From Harvard to the huddle, Seahawks new snapper refuses to give up on dream
Anyone who’s watched the Seahawks this season has become far too aware of what happens when a seemingly simple part of the game goes awry, such as when long snapper Nolan Frese sent the ball flying over the head of punter Jon Ryan for a San Francisco safety.
Sunday’s snafu against the 49ers was just the latest miscue this season involving the kicking game, coming in part because snapper Nolan Frese was hobbled by an injured ankle.
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And 2,600 miles away, Tyler Ott was watching intently from a Boston bar.
“I call it my scouting. I pretty much watch every special teams play I can,” the newest member of the Seahawks said as we spoke at his new locker at team headquarters this week.
It’s just the latest stop in a lifelong dream of playing pro football for the 24-year-old Harvard grad.
He’s had a few shots, trying out for a number of teams and getting called into emergency duty for four games with the Bengals and one with the Giants.
“I was expecting a call, didn’t expect it that night and to be flying out early the next morning. But happy to get on a plane and come out here,” Ott said.
The call came because Frese suffered an ankle injury and the team placed him on injured reserve, effectively ending his season.
It’s the kind of moment Ott is always ready for.
“Thankfully Harvard football lets me come back and work out in their weight room and facilities,” he said.
It’s a far cry from many of his fellow Harvard alumni, who’ve gone on to pursue politics, Ph.D.’s, Wall Street careers and the like.
“I figure, why not chase this dream as long as I can. And if all goes well, I play for 10-15 years and then I always have a Harvard degree to fall back on…I’ve got plenty of time to work but I want to come play and live that childhood dream,” he said.
But not everyone can do it. We’ve seen what a critical role the snapper serves in the kicking game — with several offline snaps contributing to a troubling number of missed kicks this season, including a blown extra point in the Christmas eve loss to Arizona that cost the Seahawks the number two seed and the playoffs, and a week off.
Ott says it’s a lot harder than it looks.
“It’s consistency and accuracy, it’s speed, do you throw a nice spiral that’s easy to catch? And you have to do all that looking through your legs looking upside down at a punter that’s 15 yards away,” he said.
Not to mention the 300 pounds of menace just across the line looking to level you.
“We may not be the best athletes, but we have to go up against the best athletes,” Ott said.
Ott credits the rest of the Seahawks for making him feel welcome. He says they’ve gone out of his way to help him get settled this week.
“Everybody’s been great introducing themselves. I can’t say I remember very many people’s names trying to meet 100-plus people at one time,” he laughed.
Most important among them is perhaps punter and holder Jon Ryan.
“I feel 100 percent confident in him and totally comfortable,” Ryan said.
It’s something Ryan says they always strive to do.
“It’s a really close-knit team but also very accepting of guys. So when they come in we know it helps a guy to feel at home,” Ryan said.
And Ott hopes he’ll have a chance to make Seattle home, at least long enough to fulfill his childhood dream.
“Hopefully we’ll go to the Super Bowl. It’ll be my first playoff game but a great experience and I’m really excited for it,” Ott said.
And if things don’t work out, at least he has that Harvard degree to fall back on.