The long snapper position is probably one of the least — if not the absolute least — popular in the game of football. Most kids when they’re growing up aspire to be a quarterback, running back, or another mainstream position. Although unpopular, it was in middle school when long snapping opened an opportunity for Reid Ferguson to find the field.
“I started snapping in eighth grade,” said Ferguson. “I was playing defensive end, wasn’t really playing though. The center and long snapper, same guy, he got hurt. So, my dad kind of offered it up to me, ‘Hey, why don’t you give this a try? It might be a way you can find yourself on the field.’”
A pointer from Ferguson’s pops got the ball rolling. But that was just the beginning. For years, he worked tirelessly to hone his newfound craft.
“I worked at it a lot. A lot of practice that year,” Ferguson said. “Kept practicing, continued to improve, started to go to some camps around the country. Just continued improving and eventually earned a spot in high school. Started for a few years there, and then went to LSU, and the rest is history so far.”
After 10-plus years of perfecting the art of long snapping, Ferguson has reached the pinnacle of the sport. He’s currently a starting long snapper in the National Football League and is entering his second full season with the Buffalo Bills. With training camp a day away, Ferguson mentioned how he’s feeling as the team makes its way to St. John Fisher College.
“Feeling good,” he said. “I guess last year was kind of my first full year on the team. Then having a full season, last offseason too, but then going through the whole season with Colton [Schmidt], Stephen [Hauschka], and myself as a unit. I felt like we had a strong season.
“Then going into this offseason with OTAs and stuff, we had a really good spring. Really felt good about the work we got done in OTAs, minicamp, and kind of build on that and roll into training camp here on a good note.”
For Ferguson, Thursday will mark his third training camp with the Bills. His tenure in Buffalo began on May 2, 2016, when he was signed as an undrafted free agent. Although he has been with the team for three years, he appeared in his first game last season when he took over the starting long snapper duties. In his first full season, Ferguson played in every single game for the Bills.
The 24-year-old credits his fellow special teamers for a lot of his success last season. Aside from Ferguson, 11-year veteran kicker Stephen Hauschka and fifth-year punter Colton Schmidt round out the Bills’ special teams unit.
“They helped tremendously,” said Ferguson. “I think not only from a professional standpoint, in terms of being on the team and learning to kind of play the part and be a professional in that sense, but also off the field kind of providing support in different areas.”
Since he took over the long snapping duties in Buffalo, the trio has spent a lot of time together off the field. That’s something Ferguson feels is vital to their success.
“We do hang out a lot. I live with Colton right near the facility. We spend a lot of time together,” he said. “I’ve believed this for as long as I’ve been playing, the relationship between the kicker, punter, and long snapper has to be top notch. Because we’re as a unit a third of the game.
“For us to all be on the same page is extremely important. They’ve helped me along the way so far last year and then this year, as well. I’m hoping it continues to be that way.”
Just because Ferguson has made it to the NFL, that doesn’t mean the work stops here. He mentioned what his biggest area for improvement is as a long snapper. The specialist also jokingly said another aspect of the game he’d like to be more involved in, but he’d better keep dreaming.
“I would say number one is my field goal snaps. Just being more consistent on those,” said Ferguson. “I’d like to make a few more tackles, but I’m not usually the first one down the field. Usually, it’s the gunners. Anything can happen on a play, but just trying to put myself in the best position to make a play.”
As you’d expect from an NFL player, Ferguson takes part in your typical workouts to remain in tip-top shape. However, he has a simple secret that he feels is imperative for players of his position.
“One of the biggest things that helps me is stretching and just staying flexible,” said Ferguson. “A lot of the young snappers that I’ve coached and taught over the years, that’s one of the biggest things that I stress to them. Is that flexibility can improve your snapping almost as much as lifting weights or practicing.
“Being able to be flexible so you can get down in the correct position. Being able to do the correct movement when you snap the ball is equally important as anything else that relates to snapping. Stretching is one thing that I emphasize more than the average joe.”
It’s safe to say Ferguson’s one step away from being a certified yoga trainer.
Now that he’s a veteran snapper in the NFL, he’s learning what separates the good players from the great. During his four years at LSU, Ferguson was focused on delivering fast snaps, though that’s not as important as you’d expect when you reach the NFL.
“This is something I’ve learned along the way, is that when you make it this far, everybody can snap fast. But not everybody can hit their spot consistently. I think the biggest thing with snapping in the NFL is the consistency aspect of it,” he said. “Being able to snap in the same area, snap it in the same spot, you know, 99 percent of the time, 100 percent of the time, whatever your goal is. I think consistency is a better barometer than snap time when you’re looking at how good a snapper is in the NFL.”
Another area in the life of a long snapper that gets overlooked is the blocking aspect of it. That was the toughest transition for Ferguson from college to the NFL.
“The blocking aspect has something to do with it, because it’s an important part of playing the position,” he said. “Making that transition from college to the NFL, that was probably the toughest part of it. Not the snapping part.
“Moreso the blocking part of it and learning the different schemes teams run against snappers and how you can combat that. I do work a lot on my blocking. I feel like I got progressively better at it over the course of last season. But there’s always room to improve.”
As Ferguson stated, there’s always room for improvement. That’s exactly what he did this offseason. Ferguson’s viral trick shot video is evidence, as his snapping skills were seen throughout the internet. Mission accomplished with bringing some swagger to long snapping.
“So, can you expect a second one? I think me and my buddies that went to the beach, I think we’re going to come up with some other ideas to do one next year,” he said. “It was fun. We went down at the hotel we were staying at and there was a little grilling out area. We were just down to grill some chicken for dinner the last night we were there.
“Somebody brought a football and one thing led to another. I do keep up with the social media deal. But I didn’t really follow how much coverage it got. I had people sending me stuff four, five days after, ‘Hey, you’re on Barstool!’” said Ferguson. “It was pretty cool. I’m not going to lie. As a snapper, you know you get a little bit of recognition, but I was just putting it out there for fun. I didn’t think it was going to go viral like that. It was pretty cool.”