They say “age before beauty” and that could be the motto of the NFL longsnapper too. Looking around the league’s current crop of specialty centers, most are over 30 or close to it. Detroit’s Don Muhlbach is almost as old as his name sounds, as he will turn 40 in August. Muhlbach went undrafted out of Texas A&M in 2004 and signed with a Lions team that was coached by Steve Mariucci, quarterbacked by Joey Harrington, and he was snapping to the legendary kicker Jason Hanson.
Now Muhlbach works with Dan Campbell, Jared Goff, and 24-year-old rookie Pro Bowl punter Jack Fox.
The Rams are now on a mission to find their own Don Muhlbach, as longtime longsnapper Jake McQuaide left in free agency to join the Dallas Cowboys. LA has Colin Holba and Steve Wirtel under contract and it’s possible that either could step into the job next season.
Holba was a sixth round pick of the Steelers in 2017, but he lost the competition to Kameron Canaday, now one of the top-paid players at his position at $1.2 million per season. After two stints with the 49ers, one with the Jags, one with the Giants, and one brief moment with the Rams back in 2020, Holba returned to LA in January on a futures deal.
Wirtel went undrafted out of Iowa State last year and he signed with Detroit as insurance for Muhlbach. He set the combine record 40-yard time for longsnappers (4.76) and ESPN’s Mel Kiper called him a “draftable” player, but he’s finding out the difficulty of landing a job as one of the NFL’s 32 longsnappers right now.
The Rams could enter training camp with Holba and Wirtel battling it out, but could Les Snead actually use one of his draft picks — or make a hard undrafted free agent push — to replace McQuaide with one of the top longsnappers in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Good luck finding a picture of Cameron Cheeseman at USA Today or Getty (I settled on a picture of Florida longsnapper Ryan Farr because that was available), but the Michigan longsnapper has been called the top prospect at his position even though he “accidentally” sat out all of 2020. I say it is an “accident” but the more accurate version is that Cheeseman did not expect there to be a college season (for good reason) and then when the Big 10 opted to play, he had already begun work on the NFL draft.
In an interview with NFL Draft Diamonds, Cheeseman made his pitch to get drafted:
There isn’t anywhere else I would rather be, and I can promise to whoever wants me to play for them that I will do whatever it takes to be the best teammate, friend, and son I can be in order for us to win Super Bowls.
If you could compare your play to one player in the NFL who would it be?
Morgan Cox, we have a similar frame, and I watched his film all through my college career. Our punt scheme at Michigan was similar to his punt scheme ran at Baltimore.
Cox has been a four-time Pro Bowl, one-time all-pro for the Ravens, but he signed a one-year deal with the Titans this year.
This may be of little interest as compared to the other 52 roster spots, but it’s also not a position that can ever be forgotten. Every team needs to have a longsnapper, but every team will only have one longsnapper. Who will be the Rams’ longsnapper in 2021?
A job that can last for decades.