Southeast Missouri State football team's long snapper draws interest from NFL scouts

Friday, August 10, 2012
Gabbard (Brandon)

Southeast Missouri State's best NFL prospect just might be a player who only occasionally sees the field and who most fans probably don't even know.

Senior Brandon Gabbard doesn't mind the anonymity. Southeast's long snapper since he arrived on campus as a freshman is content with simply doing his job.

"I'm just trying to help the team as much as possible," Gabbard said.

Southeast coach Tony Samuel said with a laugh that it's probably good Gabbard generally goes unrecognized because it means he must be doing his job well.

"They only get noticed when they do something bad," Samuel said about long snappers. "He's been a great long snapper for us. I can't remember many bad ones."

Good long snappers are coveted by NFL teams, and Samuel said Southeast's coaching staff has been getting plenty of inquiries about Gabbard from professional scouts.

"He has the size, the length, he's very athletic," Samuel said. "He works at his trade. He might be one of the best all-around athletes on the team. For a long time he was our second-best punter."

The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Gabbard takes the compliments in stride, although he acknowledges that thoughts of a potential NFL career have crept into his mind.

"I've had a couple of coaches here talk to me about it," said Gabbard, who has been the long snapper for all 34 of Southeast's games the past three seasons. "I'm going to give it an attempt. It never hurts to try."

Gabbard, a native of Peoria, Ariz., which is a Phoenix suburb, said he started long snapping as a sophomore in high school while also playing on the offensive and defensive lines.

"I learned how to do it and got good at it," Gabbard said.

Gabbard said Southeast's coaches saw him perform his specialty at a camp while he was in high school, and that led to him joining the Redhawks. He hasn't regretted the decision.

"I've really enjoyed it here," said Gabbard, a criminal justice major who is scheduled to graduate in May.

Gabbard envisioned being more than just a long snapper in college at one time, but an accident during his sophomore year changed those plans.

"I was actually working some at offensive line spring ball my sophomore year, but I broke my wrist playing intramural softball," he said. "That ended my offensive line days."

Gabbard has tried to get better at his craft ever since.

"In the offseason I usually work on it about three days a week, about 100 snaps a day," he said. "During practice, I'm basically working with the kickers and punters. I try to do all I can to improve."

Getting the ball to the holder and punter on time and in the right position might be Gabbard's main job with the Redhawks, but his size and athletic ability come in handy once the ball is snapped.

Gabbard is required to block after snapping on field goals and kickoffs. And he gets to go down field and join the fray after blocking on punts. He has been credited with four tackles during his Southeast career.

"That's the fun part," he said with a smile.

All-American honors

Southeast senior offensive tackle Evan Conrad and senior linebacker Blake Peiffer both have made several preseason All-American teams this year.

They added to the list Thursday when they were among 11 Ohio Valley Conference players named to the Phil Steele preseason All-American squad.

Conrad was a first-team pick, while Peiffer garnered third-team honors.

Peiffer, the OVC preseason defensive player of the year, landed a spot on four All-American squads in 2011 after leading the OVC and ranking third nationally in tackles with a school-record 151.

Conrad has made 32 consecutive starts.

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