Exciting Week for Shaq's Auburn Buddy

For the Crofoot family deep snapper's are truly a family tradition.

Auburn, Ala.--In college football, normally no news is good news for deep snappers. Usually the only time snappers get publicity is for a bad snap, but that hasn't always been the case for Auburn's Chas Crofoot.

The Tuesday after Auburn's nerve-racking 10-9 win over LSU in 2004, which Auburn nearly lost because of bad snaps, head coach Tommy Tuberville announced at his weekly press conference that little-known walk-on Chas Crofoot would take over as the extra point and field goal snapper for the rest of the season.

From there Crofoot had nearly perfect snaps the rest of the season as the Tigers finished the season 13-0. But that wasn't the first time the senior from Orlando had his 15 minutes of fame. Crofoot appeared on the popular MTV show "Cribs" in an episode featuring Shaquille O'Neal's house.

Shaq (left) plays for the NBA's Miami Heat.

"The phone rang one morning a couple of summers ago and he says, ‘Chas, it's Shaq. Can I borrow your boat for Cribs?' and I was like, ‘Yeah, sure,'" Crofoot says. "So I went over there and he used my boat and I kind of hung out with him for the day and I was a part of the whole thing.

"Most of it I was just hanging out in the background," he adds. "There was a part that they didn't put on TV, but he called me over and he was like, ‘I've got my own personal dealer. This is Chas, he's my neighbor, oldest of five boys,' and all this stuff. I dealt cards to them and it was cool. We were out there in the pool with him watching his kids in the end and we were on there, too. It was a fun experience."

Chas Crofoot is a key member of Auburn's special teams.

Crofoot adds that even though he's been away at college for a few years, he and his family still have a strong relationship with the 11-time NBA All-Star, even attending his wedding in Los Angeles two years ago.

"This past summer when I was in town, he was there and we'd go down and play basketball with him," Crofoot says. "He actually threw a Fourth of July party and me, my brother and him lit the fireworks for the party.

"He's an unbelievable guy," he adds. "We've always said we were going to try to get him to a game. He's off working on basketball right now with his team, so it can't happen right now. My parents, every week they drive to the game they drive Shaq's RV. It's got big Superman signs on the sides of it. My dad always gets out and everyone's looking to see who's driving the Superman signs around and it's just my dad."

Crofoot, the oldest of five boys, says that his relationship started with O'Neal started when he moved into the neighborhood while playing for the Orlando Magic.

"About 10 years ago he moved two doors down from us," Crofoot says. "We grew up hanging out. At first, we'd always be out in the front yard throwing the football when he'd go to Magic games and we'd wave, and all of a sudden he'd be out there throwing pitches to us. Since then we've formed a pretty good relationship with him."

As Auburn prepares for its game Saturday against South Carolina, Crofoot is back in the news--and once again, not for a bad snap. The Gamecocks deep snapper and field goal holder is his younger brother, Ike Crofoot. And the story of how the Crofoots became snappers is just as interesting as their relationship with one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

"We have a relationship with the Holtz family," Crofoot says of legendary coach Lou Holtz. "My parents are from Indiana and Coach Holtz was coaching there (at Notre Dame). Coach Holtz told my dad when we were probably about six or seven years old, he said, ‘There is always a spot on the bus for a long snapper.'

"We started playing football at the age of seven--us five boys," he adds. "Since then we've always snapped. We have contests and Dad will catch. Five points here, four points here, and Ike holds now, so all summer I snapped to Ike every day so we'd both get our work in. It's a family thing."

Brother Ike is the deep snapper for the Gamecocks.

The road through college as a football player for Ike was much easier than it was for Chas. Through the family relationship with Skip Holtz, who is friends with Chas and Ike's father, and Lou Holtz, Ike went to South Carolina as a walk-on quarterback. Immediately after arriving in Columbia he became the deep snapper.

"The first day of practice Coach Holtz said, ‘Can anyone snap the football?' My brother said he could and he stayed after and snapped," Chas says. "Coach Holtz said, ‘All right, you're starting in three weeks.' He was 18 years old, went there as a quarterback and ended up starting as a true freshman snapping punts."

Chas Crofoot, who is playing his senior season as a graduate student, wasn't offered a scholarship or even invited as a walk-on when he came to Auburn. He was a quarterback in high school and wasn't ready to end his football playing days, so he made a home video of his snapping skills to give to the coaches.

"We went out in the yard and filmed it," Crofoot says. "We made sure they could tell it wasn't cut up. I did 10 straight snaps with a watch and I wore sweat pants because I was so small. My legs looked tiny so I had a couple of pairs of pants on. I had bigger shoulder pads on--I couldn't even snap because they were so big--just trying to look bigger than I was.

"I dropped it off at the office door," he says. "I just tried to get a call back. I was having a good time with it and all I wanted to do was get a tryout. Honestly I didn't expect to make it. I was 150 pounds then. I figured I'd just give it a shot. I said I could snap in the rain, in the snow, you name it, I can do it for you."

A few days later Crofoot got the call he was waiting for, but instead of being offered a tryout or a spot on the roster, former coach Eldon Hawley turned him away. However, after two years of being just a student at Auburn Crofoot's fortunes changed.

"I was back home and met Coach (Eddie) Gran at an FCA event and he said, ‘Do you still want to snap?' and I said, ‘No, I'm happy at Auburn. I don't want to leave,'" Crofoot says. "He said, ‘Would you snap at Auburn?' and I was like, ‘Are you serious?' He said yeah, so I started eating, started lifting and snapping again."

Even though Crofoot found his way onto the roster, not everything went exactly as planned. He spent most of his time as a scout team safety before actually finding his way into the starting lineup.

"You're always looking for deep snappers, and we'll give anybody a try out," Tuberville says. "It's one of those things. It's very hard to find the guys who have good skills and technique in that area. He did leave a tape and came out. It's worked out real well for him. He continues to work on his long snaps, but he snaps all of our short snaps and does a very good job with it."

Next in line for the Crofoot family is younger brother Clayton, who is a freshman student at Auburn. "He'll try eventually," Chas says. "He's 6-5 and he'll put on 20 pounds and go out. We still snap when we go home for the weekends. There's no reason not to. It's one early morning a year. If you don't make it you can say at least you've given it a shot. That was my mentality at first."

Although Chas and Ike won't get to battle against each other directly, both will have an impact in Saturday's game between the Tigers and Gamecocks, which is something they are looking forward to. And while snappers are rarely fan favorites, the Crofoots will have their own cheering section coming to Auburn in a Superman RV.

"We're just both excited that we made it here," Crofoot says. "Here it is. It's finally going to happen. Just to see Mom and Dad and family up there it's going to be a lot of fun. Mom has a jersey, half and half. The front half is going to be Auburn and the back half South Carolina."

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