Monday, July 28, 2014

Longshot? Vikings long snapper is at training camp for 11th time

In all team sports there are superstars who dazzle the crowd and light up the scoreboard. In football, the attention is often directed towards the quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers who put points on the board. But every team needs role players, guys who are unsung heroes who contribute in their own way to help the team win, but ultimately fly under the radar. Cullen Loeffler is one of those players.

Loeffler is a long snapper, hiking the ball to the placeholder for kicker Blair Walsh to split the uprights on field goal attempts. While settling for field goals is often seen as a failed offensive drive up the field, they can also help a team win games and can be crucial. Though his job may seem miniscule to many, Loeffler’s job can have a major impact on the outcome of a game.

 “I started doing it my sophomore year in college when he had some special teams issues.” said Loeffler. “Fortunately I was able to transition into it and have been doing it since.”

Undrafted out of the University of Texas, Loeffler debuted for the Vikings in 2004 and has been with the team ever since. Heading into his eleventh season with Minnesota, he’s made a pretty good career for himself at a position that is often overlooked, and seems to be content here in Minnesota.

“The weather has been great these ten years.” he said. “Being able to have two a days this time of year in under 100 degree heat is pretty nice.”

In his ten seasons with the Vikings, Loeffler has played in 155 games, the most for a long snapper in Vikings history. Loeffler has also been the long snapper for ten of the 11 longest field goals in Vikings history, while the five games he missed in 2011 with an injury are the only games he’s missed in his decade long career.
It’s an interesting position that requires a different kind of training. While position players work on their agility, speed, and their hands, Loeffler’s job is specifically to work on his ball snapping.

“It’s a lot different from regular snapping with the timing you need.” Loeffler said. “It has to be a good snap for everything to go right.”

Though an undervalued position in the game, Loeffler has proven that every position plays an important role for a team. The 33 year old from Texas is in the last year of his three year contract, meaning his career may be closing in on its end, but as an undrafted long snapper to play over a decade in the NFL, he’s made every snap count.

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