Norwin long snapper Xander Smith garnering national attention

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Friday, June 25, 2021 | 8:56 PM


Xander Smith is chasing a dream to play college football at the highest level possible.

But his vehicle to get there differs from most.

While the sophomore at Norwin plays wide receiver and defensive back, his specialty is long snapping.

He lives it, breathes it and works tirelessly at it.

Smith has been working the national showcase circuit to get his name in front of college coaches, part of a busy spring and summer for the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder.

That being said, Smith knows long snapping scholarships can be a long shot. But that only stands to motivate him.

“To have my college paid for is a very big goal of mine,” Smith said. “And long snapping seems like the way to do it.”

Smith was selected to the Hammer Kicking Academy Top 40 #BeatTheBracket event June 23-27, in Orlando, Fla. He received an invite through his performance in a local qualifier.

He is ranked No. 2 in the Class of 2023 by National Kicking Rankings. He recently competed in a key NKR showcase in New Orleans — he ate alligator with a side of fries — and the Pitt Specialist Camp.

Rhythm is a key part to successful and accurate long snapping, and Smith said finding an early comfort zone at showcases leads to better results.

“A great thing about these showcases is a lot of times the first day is instructional,” he said. “So with the help of Hammer and other camps I’ve steadily made improvements. I think one thing that really helps me stand out is that I am coachable. All these coaches know what they are talking about, so in an environment like that it’s easy to improve and stand out.”

Smith said being in shape has helped his progression to becoming an on-the-rise long snapper.

“Being an athletic guy helps,” he said. “A lot of snappers aren’t as athletic as I am.”

Steve Smith, his father, played high school football at Grand Valley in Ohio and later, Edinboro. He was a center and also long snapped in high school.

“He got me into it,” Xander said. “I’d say I’ve been really serious about snapping for a year now, but I started about four years ago.”

Steve Smith said his son picked up long snapping all on his own.

“He gets all the credit,” the father said. “I’m glad he’s doing it and working so hard. I can only help so much.”

Xander Smith’s Godfather, Mike Jakovac, introduced the 10th grader to a long snapper of considerable note, former Pro Bowler Mike Schneck, who played for the Steelers, Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons.

Schneck worked out with Smith in early June at Pine-Richland High School.

“It was mostly just little things in my snapping motion like ball placement at the start of the snap,” Smith said of working with Schneck. “And I think I will work with him again in the future.”

Schneck told Smith the art of long snapping has changed since he played. Still, Smith was intrigued.

“Mike actually said that a lot of players now don’t snap the way he did,” Smith said.

“But I went ahead and watched clips of him anyway.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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