The Green Bay Packers brought in a challenger to long snapper Rick Lovato.
Just how long Jesse Schmitt will be that challenger was anyone’s guess following Tuesday night’s training camp practice.
On his second snap of a punt drill, Schmitt walked off the field holding his right hand. He cursed as he was shadowed by trainer Pepper Burruss into the Don Hutson Center. When the specialists returned to the field later for a field-goal drill, Lovato was the only snapper on the field.
Schmitt handled Purdue’s snapping duties for four seasons, earning academic all-Big Ten honors in each of those seasons. After going undrafted in 2015, Schmitt got a look by the Vikings at their rookie camp but he wasn’t signed and sat out the season. He worked out for Jacksonville in February and snapped at the Packers’ rookie camp in May but wasn’t signed either time.
With Lovato unable to seize control of the position, the Packers called Schmitt. He worked out for them at 7 a.m. and was signed a couple hours later.
“It’s been a heck of a day and it’s going to be an even better day because I get to go practice,” Schmitt said before practice.
The injury notwithstanding, Schmitt’s story isn’t uncommon. Brett Goode was working construction when the Packers called him in 2008. When Goode tore an ACL at Oakland in December, the Packers found Lovato working at the family sandwich shop. Schmitt was working as a volunteer assistant coach at Western Kentucky, where he broke down film and timed kicks.
“Everybody has their own story,” Schmitt said. “Sometimes you get the luck of the draw right away and sometimes you have to wait. It’s not a bad thing to wait because that makes you that much hungrier to work hard and get better and hopefully get another opportunity.”
That hunger was necessary after getting just one opportunity after going unsigned between the rookie camp opportunities in Minnesota and Green Bay.
What kept him going?
“Just knowing that I can compete with these guys, that I think I’m an NFL-quality snapper,” Schmitt said. “Sometimes it was hard. It wasn’t easy for me to train twice a day and not have a job. I was losing money every day, obviously, but that’s part of it. It was something I’m passionate about. I love football. That was really what it came down to, I love the game.”
Loved it so much that he kept working, with no promise of getting another opportunity and without a paycheck to keep him going. That might sound crazy, but Schmitt had the backing of those around him.
“I have a really good support staff,” he said. “My parents are very supportive. The guy that trained me is very supportive, as well, and my friends were like, ‘Hey, go for it. You only get so much opportunity to be an athlete and you have the rest of your life to sit behind a desk.’ I thought I’d just go for it. Why not?”
From Lovato’s perspective, nothing has changed. Whether there was another snapper in camp or not, he figured he was competing every day, considering his NFL resume consists of just four games.
“I’ve expected a competition the moment I walked through these doors,” he said. “I know as a younger guy, as a guy who only has four games under his belt, I still need to prove myself and I’m doing that throughout preseason, each and every day. I just need to keep doing that.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.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.