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YouTube helps long snapper fulfill BYU football dream

Nov 23, 2018, 10:57 PM | Updated: Nov 27, 2018, 11:07 am

PROVO, Utah—Mitch Harris always dreamed of playing football at Brigham Young University. Though the offers came for other players, the tight end and linebacker from Perry High School in Gilbert, Ariz. enrolled at BYU as an every-day student without an athletic scholarship.

“I didn’t think I had a good chance,” Harris said.

A conversation in a back yard one day with his friend’s older brother—who had played long snapper at the collegiate level—changed his thinking.

“He was watching me and said, ‘Hey, that’s probably good enough—your speed’s pretty good and your location’s pretty good to snap in college,’” Harris recalled. “I said, ‘alright.’”

Harris had only been a back-up long snapper on his high school team and never played in that role during a game.

He said he got an official NCAA football for Christmas and decided to consult a trusted source—YouTube.

“I watched YouTube videos to get the technique down,” Harris explained. “They have videos explaining the grip, how you should grip the football, how your “off”-hand should be, how to generate power from your legs on the snaps.”

From there, it became a matter of repetition to improve on his technique.

“(I) snapped away,” Harris said. “(I) snapped 100 balls a night in the laundry room where I used to live because it was so cold outside.”

Soon came the time to try out for the team.

“It was a specialists’ tryout, so it was just kickers, punters and snappers,” Harris recalled. “I was the only snapper there that tried out, so I had pretty good odds. Coach (Ed) Lamb ended up taking the kid that had the best punts during that tryout and the best kicks…and me. He said, ‘alright, we’ll take you, you and I guess you’re the only snapper here so we’ll take you.’”

Harris still had to clear a two-week trial period.

“I had a job at the time at Nu Skin working in a call center and was also in school, so I was just drowning in so many responsibilities,” Harris said. “After two weeks, they didn’t say anything. I was really confused. I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I finally went to Coach Lamb’s office after having not much feedback, and I said, ‘hey, so, I kind of need to know if I’m going to make the team or not, because I have a job that I either need to quit or keep.’ He said, ‘oh, yeah, you’re on the team.’ He was really casual. I called my dad after and we were pumped. I was way excited!”

Harris made the roster as a college sophomore in 2017, and started his first game on the field goal unit against LSU.

By the Utah State game, he was the starter on both the field goal and punt units.

“I was able to get a tackle, which was pretty cool,” Harris said. “I was excited about that!”

Harris has been entrenched as the starter in 2018.

Even his worst snaps have turned out okay.

“When we beat Wisconsin, the field goal eventually gave us the win (24-21), (but) I gave a bad snap,” Harris recalled. “It was one of my worst snaps of the season. I just didn’t follow through correctly. (Holder Gavin Fowler) got it down here, got it up and Skyler (Southam) put it through. Sometimes the holder will save you or the kicker will save you. We’re a pretty tight-knit group of specialists, and we work hard together, so I love it.”

Harris’ story hasn’t been lost on teammates, who have been impressed.

“Mitch is the man,” kicker Andrew Mikkelsen said. “I think it’s impressive for anyone to pick up a craft that they’ve never had a lot of exposure to in the past, but his passion is football and he was willing to do whatever it took to make the team and for him that meant learning a completely new craft. He’s perfected that craft and he’s been perfect for us ever since he’s been here.”

Harris attributes his ability to stick with the team to hard work, and determination—attributes he maintains can pay off for anyone as they pursue their dreams.

“It just takes a lot of mental strength and boosting yourself up and working hard, and you can do anything you set your mind to,” Harris said.

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YouTube helps long snapper fulfill BYU football dream