Emery Etter Snaps His Way to Penn State
When the Oakland Raider lost to the San Diego Chargers in week one of the NFL season, it was in large part due to the absence of one man.
It wasn’t a quarterback, running back, or defensive star — it was a long snapper. Jon Condo, a two time Pro Bowl long snapper, who left the game in the second quarter with a head injury. Oakland didn’t have a backup. Without Condo the Raiders’ punt game fell apart.
Backup linebacker Travis Goethel tried to replace Condo. However, Goethel hadn’t snapped since high school and the weakness was obvious. He botched three snaps with one leading to a blocked punt.
Long snapping is far from a glory position. Does that mean its unimportant? Far from it. Anybody who has ever tried to snap a football 15 yards between their legs will remind you it’s not easy. Couple that with the defender waiting to lay you out once you pop your head up and sprint downfield. It can be very difficult.
Most people don’t know who the longer snapper is until they screw up. So for Penn State’s long snapper Emery Etter, it’s probably a good thing most fans don’t know who he is.
The 21-year-old Etter started his football career in the eighth grade. He picked up long snapping at the suggestion of his coach.
“My coach at the time told me that it was a really good and useful skill to learn so I could be on the field as much as possible,” said Etter. “Turns out he was completely right since long snapping is what got me to Penn State.”
Etter attended Chambersburg Area Senior High School in Chambersburg, Pa. In high school he played center and long snapped for the Trojans. In his senior year he was named a Chambersburg Public Opinion All-Star. He also earned the Mid-Penn Conference scholar-athlete award.
Penn State and Northwestern were two of the biggest school interested in Etter out of high school, and they recruited him as a long snapper. He was also recruited by Ivy League schools as a center and a long snapper and as a lineman by smaller schools. However, making his decision was easy.
“I grew up as a Penn State fan because my father went here, and he actually played in the Blue Band back in the early 80s,” said Etter. “Since I was a little kid, I grew up watching Penn State games every Saturday and then I would go play football in my backyard and pretend like I was making game-winning plays in front of 110,000 in Beaver Stadium.”
Etter joined the Nittany Lions in 2009 as a preferred walk on and redshirted his first year. However, he still traveled to away games as the backup snapper.
The following season he made his long snapping debut in a 44-14 win over Youngstown State.
“The great thing about working with him, is that he is always trying to make your job easier as a punter,” said former kicker and punter Russell Nye. “Whether it’s getting the snap back quick and on target, setting a good block, or getting down the field for coverage. He is a great team player who never blames anyone else.”
Etter started the next six games, however, he would eventually lose the job to former Penn State longer snapper Jon Rohrbaugh mid-way through the season. Rohrbaugh returned for his senior season in 2011 and retained the starting job, while Etter backed him up.
As the 2011 season progressed, an injury Etter sustained in high school grew worse.
“This injury actually happened in my junior year in high school, but I decided not to get surgery right away because I would have had to sit out,” said Etter “I decided to just deal with the pain and continue to play. So I just kept dealing with it, and it progressively got worse and worse, to the point where merely moving my arm would make it dislocate.”
He ended up getting surgery at the end of the 2011 season. The injury held him out of action for nine months and spring practices.
Missing spring practice was disappointing for Etter. With head coach Bill O’Brien and a new coaching staff coming in, he wasn’t able to show them what he was capable of. At the end of spring practices backup center Ty Howle was named the starting long snapper. Not being able to prove himself worked as motivation for Etter.
“It kind of gave me a chip on my shoulder and made me feel like I had something to prove which enabled me to be completely focused winning the job,” said Etter.
Etter would end up winning the job in summer camp and started the first three games of the season.
Etter’s decision to come to Penn State was not entirely based on football — after all, he is majoring in aerospace engineering. According to Penn State’s aerospace engineering website, the program is ranked 10th in the country. Etter hopes to use his degree to get a job with NASA and eventually become an astronaut.
On top of playing football and studying aerospace engineering, Etter also works two part time jobs on campus.
“It’s very difficult to balance both football and aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineering is definitely the hardest major at this or any university for that matter,” said Etter. “And I also have two part-time jobs to go along with that. But when you love what you’re doing, it’s not a job.”
Etter’s hard work on and off the field has not gone unnoticed. Prior to the start of the 2012 season his hard work was rewarded with a scholarship.
“He is one of the most friendly, hardworking and dedicated guys on the team,” said Nye. “There aren’t too many days he isnt smiling and looking to get better at his skill.”