As much as the part of the game is played down, any football coach will tell you that special teams are vital part of the game.
Having a good punter and kicker are invaluable; and so is having a great long-snapper.
Joe Cardona, senior long-snapper for the Navy Midshipmen, has started at the position since he was a freshman and has quickly become one of the best players at his position in all of college football. Cardona has snapped the pigskin back for multiple Mids' kickers and punters and has even registered a handful of special teams' tackles and a forced fumble.
With all of that said, long-snapping, like most special teams positions, is one where a mistake or two could cost a starter their job. Cardona has been able to avoid making those mistakes so far, and during his tenure in Annapolis his snapping skills have attracted the eyes of NFL scouts.
Could Cardona be the next Midshipmen to make it to the big leagues?
One website, Kohl's News, seems to think so:
NFL scouts should have a close eye on Cardona this season. By some, he is expected to be one of the top NFL draft prospects at the long snapping position in the 2015 draft. Standing at 6'3 236 pounds Cardona looks the part of an elite player and has the snap abilities to go with it. This summer Cardona was clocked with a snap speed of over 40 miles-per-hour with a radar gun at the Kohl's Kicking College Elite Camp.
Cardona definitely has the skill level of a pro long-snapper, and the build of one too, standing at 6-3 and 236 ibs. He has developed chemistry and relationships with both of the Mids' kicker and punter, as he's been snapping to punter Pablo Beltran since they were both rookies.
Navy kicker Nick Sloan spoke with Bill Wagner of the Capital Gazette prior to the season on the chemistry between himself, Beltran and Cardona:
Niumatalolo noted that long snapper Joe Cardona plays a critical role in both the punting and place-kicking situation and has routinely praised the senior's consistent accuracy. Sloan said the trio has become quite efficient with the overall operation.
"It's very comforting to know that we've been working together for two years. I know the snap is going to be there and that (Beltran) is going to get the ball down," he said. "I trust those guys to do their assignments so I don't have to worry about it."
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season goes for Cardona, and if he'll get a camp invite after the 2015 NFL Draft, as teams rarely use a pick on long-snappers.
On Cardona's "Meet The Mid" profile on Navy Athletics' website, he lists his favorite NFL player as David Binn, the former long snapper for the San Diego Chargers.
Navy has a few other pro-prospects in Parrish Gaines, Jake Zuzek, Jordan Drake and Keenan Reynolds, but Cardona may have the best chance of landing an NFL job as great snappers are hard to find. Perhaps he could follow in the footsteps of Binn and become an NFL long-snapper.