He had been raised always to see things through until the end, so even as the blood and tears leaked down his cheeks, Nate Adams said he didn’t think about quitting. He was about to enter seventh grade, the youngest one at that Arizona gym, attending his first workout for long snappers because maybe, down the road, it could help get him a college scholarship.
Twenty players were already busy practicing, paired up 10 across, their levels of experience ranging from high school to the NFL. So Adams took his place behind Nick Sundberg, who would go on to snap for the Washington Redskins, and Sundberg rocketed one between his legs, the first real snap Adams ever saw that close. It zoomed through his hands and struck him square in the face. Across the gym, his father, Phil, gasped.
“He didn’t even get up,” Phil said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I didn’t know if he was going to get up and leave or what.”
But Nate stayed. And years later, his devotion to an obscure craft has earned him the promise of a scholarship to snap for the Maryland football team.
When he was younger, even something as small as exiting video games before they were finished earned a grounding. Phil, a firefighter and football coach, did not want his children to quit. So Nate stuck it out, wiping the blood and tears from his face. He caught every football from Sundberg that night and even snapped some himself, showing enough promise that after practice, the presiding coach pulled him aside and said, “If you keep snapping, I’m going to get you a D-I scholarship.”
At the time, Nate didn’t think that was possible. What college programs, big or small, would give scholarships to a long snapper? Besides, he was a strong kid raised in the firehouse and on the football field, one who would eventually turn into a two-time all-state linebacker who set the Greenway (Ariz.) High School record for tackles. The future seemed to be there, in the spotlight.
But Adams kept snapping. He attended national combines to get exposure. Turns out, he was pretty good. Never botched one during four years in high school. Shot up the long-snapper rankings, compiled by organizations such as Rubio Long Snapping and Kohl’s Kicking Camps, and at one point was No. 1 for the class of 2014. Eventually, too, that coach was proven right. On Wednesday morning, Adams will sign his national letter-of-intent with Maryland.
“It was like a dream,” Adams said of earning a scholarship. “It seemed so far away. Now that it’s happened, it’s pretty cool.”
The oral commitment raised eyebrows but it made sense for the Terrapins. Their lone previous long snapper on scholarship, Greg Parcher, was a senior, so a starting spot had opened for next season. Andre Powell, Maryland’s running backs coach and special teams coordinator, contacted Jamie Kohl of Kohl’s Kicking Camps and asked for some names. Maryland went through the evaluations and settled on Adams.
The process moved fast. At Powell’s behest, Adams booked a plane ticket, bought some beanies to handle the mid-December cold and took his official visit to College Park. There, he received a scholarship offer from Coach Randy Edsall. Four days later, he committed.
Other schools had been tracking Adams for longer. Stanford expressed interest after his sophomore season and the family took several unofficial visits. After his junior season, several other Pacific-12 schools including Oregon and Washington took looks, too, but all were offering preferred walk-on positions. The only other scholarship interest Adams had was from Air Force as a linebacker. He stands 6 feet 2 inches, weighs north of 210 pounds, can bench-press 300 pounds and can squat 505. Playing defense at a Division I school was still an option.
But Adams liked Maryland. He liked the honesty of the coaching staff. Other programs, he said, would promise that he was the only long snapper they were looking at. Then he would call other friends, fellow snappers from the combine circuit, to discover that they were told similar things.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride with recruiting and we’re real happy with Maryland,” Phil Adams said. “That’s why we made such a quick decision.”
Since Adams committed, Powell and Edsall have each flown to visit several times. They went over the letter-of-intent package, so when Wednesday morning rolls around, Adams can sign everything and fax it across the country.
Giving up offense and defense will be tough, Adams said, but Maryland has plans to make him its long snapper of the future. He was a two-way star at Greenway, and during practices for the Semper-Fi All-American Bowl this January in California, asked to play linebacker. He wound up becoming second-string. Practices just snapping, he said, was too boring.
“I don’t ever like being labeled just a long snapper,” he said. “But I’ll get used to it.”