Lovato Goes from Making Sandwiches to Snapping for Packers

After being released by the Bears in training camp, new Packers long snapper Rick Lovato worked in his family's sandwich shop in New Jersey.

When the Green Bay Packers signed Brett Goode in 2008, he was working construction in Arkansas.

When Goode suffered a torn ACL, his replacement was paying the bills by working at the family sandwich shop.

That’s the life of an aspiring long snapper: countless hours of hard work – all while working a “real” job -- in hopes of hearing the knock of opportunity that might never come in a career in which the number of quality prospects greatly outnumber the quantity of jobs available.

“I’m just trying to stay as patient as possible,” Rick Lovato said on Wednesday when asked about his mind-set and staying motivated. “I know for a long snapper, it takes some guys three to four years just to break into the NFL.”

Lovato was Old Dominion’s No. 1 long snapper for all four of his seasons. He went undrafted this year and spent the offseason and most of training camp with the Bears before being released. A few days later, he had a workout with the Dolphins. After that, his phone went silent. He went to work at Joyce’s Subs and Pizza in Lincroft, N.J., which is owned by his father, Rick Sr., and an uncle, Neil Givens.

“I’d say the Italian sub, the No. 15,” of Joyce’s specialty.

Between making subs, breakfast sandwiches and pizzas, Lovato kept honing his craft. He worked out frequently with a former Old Dominion teammate who lives about 15 minutes from his home to stay ready.

“The turnover rate is not very high for long snappers and, guys like Brett, he’s been in the league for eight years now and he’s done a wonderful job,” Lovato said. “It’s hard. It’s hard for guys, coaches and whatnot to transfer into a new snapper. That’s why this is how it works. If a guy gets hurt, you’re up. That’s why I have to be ready at all times, which is what I was doing working out every day, being ready to snap for an opportunity like this.”

Incredibly, Lovato worked out for the Packers on Friday – before they had a need for a long snapper. With Goode headed toward free agency, the Packers were just keeping an eye on who was available by bringing in Lovato and another snapper.

Between punts and place kicks, Lovato figured he snapped the ball 35 or 40 times over the course of an hour. He thought he did well but obviously had no idea of what was to come.

“I watched the Green Bay game against the Raiders,” Lovato said. “Knowing I had just worked out with Green Bay, obviously, I was watching a little bit closer at the long snaps and he did great. I didn’t think anything of it. On Monday, I’m getting the call that he might be hurt. I didn’t know if I’d be here a couple days, if he was going to be patched up and then play. Then I found out when I got here that he was -- it was a torn ACL.”

Just like that, Lovato went from making sandwiches in a snap to snapping the ball for a playoff-bound team.

And perhaps longer. Given Goode’s contract status and the timeline of his injury, he certainly won’t be ready for offseason workouts and probably wouldn’t be cleared for training camp or the start of next season. Thus, if Lovato can perform flawlessly to end the season, he’s got a chance to stake claim to this position, no different than Goode in 2008.

Not that Lovato is focused on anything other than the here and now. For years, Goode was as much Mr. Anonymous as he was Mr. Automatic. That’s the goal for any long snapper, since long snappers usually make headlines only for messing up.

“I’m comfortable with snapping the football,” Lovato said. “It’s something I’ve done a million times. It’s just a matter of being perfect and being quiet, staying quiet. My name shouldn’t be out there in the media.”

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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