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Hunter Becker heard the mocking, the teasing, the questions.

It was never overwhelming — he had family and close friends, the ones who really knew him, to lean on — but he heard it. Long snapping isn’t a glory position. Few grow up dreaming of snapping a football 10 yards a few times a game, and the position can be an afterthought when filling out rosters.

But look who’s got the last laugh now.

The Trinity senior committed to Saint Francis a little over a week ago, where he will long snap at the Division I level as a preferred walk-on. If he wins the starting job, he’ll likely get an athletic scholarship, he said.

“[The teasing] didn’t bother me too much just because I had guys who were in grades ahead of me who were going to college to snap, so I knew I could do it as long as I worked hard,” Becker said while exchanging direct messages on Twitter for several days.

“When I was little I always wanted to play college football and my main position was offensive line. Obviously, once I hit freshman year and wasn’t over 6 feet that kinda went out the window, so I started taking long snapping more seriously because I saw at camps that kids actually went to big colleges for this kind of thing.”

Becker can now count himself in that company.

Perhaps befitting the status of the position (ie: an afterthought), Becker said it’s tough for recruits to get a scholarship as a Division I long snapper, at least not until they’re on the roster. And even just getting a walk-on spot during the winter, and not during camp in the summer of your freshman year, is tough.

So this is a fairly impressive accomplishment.

“The recruiting process was definitely a challenge for me and a lot of my friends who long snap,” he said. “Most of us didn’t get our first offers until after the season or these past few weeks. You just have to keep working on your craft and trust that you know eventually a coach is going to take a chance on you and give you that offer.”

Becker, the younger of two children — 25-year-old Courtney played softball — to Charles and Tammy Becker, was born in Gloversville, New York. The family has moved several times: to Connecticut when Hunter Becker was 2 years old, to Moore Twp., near Allentown, a year later and then to Carlisle before he entered ninth grade, where he now lives and attends Trinity.

Becker, 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, is the son of a high school linebacker (Charles) and a color guard member (Tammy). He played baseball up through middle school and wrestled until sixth grade. He’s been playing football since he was 5, on both lines primarily, and began long snapping when he was about 10, he said.

Becker started to take the position seriously heading into his freshman year as a way to make the varsity team. Learning there were others at his position going to camps and going to “big colleges for this kind of thing” kept him engaged and hungry to improve.

He’s been all over the country for camps and recruiting visits: California, Las Vegas, Idaho, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Philadelphia.

He’s trained under Chris Rubio, a former long snapper at UCLA who runs Rubio Long Snapping. Rubio, who claims 12 years as an LS coach, touts himself on his website as the “[No. 1] snapping instructor in the country and the go-to man when a college coach needs a snapper,” who has “assisted almost 1,000 Long Snappers [sic] earning full scholarships and preferred walk-ons to major Universities [sic] just for snapping.”

Becker said Rubio helps with technique and form, and also the recruiting process, like how to talk to coaches.

“I was just looking for camps online ‘cause I knew I had to get better if I wanted a chance to start varsity, so I looked camps up online, found his and went to my first one, and the bonds and friends I made will last me a lifetime,” Becker said.

Becker practices around four hours a week, he said, with three “live days” and four drill days. On live days he snaps 15 yards for about an hour. When lifting, the focus is on the legs. Being able to fire from the legs creates a quicker snap, plus strong legs are needed to block or get downfield to make a tackle. Accuracy and athleticism to get down the field are the things he works on the most.

Becker credits Rubio and some current and former snappers — Tyler Griffiths (North Carolina State), Niko Walsh (Temple) and Alan Lucy (Rutgers) — as well as his parents for helping him travel the country.

“My parents definitely sacrificed a lot to allow me to try and fulfill my dream of playing college football, but they always trusted it’d pay off in the long run,” he said.

Snapping is by no means easy on the recruiting trail. Whereas some position groups can earn scholarships mostly on film and visits, snapping requires coaches to see a recruit in person, under pressure of only having a small handful of snaps in that day. Becker said he can get in 25-30 punt snaps at a camp, but it’s more important to get in five flawless snaps than rush a bunch of average snaps.

Accuracy is critical — Becker aims for the punter’s right hip — and D-I schools want a snap to get to the punt in 0.75 seconds or less (0.65 or less is about as fast as there is). Becker said some schools also go for size and blocking ability, while others want a smaller frame that can release and get up the field in punt coverage.

“If a kid has one bad snap his career is almost always over,” Becker said.

It’s a lot of pressure.

Becker has learned to manage that pressure, whether in camps or in a game, by trying not to think about his snap. One mental trick he uses is to write a funny quote or saying on the front of his cleats. He’ll see it when he bends over the ball before snapping, and it helps him relax.

“I’ll do like funny sayings or funny quotes from a TV show or movie I watched, and then during the game I’ll forget about it cause it’s so intense, and then the first snap comes and it just relaxes me,” he said.

It has paid off. Interest in Becker, a Mid-Penn Capital Second Team offensive lineman and All-Sentinel Honorable Mention in 2017, picked up after the season, and he narrowed down his choices to New Haven and SFU. He likes Saint Francis for its small-school feel. He plans to enter college undeclared on a major, but is leaning to exercise science, or perhaps forensics or zoology.

The Red Flash, an FCS program, went 5-6 last year under Chris Villarial in the Northeast Conference. He’ll join Mid-Penn products Zachary Rohland (Cumberland Valley tight end) and Shaun Hastings (Cedar Cliff o-line).

Division I athlete is something nobody can take away from Becker in a year when he hits the field. Every team needs a long snapper, after all.

“I just kept working and knew as long as I kept my head down and didn’t let it affect me I’d be fine and eventually a coaching staff would give me an opportunity,” Becker said.

Email Jake Adams at jadams@cumberlink.com or follow him on Twitter @jakeadams520

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Sports Editor

Sports editor at The Sentinel.

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