On a good day, junior Ed Kispert launches a precise upside-down toss — guided by a perfect spiral and the muscle memory accumulated by roughly 300 weekly repetitions — then he recedes from the spotlight just 1.4 seconds later, after senior Andrew Samson has kicked the ball through the uprights.
To all but the most astute observers, it’s as if Kispert had never stepped foot on Franklin Field.
On a bad day, like Penn’s season opener against Lafayette, the first-year long snapper lets his built-up nerves get the better of him, and a low snap contributes to a blocked punt and an opposing touchdown.
On bad days, there is a chance that someone might remember Ed Kispert’s name.
“Offense, defense, they’re 11 positions. When I go out there, it’s just me,” Kispert said. “If I mess up, it’s not like I have another play.”
Such is life at a position where perfection is all but assumed. Mistakes are magnified by both their conspicuousness and their often-catastrophic consequences.
Kispert’s sole job is to snap the ball seven yards to holder Ryan Calvert, who places it for Samson to put through the uprights.
“It all starts with him. It’s definitely a lot of pressure,” Samson said. “But it’s the one thing that we focus on in practice.”
Kispert, who served as a long snapper on the side while playing primarily as a defensive end in high school, has large shoes to fill under center. He is taking the place of 2010 graduate and star linebacker Jake Lewko, who Samson called an “NFL-caliber long snapper.”
But Kispert is hardly going it alone, as he has the support of the entire special teams unit, which is an especially close-knit group according to Calvert, a senior who is in his first year as a holder.
“I’ve kind of been adopted I guess, which is nice because they’re goofy and you get to hang out on the sideline the whole time,” said Calvert, who has been Samson’s roommate throughout their Penn careers.
“We’re all very good friends and really close, and we’re always there to support each other and help each other out,” Samson added.
Kispert’s idol, Ethan “The Red Snapper” Albright of the St. Louis Rams, is best known for being the lowest-rated player in the video game Madden NFL ’07.
While Kispert may be similarly anonymous on the football field, Samson said that the self-proclaimed “social butterfly” is a hit with the ladies and might even use the title of long snapper as a pick-up line.
And though Kispert probably won’t even earn a footnote in the Penn history books if Samson surpasses Penn’s all-time scoring record, he isn’t too worried about personal recognition.
“I want to make sure [Samson] gets his records and that we’re winning,” Kispert said. “As long as that’s happening, I don’t need people to know my name.”
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