Physical freak Ra’Shede Hageman and sleek-bodied defensive back Brock Vereen buzzed around the U football practice field on Monday, showing off their athletic gifts during the Gophers’ pro day, an event designed for scouts and coaches to get a closer look at potential draft picks or free agents in the area.
As they did, Jake Filkins worked off to the side of the field, repeating one simple but potentially lucrative motion: long-snapping a football. Filkins did most of the speed and strength drills along with the other invited Gophers and area college players, but he wasn’t fooling himself.
“I’m a little slower than everyone else,” he said, joking that he clocked in with a 40-yard dash time of “five-point-slow” and later clarifying that it was around 5.2 seconds. “The drills aren’t really for me. I’m here to snap a ball. ... All you have to do is snap a ball and run in a straight line for the most part.”
It’s a unique gift that the 6-2, 240-pound Filkins began to cultivate during seventh grade football in Prescott, Wis. His dad told him someone needed to be the long snapper, so it might as well be Filkins.
“He took me in the back yard, walked off 15 steps, gave me a few tips and left me to go about it,” Filkins said.
Filkins progressed through high school, then came to the U as a wrestler. But after impressing Gophers coaches with his long snapping, he made the switch to football and snapped for four seasons. He had one bad snap as a freshman, but otherwise it’s been smooth.
While the idea in games is not to be noticed, however — few fans pay attention to the long snapper unless something goes wrong — the idea now is quite the opposite. He worked at Monday’s Pro Day with Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer, picking up pointers that he hopes will help him get noticed in a couple of months once NFL teams start scooping up college free agents.
“That’s all I was looking for coming into this — that hopefully someone was there and wanted to see me,” Filkins said. “As it was getting close, I was getting anxious — not nervous, but excited to get it here. You train six weeks for four or five tests, and that’s a little overkill.”
Then again, if he can carve out an NFL career from whipping a ball between his legs, Filkins is going to give it his best shot.
“I’ll take any chance I can get,” he said. “Hopefully, in a couple of months something happens. All I can ask for is a chance to get in there and prove myself.”