Aug 15, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - There's one Saluki football player who has been a starter at his position longer than anyone else -- 22-straight games -- and yet even the team's most diehard fans probably wouldn't recognize him in public.
Being taken for granted doesn't bother Jason Stegman, the team's senior long snapper, who has labored in obscurity the past two seasons.
You see, if you're a snapper, you'd rather people not notice your work. Usually, the snapper only gets mentioned when a snap goes awry.
Fortunately for Stegman, he has yet to have a noticeably bad snap in his career at Southern.
"I've had a few rough ones that weren't perfect, but nothing over the head or something like that," he said.
Like the team's kickers and punters, Stegman is a pure specialist. Snapping is all he does and it's all he's ever done throughout his football career.
"As a freshman in high school, I wasn't very good at other positions and wasn't very athletic," Stegman said.
His dad, Joe Stegman, was a snapper in high school and suggested the position to his son. Soon, Jason was attending specialty camps such as Kohl's Kicking, Punting, Snapping camp. That's where he learned the finer points of his craft.
"First, you have to get the right grip on the ball," Stegman explained. "You hold it like you're going to throw it with your right hand and put your left hand along the seam."
Keys to a successful snap include keeping your back flat and your arms relaxed, he said.
"You want to finish the snap with your legs completely straight and arms extended between your legs," he described. "It almost makes a plus sign if you're looking from the side."
A typical Stegman snap usually takes 0.75 seconds from the time it leaves his fingertips until the punter catches it. Day after day, he works to perfect the snapping motion.
At first, Stegman wasn't sure if he wanted to play college football. He thought about just going to school at Missouri, but both of his parents were SIU alums, and he decided to walk-on to the Saluki football team.
Stegman said his two most memorable games were the first two of his career. He made his debut on the same night that Southern opened Saluki Stadium against Quincy on Sept. 2, 2010. His second game was played in front of 52,217 fans at Illinois.
An electrical engineering major, Stegman has a 3.7 GPA and will graduate in December. He said he might continue with graduate school at Southern and hopes to someday work for a major manufacturer like Boeing.
The Salukis held a brief, full-contact scrimmage at the end of practice today. Pads were cracking. QB A.J. Hill led an impressive scoring drive. He converted a screen pass to TE MyCole Pruitt, who rumbled down the left sideline for a big gain. RB Mika'il McCall added a 12-yard carry, followed by a 10-yard completion to WR LaSteven McKinney and a 15-yarder to Pruitt. The touchdown came on a well-placed swing pass to FB Ray Agnew, who plowed into the end zone from two yards out.
In case you're keeping track, today's center, right guard, right tackle lineup was Tanner Crum, Corey Boemer and Clayton Melville, in that order. They appeared to be effective in opening up holes in the ground game.
Notes from staffer Tyler Wooten: "Defense looked sharp in both Skeleton (7-on-7) and Team drills after being scorched yesterday. Two linebackers returned interceptions for touchdowns in Skeleton. OLB Kevin Reed jumped a flat route and picked off QB A.J. Hill, while CB Dinnus Harding took a Ryan West pass to the house, prompting the defense to mob him in the end zone. Several DBs also had impressive pass breakups today, including CB Trey Colbert over WR John Lantz, S Dante Lewis over WR Josh Sullivan, Reed over TE Adam Fuehne, and CB Emmanuel Souarin over Sullivan. DE Calvin Belts also batted down a ball thrown by Hill, leaping over the tackle to do so.
Notes from staffer Akeem Glaspie: "DE Kyle Cavil looked explosive during pass rush drills, used a swim move to get around O-linemen...RB Steve Strother had nice cut-back runs to the outside throughout practice...QB Matt Vincent looked elusive on runs during practice...CB Tay Griffin stayed home on a reverse and made a solid solo tackle...Second-team O-line created big holes for Strother during live drills."