One unique path to WSU for new long snapper

PULLMAN -- When Washington State wraps up its spring football season in Spokane on Saturday, it's pretty clear the long-snapping role won't be one that keeps Paul Wulff awake at night as he counts down to the Sept. 3 season opener. Thanks to some fine off-season tutoring by outgoing uber-snapper Zach Enyeart, heir-apparent Zach Koepp is feeling right at home with his head between his legs.

"Zach (Enyeart) was a godsend," says Koepp, a fourth-year junior from tiny Milford, Iowa. "I mean, I can't even explain what he's done for me. We've become really good friends through this whole process.

"From the beginning, when I first walked onto campus last fall, he took me under his wing. What great experience learning from one of the best in the country. It was such a blessing -- he showed me everything, and he got me to where I am now."

Enyeart, whose snapping skills figure to land him in an NFL training camp, worked with Koepp over the winter to help get the youngster ready for spring workouts.

While his comfort level on center stage is growing daily, Koepp says he's definitely no Enyeart, whose velocity and accuracy not only made him one of the finest in the nation over the last three seasons but a Youtube sensation as well.

"My confidence is up but I'll never fill the shoes of Enyeart. If I can fill half of them I'll be doing pretty well for myself," says Koepp.

Koepp said he's spent countless hours outside practice perfecting his craft.

Enyeart has worked with him on stance and posture, plus arm angle for more velocity and accuracy, says Koepp.

How the affable kid from an Iowa town with all of three stoplights to its name wound up in Pullman is a tale unto itself.

Needless to say, it was the road less traveled.

"My story is kind of funny, how I got here," says Koepp, who stands 6-2 and weighs 235.

The short version is that he was an all-around athlete at Okoboji High but injuries foiled every one of his football seasons except one, and he wound up focusing on track and field. Those skills landed him a spot at South Dakota State University throwing the shot and discuss. It was there that his life took an unexpected turn at an intramural football game.

"I picked up the ball and began snapping," he recalls. "I wasn't good, but just good enough. I loved it."

Koepp eventually took his sophomore year off of college to go back home and work in the family's ice cream confectionary business.

"I went home to run the family company to learn the ins and outs of the business," he says. "I thought I wanted to grow up fast and learn what the outside world had to offer but I really missed football."

He decided to pursue his new-found passion -- long snapping -- by reaching out to Chris Rubio, a former UCLA standout who specializes in training long snappers.

"He came to me for a private lesson," says Rubio, who is based in Lewiston but travels the country doing camps and clinics. "He was raw, but had a great frame and attitude. I could tell he had potential and he really wanted to get better. But he was raw.

"Two or three months later he comes back and the difference is night and day. He had practiced and studied the videos on my website in great depth ... He's the type of kid that's not going to stop until he gets what he wants, and that's what you want in an athlete."

When WSU special teams coach Dave Ungererasked Rubio for leads on long snappers last year, "I told him 'Have I got a sleeper for you,'" says Rubio. "And the rest is history."

WSU invited Koepp to walk on and he enrolled last fall.

Now he's staring a prime-time role in the face. And Rubio is succinct when asked to forecast the outcome: "Zach will do very well for WSU."

Koepp says Rubio was vital to his development.

"When I first got there, he (Chris) said I needed to start from scratch and get to the basics," he said. "He formed and created me."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • The Crimson & Gray Game kicks off Saturday at 3 p.m. at Albi Stadium in Spokane. Admission is free. Paul Wulff plans to line up the first-string offense and defense against the rest of the team. The game will be broadcast live in Eastern Washington on SWX TV and KXLY Radio.

  • Before the game, starting at noon, WSU will have a Fan Fest at Albi Stadium featuring inflatable games for kids, food vendors and a beer garden. WSU Cougar players will be available for autographs beginning at 1 p.m. Admission is free.

  • The night before the game, on Friday, WSU will be hosting a reception for Cougar Athletic Foundation donors at Northern Quest Casino. And beginning at 8 p.m. that evening, the WSU Alumni Association is having a gathering at Impulse Night Club that will feature Cougar grid greats Marcus Trufant, Erik Coleman, Jason Gesser and more. It's open to the public, and door prizes will be handed out every 15 minutes.

    KOEPP CAME TO PULLMAN FROM IOWA, VIA SOUTH DAKOTA.


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