Mike Windt Leads Special Teams

Mike Windt will be Cincinnati's starting long snapper, but if he does a really good job, most Bearcat football fans will never know his name.

No returning Bearcat football player had fewer lines (five) in the 2007 media guide than long snapper, Mike Windt, and he's very aware of it.  During the first practice of the summer, Windt approached the man responsible for writing the media guide, Kelby Siler, with a comment, "Kelby, I noticed I didn't get much space in the media guide."  The other specialists burst into laughter while Windt stood there with a straight face waiting for an answer that didn't come.    


In all fairness to Siler, it's tough to supply a lot of information for a redshirt freshman that was out of football in 2005.  Mike supplied his own bio along with a chuckle.  "All I did was long snap at Elder.  I did it my junior and senior years in '02 and '03 and graduated in '04.  I was also a tight end my junior year, but that didn't work out for me too well." 


The player that Coach Kelly described as "outstanding" started the job on a whim.  "I started it back in grade school in the backyard with my dad.  I found out I could do it easily so in high school I long snapped, and that's about it.  It just came naturally to me really, and since then, I've been working details."


After graduating from Elder as part of two state football championship teams, Mike didn't get too much interest from colleges and decided his football career was over.  "I decided I didn't want to play football any more, and I started to be a fireman.  I did that for a while and decided I wanted to play football again."  That led to a conversation with Elder head football man, Doug Ramsey, which led to a conversation with Cincinnati head football coach, Mark Dantonio.  "Cincinnati contacted me and said they needed a long snapper.  I came in and had to go through some academic stuff and then tore my ACL last year.  This year I'm finally starting, finally."  


Coach Kelly takes an NFL approach to his special teams unlike his predecessor at Cincinnati.  Coach Dantonio split the special team responsibilities among his staff, but Coach Kelly made Mike Elston the coordinator of all his special teams.  "There are different philosophies," Kelly said, "but Mike is the coordinator of ours.  All the other coaches are involved, but they're assistants.  Mike spends a lot of time with film study and personnel and runs it by me, but I wanted someone to take control, who wasn't thin skinned.  Everyone wants to hide when the game starts and something goes wrong, but he's got them all and takes great pride in them."


The extra time away from football has actually helped Windt physically mature.  He is currently 6' 2" and 255 pounds and estimates his forty time to be 4.8 seconds.  At Elder, he weighed closer to 220 pounds.  Coach Elston confirmed Windt's speed.  "With the way we run our punt, we need athletic guys, and Mike Windt is very athletic.  He can run very well, and I think he brings a little more to the table than the guy they had last year.  I think Mike's a little bigger than the kid they had last year.  Mike Windt can cover, and he goes to the ball.  His athleticism and size will help us in tackling."


Cincinnati's previous long snapper was Patrick Farfsing, but Mike said he's not modeling himself after his predecessor.  "He was a great long snapper and is still in the NFL.  We have two totally different long snapping styles, but he did help me.  When I came here I had a hitch, he helped me tremendously to get rid of that hitch.  I haven't modeled myself after him, but he's helped me progress to this point."  Farfsing was also known to do a perfect imitation of his first Bearcat head coach, Rick Minter, but Windt doesn't see himself following in those footsteps either.  "No. I don't do imitations of any of my coaches.  I see that backfiring."


Windt's goal on every snap is to get the ball to the punter's hip-high hands in .65 seconds, but Coach Elston said Mike's not quite that fast yet.  "His times range from .75 to .68, but he's very fast with the ball and very consistent."  Until last Saturday, Windt's snaps were perfect, but he had to give a laughing explanation for his only errant snap of the summer.  "I had a high one yesterday that my punter, Kevin Huber, should have caught.  I know it was still a terrible snap, but it was one out of maybe two thousand so far.  That's not too bad."  Coach Elston said he may have had something to do with Windt's first mistake.  "I asked him to do some different things today for the first time, but he's very consistent, and he's going to be a starter for us for quite some time if he stays healthy."  The snaps to Huber, the holder, have to be even more precise than those to Huber, the punter.  "I have to put it 6 to 8 inches over the finger that's down." 


That's no doubt the jovial Mike Windt likes attention, but he also understands his primary job on the field is to go largely unnoticed.  "I'd like to stay unknown.  If I cost us a game, people will know who I am, but I don't want that to happen.  That wouldn't be good."  But Mike is the leader of a little known group on the team.  "Jake Rogers, Kevin Huber and I call ourselves The Trio.  We want to get a little bit of notoriety.  We'd like to get on the SI (Sports Illustrated) cover eventually.  That's our goal."  Another goal that could get Mike noticed in a positive way is to make plays after he snaps the ball.  "My goal this year is to make twenty tackles."


Even though all three members of The Trio are relatively inexperienced, Coach Kelly has a lot of confidence in the group.  "I think in the first game you want to just make sure they execute everything, but we're going to miss some kicks this year.  Any time you have a new kicker out there, he's going to have to get some confidence, but they are all very good specialists.  Mike Windt is an outstanding long snapper, and Huber and Rogers have great legs.  I also like our scheme and the job Mike Elston does with them.  We take great pains in practice to make sure we're going to do well in this area.  I really believe defense and special teams get you going in the first couple weeks."


On Thursday evening at 7 o'clock, Mike Windt will be one of the rookie specialists to debut.  If he does well, no one will know his name. 

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