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TJ grad Schmidt excels in long-snapping role with Fighting Scots

| Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Playing college football at any level is something few athletes get to experience.

Josh Schmidt recently completed his freshman season at Edinboro, and because of the position he played, his experience was even more rare than that of most collegiate gridders.

The Thomas Jefferson product was a long-snapping specialist with the Fighting Scots in 2015.

“Josh does a great job. He means the world to us on special teams,” said Wayne Bradford, an assistant coach at Edinboro. “People only recognize a long-snapper when there's a bad snap. No one thinks about him when he has a good snap. I don't think he had a bad punt snap all year, and he only had one or two bad short snaps (for placekicks).”

While Schmidt occasionally worked out as a scout-team tight end for the Scots, the majority of his work, even in practice, occurs off to the side, away from the majority of the team.

Schmidt lines up over the football, views the target behind him and, using both hands, fires the ball between his legs with precision.

The 6-foot-4, 208-pound Schmidt said the key to long-snapping is not size, strength nor speed.

“It's all technique and repetition,” he said. “I practice it almost every day during the season and in the offseason. You don't have to be biggest guy as long as you have the right technique.”

Schmidt decided to focus on long snapping early in his high school days.

“It was in my freshman year. I realized I wasn't going to get much playing time at tight end at TJ,” he said. “Snapping was a way to get on the field.”

He relentlessly began practicing technique, attending long-snapping camps and focusing entirely on honing the skill. He became TJ's starting snapper as a junior and was recruited by several schools.

Schmidt chose Edinboro, an NCAA Division II school, mainly because he wanted to follow the footsteps of his father, Don. The former Allderdice coach was a long snapper at Edinboro in the late 1980s.

Schmidt claimed the starting job immediately after arriving on campus for summer camp.

“Josh won the job on Day 1,” Bradford said. “We had a returning long snapper, and that man, after seeing Josh, didn't want to come back. He didn't like the competition. I told Josh, ‘Your competition gave it up. You beat him out after one practice.' ”

Schmidt quickly embraced the opportunity.

“To get that news right at the beginning of camp, that was exciting,” Schmidt said. “I was scared and nervous but really excited.”

It's one thing to snap in practice, but the real test would come once games started.

Schmidt knew he would be on the field in key situations as a true freshman. He clearly remembers his first game action.

“It was a punt against St. Joe's. My heart was pounding, to say the least,” Schmidt said. “But I got the snap off. I didn't have any bad snaps that game.”

Finding players with that specialized skill is rare, Bradford indicated.

“It is hard, especially at our level, to find the really good ones like Josh,” Bradford said. “Because they are rare, they get Division I opportunities.”

While snapping is Schmidt's lone role on the field, there is much more to him than a specialized football skill.

“Most importantly, he's one of the finest young men we have,” Bradford said. “He's a special kid from a character standpoint and an academic standpoint.

“I have nothing but nice things to say about him, on and off of the field.”

From a personal standpoint, Schmidt loved his first taste of collegiate football.

“I think I enjoy college ball more than high school,” he said.

But from a team standpoint, it was a rough season for Edinboro as the Scots went 0-11 overall.

But Schmidt is confident better days are ahead.

“Edinboro is in a down year, but this is a program that has history,” Schmidt said. “I think we'll be back next year, with all the talent we have coming up.

“We've got a lot of young guys. Seventy percent of the team is underclassmen. We're going to get a lot better.”

Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.

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