Special to the Sun
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Long snappers and other specialists in the kicking game rarely receive college football scholarships.
Bishop Gorman High’s Jordan Ober, who despite being rated one of the nation’s top long-snappers for the class of 2015, assumed his ticket to college football would be like others at his position.
He was set to join the Arizona State program as a preferred walk-on with no scholarship money. About a half-dozen long snappers annually receive scholarships out of high school.
Ober became one of the select few last week. He was offered a full scholarship by Nebraska and committed during an official visit over the weekend.
As a freshman at Gorman, Ober was a third-string wide receiver on the ninth-grade team and his prospects to reach major college football seemed slim.
“I came into Gorman thinking I’d be a wide receiver,” he said. “I was bummed because I never saw the field.”
Ober’s journey started during a physical education class. He was toying around after class snapping the ball and caught the eye of one of Gorman’s assistant coaches. Soon, the wheels were in motion for a position change — Ober would become Gorman’s snapper for field goals and punts.
Ober’s natural ability was obvious, but he still needed to be schooled on the mechanics of the position. He trained with Chris Rubio Long Snapping, a national camp for specialists, and quickly developed into one of the program’s best.
There were some moments of doubt as he learned the trait, but the progress was evident. Before his junior season, he placed in the top 12 of a competition featuring more than 300 long-snappers. Before his senior competition, he won the event.
“My first year, I didn’t think I was going anywhere with it,” he said. “But when I made it to the final 12 of the Rubio camps, I started thinking maybe I could do this in college. I would be nothing without Rubio. He fixed my form.”
Ober did the rest. Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez says Ober's work ethic was the difference.
“He was a grinder. He was always there before practice snapping and he’d stay afterward working on snaps,” Sanchez said.
Long snappers are evaluated in how quickly they get the ball back to the punter. The average time of travel for the 15 yards is .75 seconds, Ober said. He’s clocked at .61 seconds on average, opening the door for a spot at the next level.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Ober is smaller than most long snappers — it’s also a blocking position — but that didn’t stop Nebraska coaches from offering a scholarship. He expects to compete immediately for playing time.
“I’m very blessed in the situation I came from being at Bishop Gorman,” he said. “I wouldn’t have gone anywhere without the exposure of being here.”
National signing day, when verbal commitments become official after a letter of intent is signed, is Wednesday.
Gorman, the six-time defending state champion, has the most commitments in Las Vegas. They include: Nicco Fertitta and Alize Jones (Notre Dame), Ethan Palelei (Army), Nela Otukolo (Fresno State), Danny Hong (Columbia), Jackson Perry (Dartmouth) and Cordell Broadus (to be determined).
Broadus, the son of rapper Snoop Dogg, plans to announce at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on ESPN. He’s picking among Arizona State, UCLA and USC.