Walk-on Proves He Can Play With the Big Boys

Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of football articles at AUTigers.com featuring walk-on members of the 2008 Auburn squad.

Auburn, Ala.--For Robert Shiver being a part of the Auburn team "has been a real trip" and his football journey has at least one more leg to go for the former walk-on from Thomasville, Ga.

Heading into his senior season as the returning starter as Auburn's deep snapper for punts, field goals and extra points, Shiver earned his scholarship with his performance in practice and games and is obviously proud to be a member of Tommy Tuberville's 10th Auburn team.

"I have been staying busy with football and school," says Shiver, who will join his teammates for the first preseason practice on Saturday. "I am about to graduate. Workouts have been going well and we are about to finish those up and go into preseason camp and then the season."

Scheduled to graduate in December with a degree in marketing, Shiver may not be done with football when he finishes his final collegiate season. The athletic, six-foot-three 227-pounder has ambitions to play the sport professionally.

"For the NFL I will need to gain some more weight so I will be trying to do that throughout the season," Shiver says. "I am going to put together a program with Coach (Kevin) Yoxall."

The deep snapper is shown during Auburn's bowl victory over Clemson in Atlanta to close the 2007 season.

Shiver runs well and is excellent on covering punts, but a ticket to the NFL will be based on how quickly and accurately he handles his deep snaps. He has been good at that assignment since he arrived at Auburn and could be even better as a senior.

The snapper is upbeat about how he did recently when he was timed on his punt snaps. "I think for college being under .74 (seconds) is good," he says. "I think for the NFL they say that .66 is a good time for a punt snap.

"I don't know what happened, but the other day I was timed at .53, .54 and two .59s," he notes. "I am zipping them back there pretty good now. The main thing is if you are snapping it that fast if you are a little off and make the punter have to move he might not have enough time to react. Fortunately, my accuracy has been good.

"The main thing is to get the ball into the hands of the punter easily where he will have plenty of time to get the ball off," Shiver says. "Most of them like to get the ball snapped toward their stomach."

With last year's field goal and extra points holder, Matthew Motley, being a senior in 2007, three players are in contention for the assignment this year. The group includes walk-ons Clayton Crofoot and John Cubelic plus backup quarterback Neil Caudle.

Shiver has been working out with those players this summer along with the returning starter at kicker, sophomore Wes Byrum. "They are all doing well," Shiver says of the holders. "During two-a-days it will come down to whoever Wes feels comfortable with. They are all doing a good job."

The deep snapper says he aims for the back knee of the holders when snapping on field goals and extra points. "That way if you miss a little high it is around their shoulder and if you miss low it is around their shin," he explains. "You always want to miss inside rather than outside."

Robert Shiver (left) is shown during a Tiger Walk during the 2006 season, his first year as a starter for the Tigers.

Shiver deep-snapped at Brookwood High in Thomasville, but he wasn't a specialist. He played multiple positions and was All-State in both football and basketball while he was also a standout in baseball. Despite his high school success, colleges were not offering athletic scholarships.

"I played in an all-star basketball game and I was thinking about playing basketball at a smaller school," he recalls. "I love football, but basketball season was kind of my favorite season although football games were the best.

"I came up here to the Georgia-Auburn football game my sophomore year in high school," Shiver recalls. "I think that was the year the Georgia receiver pushed off in the back of the end zone and they beat us in the last second. The atmosphere and the school kind of caught my attention."

That trip to Auburn stuck with the south Georgian and he decided to enroll at Auburn. "Before I came, my coach said, ‘You should really send them a video of you snapping because you are the best snapper I have seen.' I said, ‘Okay, we'll send it and see what happens.' Coach (Eddie) Gran ended up calling me. I came up here and me and my dad ended up having a meeting with him."

Gran, who still coaches special teams at Auburn in addition to his assignment with the running backs, invited Shiver to join the team as a walk-on and that is what he did on the unbeaten 2004 team. "I ended up playing safety on the scout team my freshman year when I redshirted," he remembers. "It was fun going up against Ronnie Brown and all of those guys after coming from a small, 2A private school to playing with these guys. Then after that everything just kind of fell into place and I just had to keep working hard and hope good things would happen."

As a redshirt sophomore, he won the starting assignment on field goal and extra point snapping. Last season his game-day duties expanded. "Last year I was put on scholarship and I did both (field goals and punts) so everything has gone well and it has been fun," he says.

Like other many other seniors he has observed during his time at Auburn, Shiver is trying to follow in their footsteps to be a team leader this year.

"Mainly I am just trying to set an example of work ethic, both on and off the field," he says. "I know a lot of freshmen who come in kind of go college crazy with all of this big-time atmosphere with Auburn. You have to show them they are here for two main reasons--football and school.

"During the season, the specialists don't get to show the other guys how hard you work because we do special teams periods at practices and then we go over to the stadium and kick, but you can only kick so much. It is not like we are putting in new game plans every week. We do the same thing every week. The offseason is when we show the other guys we do work hard to be a part of this team."

Shiver is shown during spring training prior to his senior season.

Commenting on his final Auburn team, Shiver says, "We have high expectations. I know everyone has seen that the media has predicted us to win the SEC West. We need to go out there and take it one game at a time.

"With two new coordinators, I know there are going to be a lot of questions about this team," he adds. "The biggest question right now is the quarterback position, but I think we are an experienced team."

Shiver says keeping his team's key players healthy will go a long way towards determining what kind of season it will be. "We are going to put everything we have out on the field and hopefully make something special happen," he says.

Shiver expects the kicking game will be good enough to help the Tigers win games this year. "I feel like we are going to be good," he says. "There is some competition at punter with (Ryan) Shoemaker and (Clinton) Durst. Shoe has proven himself from last year with his SEC awards and Durst is the new guy coming on who can really hit the ball. The competition will be good for them and they will push each other through camp.

"Wes is proven as a kicker," Shiver adds. "He just needs to work on his kickoffs. We have people coming in to push him and make him better."

The Tigers will open the season August 30th and Shiver hopes he spends that evening snapping for extra points and field goals rather than punts.

2008 Inside the Auburn Tigers Football Guide

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