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Cowart eyes NFL career as long snapper

Aaron Sant-Miller | Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Many of Notre Dame’s athletes claim the title of “master of their craft,” but few more so than senior long snapper Jordan Cowart. Cowart is in his final season as the first scholarship long snapper in Irish history.

For Cowart, a lot of this skill comes from his knowledge of the game and his position.

“I know a lot of snappers that are just backup guys thrown in there,” Cowart said. “I’ve gone around the country doing different camps and different combines, so I would say I have a pretty good knowledge of technique. I haven’t really received any new coaching or anything. I’ve more been self-coached along the way. I have the ability to watch film and see what I’m doing wrong. I think that really helps.”

Yet the position is not entirely based on technique and physical skill, Cowart said. The intangible elements of his game are incredibly important to his success as well.

“All you do is reps of the same thing over again,” Cowart said. “It’s similar to kickers, so when you mess up, you know you can physically make the kick. It’s just a mental thing with snapping. You realize that all eyes are on you and everyone is expecting you to be perfect every single time, which adds pressure.

“You’re human, so you have that mental element in there in the back of your head all the time.”

Luckily for the Irish, the team has been able to depend on Cowart to remain cool under pressure since his freshman year. For Notre Dame’s long snapper, much of this has to do with the familiarity he has with the Irish punter and holder Ben Turk.

Turk and Cowart both graduated in 2009 from Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Both players have gone on to have solid careers for the Irish, which includes zero blocked punts, a trend that started for the pair in high school.

“We haven’t gotten a punt blocked in our entire college career and I don’t think we had any in high school either,” Cowart said. “We are such close friends too. We live together and know what gets each other calm. We just have a connection going on and it’s definitely beneficial.”

Yet, things have not all been smooth sailing for Plantation, Fla., native. This year, against Stanford, the Irish failed to connect on a snap for a 44-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter. In a game where every point was critical, the Irish snapper said he experienced what he titled his worst moment in his Notre Dame career.

“That’s the only time I’ve really messed up bad like that and I think that really kind of got to me,” Cowart said. “I know I come off as a laid back guy, but I pride myself in my personal skill. I was just really upset that I allowed that to happen.”

Despite playing a position of relative anonymity, Cowart will not graduate from Notre Dame without ever being thrust to the front stage. Last season at Purdue, following a punt, he got into a scuffle with Purdue linebacker Chris Carlino, ending up on top of the Boilermaker and throwing a few punches. Cowart’s behavior not only earned him a flag for unnecessary roughness, but also left him walking away with a broken hand, causing him to miss four games of the 2011 season.

“I’ve never been in a fight in my life,” Cowart said. “You can ask the guys on the team, I’m not a very aggressive guy. That’s why I’m a long snapper and not a linebacker.

“I’m not really aggressive and I don’t want to hit people. Something happened, I must have been stressed out from school, football and all that kind of stuff. I just snapped. I don’t even remember it happening. I kind of just ran off to the sideline and did my thing. We were all just amped up on adrenaline and I didn’t even realize until five minutes later when I went to go pick my helmet up that there is something wrong with my hand.”

Yet, for Cowart, he was able to find strength and support from his teammates. As a special teams player, it’s easy to get a reputation for being “soft,” Cowart said, so the fight earned him respect from teammates.

“My teammates were really cool about it,” Cowart said. “They were proud I stood up for myself and didn’t just get pushed around. They were saying how they knew I was tough now. They were proud of me. It would have been a different thing if it really affected the game or if we didn’t have someone to fill in my spot. Specialists kind of get joked about, so they liked it that I showed I was tough and stood up for myself.”

Despite toying with the idea of attending law school, the sociology major said he is leaning more and more toward a professional career on the field. Currently, ESPN and various other media outlets project Cowart to be one of the top long snapper prospects in this year’s NFL draft.

“I think the best decision for me would be to keep pursuing football,” Cowart said. “It’s what I’m best at and what suits my life best. I’ve been having a good career and have been getting my name out there. I have the opportunity put out in front of me so I might as well take it. I don’t want to look at it and say, ‘Wow, I could have played in the NFL and never tried to.’ I would just be happy with the opportunity.”

 

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu