Zen and the Art of Long-Snapping

In the fine art of long-snapping, Marshall's Chris Massey is a master. At least that's what special teams coach Bill Wilt says. "I think Chris is the best in the country, bar none," Wilt said. "He's the best I've ever seen."

But in the big-time, high-visibility world of college football -one where every play is scrutinized and analyzed until it is long since dead- there is no player more invisible but more important than the long-snapper. Trouble is, somebody with real talent is equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack: When you've got one, you don't let it go.

Such is the case with Massey. The 6-0, 235 pound senior from East Bank High School in Chesapeake, WV has what must be the highest-pressure job on the Marshall team. When he takes the field, Massey gets one shot at snapping, and either points or possession are on the line. And those points or possession all begin with Massey's snap. Too high or too low, and a game can change momentum on the spot.

"What it does for us, when we punt the ball, it's one less worry for us," Wilt added. "He can snap, he can protect, and the third thing is, he's a great cover guy. He has it all together."

Being perfect at your job will get a player that kind of praise from his coach. And, Massey hasn't missed a snap -gone either high or low- in so long, that Wilt can't remember. "Since I've been here, in my third year, he hasn't had a bad snap yet," Wilt said.

All this talk and praise doesn't get to Massey, though.

"There's a lot of pressure in what I do," said Massey. "But I've been doing it for so long that as soon as I step on the field, I don't think about it."

What makes Chris Massey's story more remarkable is that he walked on the Marshall squad back in 1997. Originally wanting to be a linebacker, Massey quickly realized that the Herd was way deep at that spot. Not wanting to sit on the bench for his Marshall career, he told the Marshall coaches that he could do some long-snapping. "I showed up the week that they were going to play WVU," Massey said. "In the spring, I really wasn't getting any reps (at linebacker). I decided I had to do something to earn a scholarship. So, I switched over and won the job in the spring."

"At the Akron game in 1998, coach Gale told me to get in there, and I've done it ever since."

That scholarship finally landed on his plate in 1999.

Punter Curtis Head knows all about Chris Massey. In fact, the success or failure of Head's booming punts begins with Massey, after all. "As far as me getting my job done, he's the most important person on this team," said Head. "In fact, he's probably the best I've ever seen."

And that's pretty high praise from a punter, especially one like Head, who spent his youth attending premier punting and kicking camps all over the country. He's seen the best, and doesn't hesitate to put his guy -Massey- up there.

When Marshall is long since done with this 2001 campaign, keep your eye on the NFL draft next April. That's when you may be shocked to see one Chris Massey become a hot property among NFL teams. Don't think so? The Oakland Raiders sent a scout to Huntington last week, and Massey was on that scout's list of three players to watch. The word is out.

"I told my dad when I first got here that Massey could go pro," Head summed up.

Even Wilt sees a bright future for Massey.

"I tell every scout that comes in here, 'Man, you need to time this guy'," said Wilt.

The secret is out on Marshall long-snapper Chris Massey.


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