As long snapper Brady McKnight’s situation demonstrates, there’s a lot of value in anonymity.
“It’s really important,” said Sherando coach Bill Hall of the long snapper position. “Nobody knows about them until they mess up.
“The fact that [McKnight] was just so efficient was just priceless.”
Morehead State University came up with a pretty good financial package in landing McKnight’s services, though.
The Morehead, Ky., school is a member of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision’s Pioneer League, which does not grant athletic scholarships. But because of McKnight’s strong academic performance — which includes a 3.8 GPA and 1130 on his SATs — McKnight has signed for a scholarship that will cover nearly 75 percent of his tuition.
McKnight signed with Morehead State on Feb. 21, one week after making a verbal commitment to the Eagles on a visit to the school. McKnight planned on having a signing ceremony at Sherando on May 4, but that won’t be held because of school being closed by COVID-19.
The 6-foot, 185-pound McKnight has been a long snapper during his entire Sherando career, the last two years on varsity. He was also the Warriors’ starting center this year.
“It’s something I never saw myself being able to do, especially at the level I’m going to be playing at, until recently,” said McKnight when asked what it meant to be playing at the college level. “Going to a few camps helped me to realize my potential, allowed me to take pride in what I do and find my place at the college level.”
McKnight said Morehead State’s academic offerings played a big role in his decision.
McKnight will study animal production and agricultural business. McKnight said his family used to run a cow/calf operation in California, where he lived until he was 9. He currently works on the hay and straw production farm run by Sherando assistant football coach Brian Brannon.
“I’ve been interested in agriculture production my entire life,” McKnight said. “[Working with Brannon] has been a great experience for me.”
McKnight said he first began taking long snapping seriously when he went to a Kornblue Kicking camp in Washington, D.C., a couple of weeks into his junior season in 2018. One year later, McKnight earned a No. 6 long snapper national ranking for the class of 2020 when he attended the Prokicker top prospect camp in Nashville, Tenn., over the summer.
McKnight is held in high regard by organizations like Prokicker for his accuracy and the speed of his delivery.
For example, Rubio Long — whose Rubio Long Snapping camps have sent more than 1,000 long snappers to college or the NFL — has said that the average high school player takes about one second to deliver the ball to a punter who’s positioned 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and ideally, the snapper should deliver the ball in under 0.78 seconds.
McKnight’s average is 0.71, just part of his dependability. Hall, in his 17th season as Sherando’s head coach, said there have been times in the past where reliability with long snappers hasn’t been a certainty. But Hall never worried about McKnight’s snaps leading to blocked kicks or other negative outcomes.
“I knew he invested so much time into getting better and perfecting his craft,” Hall said. “That’s a credit to him.”
“The key to success is persistence in snapping every week all the way throughout the year, because it’s really a muscle memory thing,” McKnight said. “It’s not something you’re really born with, it’s really something that you learn and train for.”
McKnight said he visited several colleges last summer, but what truly helped his path to college was his decision to get involved with the Hammer Kicking Academy, which has produced more than 550 college athletes since 2008.
McKnight went to one of its camps in Richmond in the middle of his senior football season. Hammer owner Adam Tanalski was impressed enough to connect McKnight with some FCS schools and invite him to Hammer’s Winter Elite Camp in Orlando, Fla., in January.
“You can give [Tanalski] a phone call and say, ‘I’m looking at this school and this school,’ and he’ll be engaged and help you and be involved in your recruiting process,” McKnight said. “That’s what was special about Hammer Kicking Academy.”
Morehead State was one of the schools Tanalski thought would be a good fit for McKnight. He went to one of the team’s games in the fall, and then made a return trip on Feb. 14. Morehead offered him a scholarship on that trip, and McKnight accepted.
Morehead went 5-7 overall (3-5 Pioneer) last year. The Eagles are led by seventh-year head coach Rob Tenyer.
McKnight said Stony Brook was willing to give him a full athletic scholarship, but only after he earned a starting position. He liked the security Morehead could provide.
“I like the [Morehead] area a lot,” McKnight said. “The coaching staff is outstanding. When I visited there, it was a very welcoming experience for me.”
Hall thinks Morehead State can work out well for McKnight.
“He’s got aspirations in terms of football but he also has career aspirations,” Hall said. “l think he’s done a great job of balancing both of those. It was a football decision but more important it was an academic decision to allow him to reach the goals that he has for a career path.”
McKnight is the fourth Sherando player to sign with an FCS school this year. Linebacker Payne Bauer (James Madison), defensive back Jabril Hayes (Richmond) and running back Darius Lane (Valparaiso, another Pioneer League school), each signed in February.