Robert McGarry has played a critical role for the Gophers football team in 37 consecutive games during the past three seasons, but he realizes probably few outside of his family, friends and diehard fans have ever heard of him.
Which is precisely how he likes it.
"The only time I'll get any recognition is if I mess up," he said.
That has yet to happen. McGarry, the team's senior long snapper, has not had a bad snap on a kick or punt in 37 games. Team's statistics show that is more than 350 snaps without a mistake. Not one.
He hasn't skipped it, bounced it, rolled it or airmailed it over the kicker's head. The Gophers kicking game has been inconsistent in recent years, but the guy snapping the ball has been Timex watch reliable. Feel free to rap your knuckles on the nearest wood table Gophers fans, but McGarry doesn't sound superstitious about his streak.
"It's something that comes naturally to me," he said. "There is a lot of pressure to continue the streak of not having a bad one."
A walk-on linebacker from Stillwater in 2004, McGarry took over as the long snapper and has manned that position ever since. McGarry works on snapping about 20 minutes each practice and then waits for his opportunity on either punts, field goals and extra-point attempts. It's a job with little glory but huge potential for unwanted attention.
"The long snapper is a guy you never notice until he screws up," coach Tim Brewster said.
The long snapper is specialty position that requires a certain skill set. Snappers need accuracy, of course, but they also are judged on how fast their snaps get to the holder or punter. They also need to develop a rapport with the kickers so that everyone feels comfortable when it's time to kick. Do you really want your kicker and holder worrying about whether the snap is going to be too slow or off-target?
"It's not like throwing the ball," McGarry said. "It's a lot more wrist action. You have to have forearms that are quick and strong."
Not everyone can do it, which is why some teams put a premium on finding a reliable long snapper. Edina's Collin Carroll received a full scholarship to Virginia Tech as a long snapper this season. McGarry was put on scholarship after his first season. (His brother Colin is a true freshman tight end for the Gophers this season.)
McGarry said the degree of difficulty is not much different between snapping on punts and kicks. He needs more accuracy on kicks, but he doesn't have to protect on field goals.
McGarry has to help protect on punts against a block, and he also runs downfield in coverage. He had three tackles last season, and has eight for his career.
"I'm usually getting the guys ankles," he said, smiling. "I'm not really exploding on a guy. Whatever I can do to get my hands on him. I'm not a John Shevlin-type hitter."
The Gophers can live with that. They just need McGarry to do what he does best: mistake-free snaps.
"That's a lot of pressure, but it's something I take a lot of pride in," he said. "If something bad does happen, you just have to forget about it and move on to the next snap."