He’s set to make his 44th consecutive special-teams start Saturday against Delaware State, but precious few Missouri football fans know senior Jake Hurrell’s name.
He’s fine with that.
“My mom and my girlfriend would know my name,” Hurrell joked. “That’s about it.”
Such is the life of a long snapper, a position at which anonymity and excellence go hand in hand.
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“Anonymity is definitely a good thing …,” fifth-year Tennessee Titans long-snapper and Mizzou graduate Beau Brinkley said. “It’s kind of the creed of the long snapper. If people know your name besides the coaches and players … usually, it’s for something bad.”
The long snapper is one of the most overlooked positions in football until a deep snap on a punt or field goal is botched and materially contributes to a loss.
Fortunately for the Tigers, that’s never been an issue with Hurrell.
“I can’t even remember a bad snap at practice,” sophomore punter Corey Fatony said. “I don’t ever have to worry about the snap. … He makes my job exponentially easier. He puts it right in my midsection every single time. It’s a breeze.”
As an eighth-grader, Hurrell took up long snapping at the urging of his father, Clark, an assistant coach for the team and former high school long-snapper.
“Our long-snapper at the time was really bad,” Hurrell said. “He would roll it back, so my dad was like, ‘Jake get in there and give it a try.’”
Hurrell said it wasn’t quite like being a fish in water, but he could at least get the ball to the punter or place-kick holder thanks to his dad’s tutelage. He continued to hone his craft at Francis Howell North High in suburban St. Louis thanks to a unique study regimen.
“When I was in high school, I would go to almost every (Mizzou) game,” Hurrell said. “Most guys are watching the Blaine Gabberts and the Chase Daniels. I would zone in, and it might be kind of creepy, but I would just zone in on Beau. I would watch his habits, watch how he warmed up, watch his snaps (and) watch how he got down the field. That was my Mizzou hero growing up, because he started for four straight years too and is really good at what he does.”
Mizzou might be more famous as “D-Line Zou,” but there’s a burgeoning tradition with long-snappers.
“I don’t think he carried on any tradition,” Brinkley said. “I think he made it better. He’s a lot better long snapper that I was in college. … He’s taking it above and beyond. I put a little bit of a foundation in, not even concrete just graded the dirt a little. He’s building the deal there. It’s fun to go back and see him and talk to him and share the things that we did in college. He’s a great young man, really down to earth and a great long-snapper.”
Possibly one with an NFL future if he can shore up his blocking sets and technique.
The Tigers use a spread-punt formation, which differs substantially from the traditional tight-punt formation used in the NFL, but the actual snapping part already is professional caliber.
“Jake’s got a chance,” Brinkley said. “He’s a hard-working kid. He reminds me a lot of myself — came in and walked on, took whatever opportunity he had and went after it. The opportunities are endless for him as long as he keeps working, and he has a great work ethic.”
Hurrell wouldn’t turn down a crack at the NFL, if it materializes, but he’s already achieved more than he expected as a hopeful walk-on in 2012 — contributing to two SEC East titles and as well as Cotton Bowl and Citrus Bowl victories.
“Obviously, the NFL is a childhood dream, but the real dream was just wearing the black and gold,” Hurrell said.
Delaware State at Missouri
WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Columbia
TV: SEC Network
Other story lines
Moore of a threat: Through three games, junior wide receiver J’Mon Moore leads the SEC with 320 receiving yards and is tied for third with 18 receptions. He only had 29 catches for 350 yards all last season.
Special specialists: Missouri sophomore punter Corey Fatony ranks fifth in the SEC and 29th nationally in punting average at 43.6 yards. Meanwhile, freshman kicker Tucker McCann, who connected on a career-long 46-yard field goal last week, is tied for seventh nationally in touchback percentage at 83.3 percent. He’s booted 15 of 18 kickoffs into the end zone.
Breaking up isn’t that hard: Missouri leads the nation with 29 passes defended this season, five more than second-place Ohio State. Only 14 teams in the country have as many as 20 defended passes. The Tigers’ 24 pass breakups also lead the nation (by five ahead of UCLA and Baylor), while their five interceptions are tied for 10th in the country.