"On the Spot" with LS
Zach Nolan [#56]
Following last Saturday morning's Practice #6, The Bootleg's "Emeritus" caught up with dedicated long-snapper Zach Nolan, a redshirt junior who serves in one of the lesser-publicized, but nevertheless highly important supporting roles on the Cardinal football team. Stanford has a proud tradition of talented scholarship and non-scholarship players who have handled the mission-critical long-snapper duties with efficiency and skill, guys like Steve "snapper61" Frost, John Sande, Jr., and Brent Newhouse, just to name a few.
On-Field, Post-Practice Interview on Saturday, August 15, 2009
The Bootleg: Okay, so we're here with Stanford's #1 long-snapper Zach Nolan. a redshirt junior walk-on, although we hate to call you a "walk-on" because you're been here contributing long enough, we probably should score you a scholarship! Does that special job of yours encompass all of the special teams units?
Zach Nolan: Yes, field goals and punts.
TB: You walked on here in 2006 and mentored under Brent Newhouse for a couple of years. What tricks of the trade would you say you learned from him?
ZN: I think the biggest thing Brent taught me was the mental approach you have to take every time you snap. Once you get in the game and stuff is flying around you have to rely on your routine to make sure you get the ball to the punter, that's the biggest thing.
TB: What's your second position?
ZN: That's all I do, long-snap.
TB: What about in high school? You're a legitimate athlete too [he is listed at 6'4"], so it's not simply just a case of mastering routine. I mean, you have to be a full-on football player to be a successful long-snapper, right?
ZN: Sure, I played o-line and d-line in high school. It was a tough transition (to college ball). I was around 230 pounds and now I'm around 215, fast, lean, and ready to run. That's the biggest thing - getting the footwork down with the protection and also being able to run down and cover Pac-10 returners - that was a big transition from high school.
TB: How many special teams tackles do you have to your credit?
ZN: I got an "assist" so far.
TB: What game was it?
TB: So you remember the specific game, eh?
ZN: Well, it was the only tackle I had. The thing is that (punter) David Green hangs it up there so well, they fair-catch most of them. I think we only had 11 punts returned against us last year, so just to get in one was a pleasure.
TB: You mentioned "technique" – I'm guessing "repetitions" are key as well. You've developed relationships with holder Bo McNally over time. Is there solid chemistry within those units?
ZN: Well, with Bo, we snap so much together we come out here and just do rep after rep after rep. With punters, we were out here all summer. We came in at seven in the morning before workouts just to get in more snaps and punts and all that. I feel that they know where I'm going to put it every time and hopefully I put it there every time.
TB: Sounds like consistency under pressure is critical. This is a bit of a work of art, right? You can't just be winging it. It has to be a "9" every time.
ZN: Right. I come out here in the offseason six times a week. I've got my "buddy" the net over there and we've become good friends (laughing.) Just basically doing the same thing over and over again and getting everything down. The technique has got to be the same every time and I just love doing it.
TB: Bo gets all that glory because he gets to occasionally run a trick play, he scored on a two-point conversion. Are there any fumble-rooskies in your repertoire or trick plays? Can we expect you to be going out in a pattern or anything?
ZN: I'd love to. Coach Durkin's not too high on having me going out on a pass route apparently, but I keep pushing for it.
TB: Do you get treated pretty well by the rest of the team, being that you're such a highly specialized guy? You're not offense, not defense…
ZN: Obviously I'm not out here hitting and we're off on our own a lot and not always doing the toughest stuff. At least I hit people though, that's the thing.
TB: What about other sports for you? Baseball, anything like that?
ZN: Actually tennis more. I actually enjoy racquetball too. Racquetball's a good sport
TB: Do you use the facilities here? Can you play intramural sports or is that "non-permissible activity" in your contract?
ZN: Yeah, I do, but don't tell the coaches that. (Laughing)
TB: We know the NCAA allows "occasional" outside consultants to work with a team. Have you had a long-snapper consultant come in here?
ZN: We haven't had a long-snapper consultant, but a kicking consultant, Randy Brown. He's working with the (Baltimore) Ravens and has been around the league a long time. John Harbaugh told us about him.
TB: What are the key things for you in snapping? Obviously, not to mind that there's someone trying to kill you the minute you snap the ball, but what else do you have to worry about? Is it how you grip the ball, or what?
ZN: Well, that stuff kind of comes with work, but the biggest thing for me on punts is learning the protections. I mean, the blocking is probably my biggest challenge because the snapping itself has always been natural for me. In our punt system the snapper has a considerable amount of responsibility as far as blocking guys. Some teams just snap it, hit the guy, and run downfield in coverage. I actually have a guy to block on each punt and that all changes if they twist around, if they come with two guys in the gap, or stuff like that.
TB: Now you're not Chase Beeler and you're not Bert McBride so you don't have quite that XXL size to hold guys off. Are you often getting out-sized? Are they usually sending someone big up the middle?
ZN: They usually don't "bull rush" you, but I'm big enough and I'm strong enough where its only two seconds where I have to block the guy and I make sure he doesn't get 10 yards towards the punt. Usually I'm pretty good at it. So far I've gone against some 260-pound USC guys and they didn't do too well against me.
TB: How about personal goals for you. What makes a successful season for Zach Nolan?
ZN: The punters and the kickers having a good season. That's what I rely on. There are no stats for long-snappers, but if Dave (Green) leads the Pac-10 in net average, I'm good.
TB: So you don't mind giving up the glory to those guys if you guys get to a bowl game…and you get the travel food?
ZN: I have to. As long as they do well and they give me some recognition, that's all I need. And I love the travel food for sure!
TB: Is your family pretty proud that you're part of this team?
ZN: They love it. They love coming out here. They're huge football fans. I think they're already planning on coming out to six games. They're going to Wake Forest because that's the closet game to our home in Florida. So they're out here all the time and it's a really good atmosphere.
TB: What can you envision doing 20 years from now? I'm not saying you can't long-snap for two decades in the NFL but what are your long-term ambitions from a business or education standpoint?
ZN: In business, maybe I'll go along the lines of venture capital – that kind of excites me as an economics major. My dad's in real estate so that was always kind of interesting to me. The NFL is obviously a goal that's out there and who knows what will happen?
TB: Greeeaaaat. So you're thinking you will "buy low", come into the field at a time when venture capital has been under a considerable amount of pressure? Maybe the stock market will recover by the time you're ready.....
ZN: (Laughing) Right!
TB: Thanks for your time, Zach, we really appreciate it. Good luck and have a great season!
Thank you very much!
Note: Special thanks to The Bootleg's Andy Drukarev for helping "Emeritus" out with transcription so we can get these interviews out to the fan base a bit more quickly.
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