HAMILTON - Kevin Scott may not be the loneliest Tiger-Cat.
But to suggest he is a solitary man in a team game would be a mere stone’s throw from reality.
“I’m not sure if it’s the loneliest (profession) but it’s definitely a specialized position and there aren’t a lot of guys in the league who can do it,” Hamilton’s long snapper said Thursday, after another two-hour workout spent mostly apart from his teammates.
As coach Marcel Bellefeuille worked with the offence and defence at Ivor Wynne Stadium, Scott fired balls back between his legs off a goal post; later, joined by kicker Justin Medlock and holder Jason Boltus, they worked in the end zone. Alone. And, after everyone else has retired to the clubhouse, the three finally get to practise kicking balls through some actual goal posts.
Only the local seagulls pay notice.
“It’s definitely not something you dream about, thinking ‘I want to grow up to be a long snapper.’ But I kind of picked it up along the way ... it’s given me a chance to get paid playing football.”
A native of Ottawa, Scott hooked up with former Renegades long snapper Marc Pilon and picked up enough to get drafted by Saskatchewan out of Queen’s University. But after two years backing up 10-year veteran Jocelyn Frenette, he was cut.
“I didn’t play (in 2010) and just went to Ottawa where I was an on-call firefighter and bartender.” He thought his football days were done. The plan was to enroll at teacher’s college.
Then this spring Hamilton long-snap specialist Jordan Matechuk was arrested in a steroid mess. Scott’s been hooking up with Medlock ever since and at age 28 has become part of one of the most succesful kicking combines in the CFL.
“I’m still going to a school in Buffalo in January. I’d like to become a high school teacher. In this game, you never know ...” A couple bad snaps and he could be history; from anonymity to unemployed. It is a small step.
“When it comes to the world of a long snapper if someone is talking about you, it usually means you’ve made a mistake,” said Scott. So, his biggest surprise Thursday came when practice ended and he saw his name posted on the board notifying players they were wanted by the media. It’s the first time that’s happened since the day he joined the Ticats.
“Sometimes Medlock puts my name up on the board as a joke. To be honest, that’s what I thought this was when I saw it,” said Scott, who brings a grin and an easy manner to his task.
It is a task to which few fans pay much attention - until it goes wrong. “It can be a momentum changer and we’ve seen it happen in a few games already this year in this league.”
How can something so simple go so wrong? It’s actually a position that requires technique and strength. The snap needs to be consistent, it needs to be hard enough to beat a rush, yet pliant as to be catchable.
“I hang out with Justin all day. It’s just snap, snap, snap all day. How many we do depends mostly on Justin ... we probably do 45 to 70 every practice. He’s a perfectionist and that attitude kind of wears off. So, I want it to be perfect, too.”
Medlock likes to get the ball chest-down on punts.
And, defences will do just about anything to prevent Scott from delivering the ball in that spot.
“The big thing is it’s truly a mental position. You can’t be affected by the crowd noise or players screaming at you. Guys will try to get you distracted ... they’ll be as physical as they can. After a punt going downfield they’ll try to lay you out completely.”
It’s a game within a game rarely up for public discussion; never seen on the replays; appreciated by few not actually wearing a football uniform.
“The noise, the yelling, the hitting. You have to block all that out. They’ll hit you hard ... try to throw you off your game so that you’re not focussing on the snap. That’s the mental toughness part. You can’t think about what happens after (the kick) because the snap is the most vital thing for me.”
Frenette turned it into a 10-year career. Pilon had six seasons. Randy Srochenski was a master of the trade for 15 seasons in the CFL. He was around so long he was in danger of becoming a household name.
“It’s an interesting position ... one where you don’t want anyone to know who you are,” said Scott. “If nobody mentions your name it’s usually a good thing.”