Making NFL Not A Snap For Estermyer

Mark Estermyer is among those football players who are easy to overlook, unless they make a mistake in a game, but they're also the most difficult to replace after they graduate.

As the Pittsburgh long-snapper, Mark Estermyer was a four-year starter, beginning his career only snapping for punts and ending the final two as the snapper for both punts and conversion kicks. Just ask former Pitt punter Dave Brytus and former place-kicker Conor Lee how valuable Estermyer was?

The two brought him along for their Pro Day workouts for NFL scouts recently, but Estermyer also got a chance to show what he can do. And he's hopeful that some team will find a place for him on their roster. Estermyer likely won't be drafted next month, but he could sign a free-agent contract.

"I'd give my performance an A-minus,'' Estermyer said. "Yeah, that's about right. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't too bad, either. I ran a 5.2 (in the 40-yard dash), which ... we'll take. I might do some other things after for certain teams, but I snapped a few for them now. And I'll snap for Brytus and Conor, too.''

The duo benefitted from Estermyer's perfect snaps the past two seasons. A long-snapper unfortunately stands out only when they misfire. Fortunately for the Panthers, that only happened once in four years for Estermyer.

However, despite that extraordinary success level, Estermyer is well aware that there are only 32 NFL teams with one open long-snapping position that likely already is held by a tenured veteran.

"I know that I'll probably have to make it to an NFL camp as a free agent,'' Estermyer said. "Sometimes, a long-snapper gets drafted. Last year, Seattle drafted Tyler Schmitt in the sixth round. But in the three years before that, not one long snapper was drafted.''

That's why Estermyer secured agent Kevin Gold, a Harrisburg attorney who represents long-snappers. He has three players in the NFL with Bryan Pittman from the Houston Texans, an eight-year veteran from Washington; Brett Goode from the Green Bay Packers, a three-year veteran from Arkansas and Justin Snow from the Indianapolis Colts, an 11-year veteran from Baylor.

Estermyer wouldn't mind a lengthy college career like those guys, and the NFL believes he's good enough because he was invited to the Senior Bowl in January. But Estermyer, a three-time all-academic selection by the Big East, also is intelligent enough to know that's a long shot.

And for the Blackhawk High School grad to play for his hometown Steelers would be an even longer shot because they actually have two long-snappers on their roster -- Greg Warren, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, and Jared Retkofsky, who was signed to replace Warren.

"Long-snapping for the Steelers (is a) dream job,'' Estermyer said. "I've been a Steelers fan my whole life, but I'll go where I get a chance to play or at least get into a camp. It doesn't matter as long as I get a chance to play in the NFL.

"I definitely think that I can snap at the next level, but with only 32 (long-snapping) jobs in the NFL, you have to be a really good snapper and you have to be at the right place at the right time. We'll see if the timing's right for me.''

If not, Estermyer has nothing to worry about. He already has graduated from Pitt in April, 2008 with a bachelor's in information science, and he is completing graduate work in information sciences and technology. He also has been offered a job by PPG Industries in Pittsburgh in its IT Department.

But that's on hold until Estermyer attempts to sign with an NFL team.

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