Sam York took a different route than most of the other members of "The Dream '14". Sure, he has the talent, but through hard work and a dedication to his craft that is unparalleled, York got himself noticed in an area where scouts do not flock to looking for college football players. Instead of listening to the local doubters and limiting himself to minimum college exposure, York and his father traveled across the country, summer after summer, attending special teams camps in hopes of fulfilling a dream. Sam York is now living that dream as a member of one of the most prestigious football programs in the country.
So, where did it all start? Well for York, it began in eighth grade. "I played center and middle linebacker but the team needed a long snapper so I volunteered to do that. Those coaches taught me the basics," he said. "Then I started going to camps and getting more serious about it (long snapping), learning better technique and at those camps I met many influential people who have helped me out and got me to where I am today. I first started going to tutorial camps the summer before my freshman year of high school and I have since been going to camps every summer thereafter.The last two years I have been going to showcase camps in the winter, instead of the tutorial camps where they teach you how to long snap and build up form. That is really where it began."
"The first two years, the summer of my freshman and sophomore year I went to the Pro Kicker camps in Worcester, Massachusetts which is ran by Ray Guy, and they have a great staff there. At Pro Kicker, I had a coach, Jake Claycomb, who long snapped at Eastern Kentucky, then Ben Fuller (Marshall University) took over that position. They've both really helped me out a lot."
"Then I did camps at Kohl's Kicking Camp, which were held around the nation with Coach Kevin Garvoille, who has also been a huge influence as well, both with learning how to snap and helping out with recruiting, he brought me to where I am today. I also went to one in Georgia, which was the first camp I went outside of Massachusetts, and since then I've been to Las Vegas and the Midwest a few times. I've taken some great road trips."
Coming from a small school in Massachusetts
York is from Marblehead, a small coastal town in Massachusetts. That area of the country is not exactly known as a recruiting hotbed for football, and that fuels him to be the player that he is today. In fact, York will only be the second player from the Northeastern Conference to play football at the FBS level in the past fifteen years.
"There aren't many people who do this in the NEC, and I have been well aware of that. I've always kept it in my mind but I have always said to myself, 'why not me?'", York said passionately.
"When I went to the Michigan camp, that is when I really proved it to myself that I could do this. Ever since then I have had that as my mindset to work hard everyday. Every single day I have been snapping, it is every day thing," he repeated. "It is hard work and there are people around here who know the same thing that we both know that not many people go to FBS schools, and I've had people who have told me 'this isn't possible and this isn't what people do from around here.' It has always motivated me a lot and I've soaked in my situation (being from Marblehead), knowing what football players from around here usually do. I use it to kindle my fire and work hard every day to become the snapper that I am."
York then talked about recruiting in the state of Massachusetts, "The unfortunate thing from being around this area is the lack of exposure (from high schools in this area) to the bigger schools. We have athletic talent from around here and it is possible to showcase it more. The (Massachusetts) high school coaches are realistic though, and understand the speed difference in the high school programs in Texas and Florida (compared to Massachusetts). You're starting to see a rise from the kids from this area going to higher ranked schools. One day we might see multiple guys go to FBS schools from this area."
How to stand out on film as a long snapper
One may think it would be tough to stand out as a long snapper on film, but York debunked that conventional wisdom. "One thing I will disagree with is about long snappers not being able to stand out on film. I believe that is very untrue because the reason why I was looked at by these schools in the first place and offered these great opportunities was because of my game film," York urged.
He explained, "A long snapper is based on two things: speed and accuracy. So when a college coach looks at a long snapper, he has his stop watch out and he times it. A good college snap (15 yards) is anywhere between .69 and .75 seconds. Then it has to be in a good spot where a punter needs to catch it, primarily at the waist or at the belly button, sometimes in the chest area, but you'll never see coaches want a snap at the knees, that's a bit low. Anywhere in that general area is a good snap," York continued. "If you can consistently do that on game film it really stands out. Also, after the snap, they want to see if you can avoid blockers down field. On field goals, they want to see if you can clog the hole and block. So, there is a lot that goes into it and a great snapper can stand out on film."
The recruiting process
When asked about the recruiting process, York responded, "At the end of my sophomore year, I was questioning myself about 'Where was long snapping was going to take me? Was it going to take me to Division III? Division I? in between? or anywhere at all."
York added, "During the spring of my junior year, I went to a camp at the University of Michigan. There I got to meet and work with a star studded coaching staff, including Zoltan Mesko, (Ex-Michigan/ New England Patriots punter) who was working the camp at the time. Mesko got to catch my punt snaps and he said they were very legit. He (Mesko) also said that my field goal snaps were just as good as anyone that he has caught for in the NFL. Three FBS coaches were there and told me that they were interested in me: Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green and Michigan.. Once they took an interest in me at that point, I said to myself, 'I think I might go somewhere with this'."
"I kept going to these camps and later on, the summer before my senior year, I went to Pro Kicker Camp out in Illinois, where I had a great showing and they ranked me in their top ten. During the middle of my senior season, I got a letter in the mail from Pro Kicker; they were inviting me to the National Long Snapping Championship that they hold every year down in Florida. I went there with high expectations, but I never expected to place first in the nation there. I honestly impressed myself, and that is what allowed me to reach out to the higher FBS coaches. That is when the Big Ten schools started becoming a real possibility."
"Every single day after school (after football season), I would spend about an hour calling coaches from these schools, trying to get on the line with them." He could have given up, but he understood he was not the only kid trying to make a name for himself. "They are very busy and they do not always have time to hear about these things. They get 100's of emails per day of tapes from all over the country. You have to be persistent and wait for a break through."
At the Pro Kicker Camp, York stood out amongst his peers. He had the third highest average snap time at 0.78 seconds, tied for the best snap time of .75 seconds, and registered 23 out of 25 accuracy points. With those combined scores, York finished first in the competition, and that is where his name really got out there to the BCS level schools. York ended 2014 ranked as the second best long snapper in the country and a 3rd Team All- American.
"Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue were the three FBS schools that I narrowed my list to and Fordham University (Top 10 FCS school), offered me the starting position right away. But as a future mechanical engineer, they didn't have what I needed academically. Unfortunately, that was not a good match; fortunately it allowed the door at Ohio State to open."
York started to get into contact with the Buckeyes about a month and a half ago, "Ohio State's recruiting coordinator and director of high school relations, Gregory Gillam, was the first person that reached out to me from Ohio State, and that's who I have had the majority of my contact with. He invited me out to campus a week after signing day, and he is the one who gave me the preferred walk-on offer. At Ohio State, I was able to meet with Coach Kerry Coombs, which was a really cool experience, and I got to meet the rest of the coaching staff."
Committing to Ohio State
On saying "no" to other coaches, "Obviously it's very tough to say no to other coaches from these bigger schools, it almost seems crazy to say no to schools like Purdue and Michigan. It's crazy, but other people have said it's like breaking up with a girlfriend. It's a lot more than that, but it's something that you just have to deal with. It's much easier to say no to one of those coaches than to snap in front of 107,000 people and on national television. I told the Ohio State coaches last weekend I was ready to commit and they told me I was playing Ohio State football. That is very special to me."
Although York was not a well known recruit, as usual, Buckeye nation showed him love, "It really is beyond my wildest dreams with all that's happened in the last few days in terms of people who are die hard Buckeye fans reaching out to me on Twitter and Facebook wishing me the best. It's really cool to say the least."
Expectations at OSU
If you haven't noticed yet, Sam York is a serious competitor: "Right now they have Bryce Haynes. He will be a returning junior and has been doing the punt snap duties the past two years. He has been very dominant and was very highly rated coming out of high school. He will be a great person to learn from when I get to campus."
But York went on to say that there will be an open spot for field goal snap duties, " I'm not going to redshirt and there is another long snapper who was a linebacker last year (Aaron Mawhirter) who I'm going to go into camp and compete against for that position. I'm just excited to get the opportunity to work and compete with these guys."
His father's influence
It is clear that York's father has been a major influence in his life and football career, "My father has been to all of the camps with me, he deserves a big shout-out. He's been one of the biggest helpers and I can't thank him enough for all that he's done, driving me out to all of those cool places."
Mr. York is pretty much Sam's personal long snapping coach, "We have really learned everything you need to know about long snapping, so he is my personal coach. He knows when my feet aren't correct, when my hands aren't finishing where they are supposed to. So it's really either been self-correction (from myself) or he can watch me and tell me what I'm doing wrong. He was at all the camps and he would have a notebook out writing down what the coaches told me. He has been educated on everything I've learned. He's put in the effort to be there for me and to coach me and I cannot thank him enough for that."
His high school coach's take
His head coach at Marblehead High School, Jim Rudloff talked wonders about York, "Sam worked very hard at his specialty. He put a tremendous amount of time and hard work into perfecting his craft and it is a very good story about how hard work pays off. Sam has always been a good student, but he began to really focus on the weight room and his long snapping about two years ago."
Rudloff concluded by saying, "Sam has always been willing to put in the extra work, I am certain that he will work every bit as hard or outwork his teammates at Ohio State."