The most overlooked position on the 53 man roster, and perhaps in all of sports remains the long snapper. Is it because we only see these guys–maybe a half dozen times each game? Or is it based on the perceived lack of skill needed to function at this delicate, yet vital position?
To be a successful long snapper at the next level, one needs to possess timing, precision and consistency, among other traits. As they’ll all tell you, that comes with repetition–making every rep that much more important no matter the setting.
As the great Tanner Purdum said, “Everyone hates us until they need us.” We’ve seen it in multiple times in the past, a simple miscue in the most pivotal stage of the game can prove to be the difference between winning and losing. Every player on the roster has a job, and while a long snapper’s duties don’t quite compare to that of the quarterback, that’s not to say the talent you feature at the position isn’t important.
I was blessed with the opportunity to interview Kolton Donovan, a proud member of the long snapper fraternity. With a steady head on his shoulders, tremendous work ethic and drive, I’ll surely be rooting for Kolton as he strives for his dream.
Q: As a graduate transfer, you left Southern Utah for Wyoming. What was the biggest factor in completing that transfer and what was the most difficult adjustment in the transition?
A: The biggest reason for transferring was to begin working on my masters degree. Obtaining an education has always been a big thing for me. Since Southern Utah didn’t have my masters program, I opened up the opportunity to other schools. I loved what Wyoming had to offer both academically and athletically so it made perfect sense for me to transfer there. The biggest adjustment I had to go through was adjusting to a new team. Even though it was an adjustment for me it was a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of great people, teammates, and life-long friends from it.
Q: While not on the field as much as any other position, would you say there was a noticeable change in game speed at the FBS level, even at your spot?
A: There is a lot of talent at both the FBS and FCS level of football. Playing for Southern Utah in the Big Sky Conference really prepared me for the FBS level. The speed between the two levels are very similar and both very fast. There are great athletes at both levels so the speed of the game didn’t change for me at all. I felt like I fit right in and played at a high level once I got to Wyoming.
Q: You entered your lone season at Wyoming as a 23 year old, and were jokingly called the “grandpa” of the team. Who coined that nickname for you and did the joking manner from your teammates kind of ease the transition?
A: The “grandpa” nickname came from a coach during our snowmobiling trip on my official visit to Wyoming. The other coaches and recruits liked it and the nickname stuck for a little while. Once I got in with my teammates, my nickname changed from “grandpa” to “Donny the Great”. It definitely helped me to get to know my teammates quickly and was an easy conversation starter.
Q: As a long snapper, it’s nearly impossible to gain exposure with little field time. What do you think stands out most about your game that would appeal to NFL teams?
A: Yes it is hard to gain exposure, but it’s actually a really good thing to not have people know who you are as a long snapper. If they do know your name then it’s most likely because you messed up. So the fact that not very many people know my name is a very good thing. One thing I bring to the NFL is great size. I’m 6’4”, 250 lbs, and I am a physical player. I enjoy blocking and getting involved in a tackle. I love watching film and have a passion for what I do.
Q: If a career in the NFL doesn’t quite workout, what are your backup plans? CFL? Pursue your major?
A: If the NFL doesn’t work out then I would enjoy any opportunity to continue playing football at any professional level and work towards the NFL. However, I have my bachelors degree and I’m currently pursuing my masters degree so I am prepared for anything that happens.
Q: To my understanding, you took a mission trip through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Where did you go and what was the biggest takeaway from that experience?
A: I served my mission in San Antonio, Texas. It was a great experience and something I wouldn’t change for anything. I was able to meet people who changed my life and I learned things I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. The biggest takeaway from my mission were the people I met. There were several service projects that I participated in and it was amazing to see people care and serve one another, even if they didn’t know each other at all.
Q: Unfortunately you suffered a torn ACL in the season opener. I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that must’ve been, but how did you bounce back from the setback?
A: The biggest thing for me was to have the perspective of “this isn’t a setback, but rather a great opportunity to learn and grow”. I was able to learn things about football through watching film and observing my teammates/coaches from the sideline. I hit the gym hard and took advantage of every opportunity I had to get better at this game. I can honestly say that it didn’t slow me down, but rather helped me grow.
Q: Despite missing nearly the entirety of the 2017 season, you were not granted a medical redshirt. What was your response to that? I would’ve thought it would be a guarantee seeing as how little you were able to play.
A: I didn’t let it effect me very much when I wasn’t granted a medical redshirt. I have always had the bigger goal of playing in the NFL and so I started working towards that instead of being disappointed or upset. I’ve always been taught to make the best out of every situation so I want to make the best out of this great opportunity ahead of me to play professional football.
Q: Forgive me, but I have to ask. With Josh Allen being buzzed as a potential #1 overall pick, did that affect the locker room at all? What was the atmosphere? Did it kind of leave the team with a sense of less margin for error?
A: Having Josh in the locker room was a great thing. He was the leader of our team and everyone respected him. Even though everyone knew he was going to be a top pick in the draft, it didn’t effect our team very much. Josh Allen is a brother to all of us. We wanted to play with everything we had for him because we knew he would give us everything he had.
Q: As a long snapper, I have no idea how you guys even prep. What exactly do you do to sharpen your craft and how much film study goes into that?
A: Long snapping is all about repetition. It takes a lot of physical and mental reps to become really good at it. Film work consists of self-evaluation and watching your form/mechanics along. When studying game film for the next team, you want to see what the other team does. What formations do they use? Who blocks you? How have other long snappers avoided being blocked? Who do you have to block after the snap? What is their returner like? There are a lot of things that I try to look at evaluate so going into the game there won’t be any surprises. I spend a lot of time in the film room so I know exactly what I need to do so I can succeed and be the best I can be.
Q: Tell me about your high school experience. Have you always been a strict long snapper? Were you recruited to play any other positions?
A: High school was a great experience for me. As a freshman and sophomore in high school I played offensive and defensive line, but eventually took up long snapper as my sole focus. I was highly ranked nationally as a long snapper including being ranked #1 in the country. Being in the ESPN Top 300 recruits was an honor as well along with receiving All-Region, All-State, All-West, and All-American honors. I received several offers from many great FCS and FBS football programs, but ultimately decided on Southern Utah University because they would allow me to serve an LDS mission.
Q: Who do you model your game after, if anyone? Is there a Mt. Rushmore of long snappers I don’t know about?
A: I model my game a lot off of John Denney and Nick Sundberg. John is a big guy who is very consistent with his snaps and Nick is very physical with his game. The Mt. Rushmore of snappers is different than how other positions would be. We base a great long snapper off of how long they play the game. Denney, Snow, Paxton, Maese, and others who have played the game for a very long time make up the mountain.
Q: Why do you love football?
A: It is something inside of me that I can’t explain. I have a passion and a love for playing this game. The feeling you get when you’re on the field with your brothers fighting for a victory is a feeling you can’t get from anywhere else. The feeling you have before snapping the game winning field goal is amazing and it’s even better when you win the game. Football runs in my blood and it’s something I’ve always known and loved. It is a great game and it’s such a blessing to be a part of it.
Q: Who were you rooting for in the Super Bowl?
A: I was cheering for the New England Patriots during the Super Bowl. Wyoming football alumni, Jacob Hollister, plays for the Patriots so I had to cheer for the former Cowboy. Also I enjoy watching Tom Brady because he has a fire in him when he plays. He never quits and never gives up.