bad snap can be a game changer,” Chacon said. “So I guess I hope no one continues to know my name.”