Kevin McDermott might be the Vikings’ best at spinning with the NFL’s revolving door.
In just his fourth season as the Vikings long snapper, McDermott is only 2½ weeks into working with his fourth punter — Matt Wile — and only three days into building another rapport with his fifth kicker — Dan Bailey.
As the world turns with Vikings specialists, the lone constant has been the 28-year-old McDermott, once a journeyman himself and now the only familiar face in what is typically one of the most tight-knit position rooms on an NFL team. As perhaps the Vikings’ most underappreciated performer, McDermott said he can only take in stride the constant change.
“It’s always tough to see friends go through tough times,” McDermott said. “Getting cut is never easy. I’ve had it happen to myself. My wife and I had to pick up and move and leave San Francisco, so it’s never what you expect. You always have a positive attitude and hope it doesn’t happen to your friends.”
McDermott’s positivity, along with his straight snaps, has helped keep the Vikings’ specialist room afloat. One after another, McDermott has seen his friends and co-workers get shown the door, their lockers occupied by new kickers and punters with different nuances to which he needs to adapt the timing of his snaps.
“He’s adjusted very well,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said.
Levity is more than a buzzword with McDermott, who is known among specialists for constant enthusiasm throughout practices and games.
“Extremely positive,” Wile said. “ ‘Great punt!’ After every hold, ‘Great hold!’ ”
McDermott, who recently earned his Master of Business Administration degree from Indiana University, keeps his eyes to the skies when they’re not staring behind him before a snap. Wile was caught by surprise recently in the Vikings’ hot and cold tubs when McDermott started talking about the “Waffle House Index.”
McDermott, a certified pilot and meteorology enthusiast, started explaining to the Vikings’ new punter how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tracks Waffle House openings and closures to help determine a community’s preparedness and recovery from severe weather. The term Waffle House Index was first coined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in 2011 and continues through conversation between Vikings specialists.
“My reaction was almost exactly like yours, my eyes went up,” Wile said. “Are we talking about the food chain? And he’s like yeah, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.”
Bonds formed in a three-man position group makes it harder to see a guy leave, just as kicker Kai Forbath, punter Ryan Quigley and most recently, kicker Daniel Carlson, have been let go.
“It’s a room where we’re the smallest position group on the team other than maybe the quarterback room or tight ends,” McDermott said. “We spend a lot of time together. We are working in unison at every practice, so, I was with Kai for 12 years or knew Kai for 12 years when I was at UCLA and following him to the NFL, so I was very close with Kai.”
Despite seeing his entire room change in the past month, McDermott pushed back at the notion that this NFL season has been his busiest.
“I don’t know about that. Last year in training camp, we had two punters and two kickers,” McDermott recalled. “I wouldn’t say I’m used to it, but whatever the situation is required of me I’m going to do what I can for the team.”
This week’s situation includes picking kicker Dan Bailey’s brain for the smallest nuances McDermott needs to know for Sunday’s game against the Bills.
He has less than a week to learn Bailey’s pre-kick routine and rhythm when approaching field goals and extra points. The smallest tips from Bailey help to ensure McDermott gets the snap off at precisely the right time.
“They’re very small, and to the untrained eye you wouldn’t expect anyone to notice them,” McDermott said. “Some guys, they’ll take their steps very quickly and they’re ready to kick the ball almost immediately. That means I have to be ready to snap the ball faster.”
McDermott will have even more eyes watching Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. His brother, Bills offensive tackle Conor McDermott, will be on the opposing sideline as the McDermott family, including mom, dad, uncles and aunts, watches from the seats.
“We’ll find out who mom loves more,” Kevin McDermott joked.