Big Green Long Snapper a Master of Precision

  • Dartmouth College football long snapper Grant Jaffe (57) awaits a David Smith kick Thursday after snapping the ball to holder Jack Katzman on Memorial Field. Jaffe, a sophomore, chose Dartmouth over Cornell, which the Big Green hosts Saturday in a meeting of Ivy League teams. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College football long snapper Grant Jaffe, left, shares a laugh with his grandfather, Peter, during the Big Green's Nov. 1, 2017, practice on Memorial Field. Peter Jaffe is a 1959 Dartmouth graduate and his grandson is a sophomore. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College football long snapper Grant Jaffe watches a scoreboard video replay during the Big Green's loss at Harvard last week. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/2/2017 11:55:59 PM

Hanover — Grant Jaffe sometimes lies down on the job as Dartmouth College’s football long snapper. Right there on the sidelines, while practice occurs on Memorial Field, you can find the sophomore flat on his back, gently tossing a ball up a few feet with his arms over his head.

Jaffe actually is reinforcing the muscle memory necessary to have the pigskin leave his hands in precisely the same way each time. Gazing upwards, he can see by the ball’s slow rotation if his release is off to one side or the other.

Such tiny details matter when Jaffe’s in game action. The Southern Californian bends over and looks back through his widely-spread legs at either the holder for extra points and field goals or punter Davis Brief. He’s got to hit a specific spot every time.

For the 7-yard snap on place kicks, it’s the holder’s hands. They shouldn’t have to move, because if they do, it takes a little more time for him to get the ball down and it not only throws off the kicker’s timing, it gives opponents a better chance at blocking the boot.

With the 15-yard snaps used on punts, Brief ideally wants the ball fired at his right hip. Much higher and he’ll need to catch it with his thumbs down, necessitating time to turn them over before he kicks. Blocked punts not only change momentum, they have a nasty tendency to be returned for touchdowns.

“You never notice the long snapper until you have to notice him,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, who allots a recruiting admissions slot for one such player every three or four years. “We have to make sure we don’t miss when we’re looking for one.”

Graydon Peterson, a 2017 Dartmouth graduate, started at long snapper for four years and helped groom the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Jaffe last fall. The Big Green (5-2, 2-2) has rarely had a poor snap, let alone an outright bad one, during the last five years and hopes that trend continues on Saturday when it hosts Cornell (3-4, 3-1).

“I’ve never had to work to get a snap,” Brief said. “Grant’s all about what he does. You can tell he didn’t use his skill just to get into school or to hang out on the team. He could be an NFL snapper, because he has the size and speed to go along with it.”

In punt coverage, Jaffe has forced the most fair catches on the team and return units have to plan how to block him, which isn’t always the case with a long snapper. His bulk and long arms mean opponents have a tougher time getting past him on extra point and field goal attempts.

“You want one guy who snaps and who can work with the punters and kickers all the time at practice,” said Teevens, who meets with that group before practice. “We review tape each day and they’re very self-critical and aren’t afraid to break down each other’s mechanics based on what they see.”

Jaffe, 19, was slated to start as a lineman at Laguna Hills (Calif.) High as a junior, but decided his brightest football future was as a snapper. He transferred to Santa Margarita Catholic to gain more exposure and to play for a coach who would allow him to focus on that one skill. He attended snapping-specific camps to improve and visited prospect camps at five Ivy League schools before his senior season.

The best offers came from Cornell and Dartmouth and given that Jaffe’s father, uncle and paternal grandfather were Big Green graduates, the scales tilted toward Hanover. Grant Jaffe estimates he visited the campus roughly a dozen times before he enrolled.

“I really valued schoolm and I got a sense that trying to go to a higher football level like at a Duke or Stanford, football might have required too much time,” said Grant Jaffe, whose mother attended Stanford. “I like the balance here.”

Notes: Cornell will be without standout running back Chris Walker, who injured a knee at Princeton last week. … Dartmouth has beaten the Big Red eight consecutive times. … The game is not being televised, which should mean a speedier viewing experience for those in attendance and watching online. … Columbia, Yale and Cornell are tied for first in the Ivies at 3-1, while Dartmouth, Princeton and Harvard are 2-2. Pennsylvania is 1-3 and Brown, the only school eliminated from title contention, is 0-4. There is an end-of-season scenario featuring a seven-way tie for the Ancient Eight title and the Bears finishing in second place. … The last Dartmouth player to intercept three passes in a game was Sal Sciretto against Princeton in 1990. … Teevens said he has apologized to last week’s officiating crew. He berated it after a Dartmouth player blocked a Harvard opponent into Danny McManus, resulting in the senior fumbling a punt and the Crimson recovering. The coach said he had not seen the block in live time. … Only three Dartmouth freshmen have seen game action this fall, significantly fewer than in past seasons. Teevens attributes this to improved talent and depth in the program, making it harder to crack the lineup as a rookie.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.




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