Jeff Overbaugh was one of two long snappers invited to the Senior Bowl in January 2016. He had handled those duties impeccably at San Diego State after arriving there from Service High School in Anchorage, Alaska.
The Senior Bowl workouts get wall-to-wall coverage with NFL.com and the NFL Network. Nuggets are passed along on all players, including the information that Overbaugh camped out among Kodiak bears during his adventurous youth in Alaska.
The Kodiaks were mentioned to Overbaugh during an interview in a small anteroom at Winter Park on Wednesday. He smiled and said: “Yeah, I think there was a little mix-up between me and my guy [Lance] Zierlein on that one. I never did go camping at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.”
Zierlein is a draft analyst, talk radio host and NFL.com contributor, and apparently it was his information on Overbaugh and sleeping with the Kodiaks that keeps getting repeated when the job-seeking long snapper gets a media mention.
No camping out when surrounded by large bears, then?
“Not Kodiaks,’’ Overbaugh said. “We did camp out at Katmai National Park. There are quite a few grizzlies around there.”
Kodiaks. Grizzlies. I’d say Zierlein was close enough.
Overbaugh was with his girlfriend, Emily Carper, at her parents’ home near San Diego when he received a Christmas call to head for the Twin Cities. The Vikings wanted him at Winter Park for a tryout to replace injured Kevin McDermott as Sunday’s long snapper vs. the Bears.
The Vikings went with Overbaugh ahead of veteran Justin Drescher for what seems to be a one-game assignment. McDermott is expected back when the playoffs start for the Vikings, presumably on the weekend of Jan. 13-14.
“I’m not sure how many tryouts this year — three teams before the season started, then nine or 10 one-day tryouts during the season,’’ Overbaugh said. “I’m not looking back at those. I’m just preparing for this Sunday against the Bears.”
Overbaugh spent the morning at U.S. Bank Stadium working with kicker Kai Forbath and punter Ryan Quigley. He was impressed with the Vikings’ $1.15 billion palace, while also not a stranger to large domes.
The Dome in Anchorage was the locale where Overbaugh spent many hours working on ball-snapping skills, with his father Bill serving as holder or punter.
“Jeff’s goal was to play Division I football,” Bill Overbaugh said. “When he was a sophomore, Ray Guy’s group came through here with a camp for punters, kickers and long snappers.
“He was introduced to techniques to develop the quick-twitch muscles needed by a long snapper. He wasn’t big enough to be a lineman; he’s about 6-1 and 240 now. He saw long snapping as his way into college football.’’
Overbaugh would go through the drills, and then snap the football to his father, in workouts in that large dome lasting two or three hours. He also went to offseason camps and wound up with a scholarship to be the long snapper at San Diego State.
“It’s a different world for long snappers,’’ Mike Morris said. “When I got into it, we were pretty much self-taught. I tried to do what I saw as a kid watching Bobby Bell with Kansas City and Mick [Tingelhoff] with the Vikings. Red Silvera and Rex McClanahan were a couple of old college coaches who showed me a few things.”
Morris played 13 NFL seasons and was the Vikings’ snapper for every game from 1991 to 1999. Early on, you were expected to back up at a line position; now, long snapper is a stand-alone position.
“You have to be perfect, too,’’ Morris said. “Coaches aren’t going to miss a Super Bowl because they had a bad snap. There are guys like this kid [Overbaugh], working on it full-time, waiting for an opening, trying to show they can throw a strike every time.”
Morris and Overbaugh have this in common: Morris never had a bad snap that directly cost his NFL team points, and Overbaugh was a perfect 510-for-510 on snaps at San Diego State.
He had a chance to snap for punts in a couple of exhibition games with the Bears. On Sunday, he will be snapping in a true NFL game for the first time.
Bill and Julia Overbaugh, and older son Willie, are flying in from Anchorage on Friday to be there. Willie is back home in Alaska, enjoying those grand spaces, as his brother works on throwing fastball strikes to holders and punters.
“Those boys grew up as quite the outdoorsmen,’’ Bill said. “They were up for anything. They went on a kayaking trip through the Grand Canyon, at ages 12 and 11.”
Sounds like a good way to get started on those quick-twitch muscles.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. email@example.com