NEW ORLEANS -- They look at the world upside down between their legs.
The only time they get noticed is when they mess up.
Such is life for a long snapper.
In Sunday’s Super Bowl, Brian Jennings of the San Francisco 49ers and Morgan Cox of the Baltimore Ravens will be snapping for punts, field goals and extra points.
They have the same goal: Don’t do anything that draws a lick of attention.
"That’s part of a long snapper’s personality," Cox said. "We just want to stay in the background."
It may seem like a simple skill -- hiking the ball between your legs -- but it takes years of practice to be able to perform it with the consistency, accuracy and velocity required in the NFL.
They know one slight miscue could cost the game.
"You’ve got guys who’ve been out there banging their heads for 31Ž2 hours," Jennings said. "You don’t want to go out there and screw it up."
While snappers, like kickers and punters, are viewed as something of outcasts compared to the rest of the roster, there’s a growing appreciation for what they do. Camps have sprung up around the country dedicated solely to the art of hiking the ball -- 7 or 8 yards to a holder for field goals and PATs, 14 or 15 yards to a punter.
A player who has no chance of making it to the NFL based on arm strength or his 40 time can now carve out a niche on special teams.
"I snap the ball accurately for a living," the 36-year-old Jennings said. "I think that’s awesome."
If there’s a drawback, it’s catching grief from their teammates about the massive amounts of time they spend standing around on the sideline. But that’s all in good fun. Everyone knows the snapper has a vital roleIt allows him to get impressive speed on his snaps, giving the punter or kicker an extra split-second to beat the rush.
Cox doesn’t snap the ball nearly as hard as Jennings. The Ravens specialist focuses on consistency and accuracy, taking a meticulous approach to make sure he hikes the ball the same way every time.
On field goals and extra points, he always puts his heels on the same part of the hash mark. Then, he attempts to rotate the ball the same number of times so the holder -- punter Sam Koch -- can place it down in one motion with the laces facing away. If Koch has to spin the ball before placing it on the turf, it can throw off the timing just a bit.
As for those who don’t look at snappers as real players, consider this: In Cox rookie’s season, he tore up a knee but still finished the game, snapping the ball six more times in excruciating pain.
"As funny as it sounds, that was a really great experience for me," Cox said. "To come out of it having all the support from my teammates, to hear them say, ‘Wow, that was awesome what you did."’
Yep, these guys are real players.
And real important, too.