Penn State Football Long Snapper Tyler Duzansky Learning Mental Toughness As First-Time Starter
Before every field goal attempt or punt, there first comes a snap.
The long snapper position is one of the most unique jobs in football, yet it’s hardly ever mentioned. Both college and NFL teams hold a roster spot for a specialized long snapper who may only see five to 10 snaps a game.
During his final season donning the blue and white, former Penn State long snapper Chris Stoll won the Mannelly Award, an award given annually to the nation’s top long snapper. Stoll snapped the ball during a period of rampant success for the Nittany Lions special teams unit, a unit that now has new faces in nearly every position.
Despite signing a contract with the Seattle Seahawks, the former captain still has a presence in the Penn State locker room mentoring first-time starting long snapper Tyler Duzansky.
“I would consider [Stoll] one of my mentors,” Duzansky said. “I send him film all the time.”
After sitting behind Stoll during his redshirt freshman season last year, Duzansky took over the role of starting long snapper at the beginning of this season. Despite now being the starter on a team like Penn State, Duzansky didn’t start long snapping until his junior year of high school.
Duzansky attended a Chris Rubio long snapping camp during his junior year, and after learning exactly what long snapping was, Duzansky began to excel.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Duzansky said. “My first snap, I rolled it back.”
Duzansky quickly learned that in long snapping, consistency is key.
The long snapper says his job is a tough one, mainly because it has a tendency to attract only negative attention. The pressure to be perfect at the position puts a mental strain on Duzansky he says may be the toughest part of snapping.
“You’re the only position that can’t mess up,” Duzansky said. “Even if it’s a bad snap, you have to come back and have a perfect one the next time.”
Despite the pressure, Duzansky said he believes that he’s done well in his first two starts, partly because of his attitude toward practice.
“I think it’s gone well,” Duzansky said. “It was my mindset. Two years ago once I got here, preparing like I’m a starter.”
Duzansky said he believes mental toughness is one of the hardest things to learn, but it’s something Franklin and the rest of the coaching staff highlight every day through situational drills in practice.
“We’re trying to work with the whole specialist group right now on that mental side of being able to go to the next rep and rebound,” Duzansky said. “Coach Franklin does a really good job of putting us in game situations during practice.”
On the field, Duzansky has a close-up view of the kicking battle currently playing out between placekickers Alex Felkins and Sander Sahaydak. Duzansky said the battle started right after the Rose Bowl when Felkins first arrived on campus, and it hasn’t yet been decided.
Duzansky said mental toughness is important for everyone in the special teams room, and both punters and kickers have shown an abundance of it so far.
“We had some ups and downs in the game, but we’re making our strides,” Duzansky said. “No matter what happens in the past week, good or bad, you don’t want it to influence the next one. You gotta flush it and keep your mind straight.”
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