Anonymity's a snap for Daly and a sign of success for the Notre Dame specialist
SOUTH BEND — Scott Daly might be most recognizable for playing Acoustic Cafes with reigning student body president Corey Robinson, Thursday nights on the Notre Dame campus.
It’s sort of an open mike night for bands. Daly plays guitar. Robinson, a former Notre Dame wide receiver and current student assistant football coach, can play “about any instrument known to man.”
Robinson sings. Daly knows his ceiling is limited in that department.
Then again, he’s used to kind of blending into the scenery, which given his position on the Irish football team is a compliment of sorts.
He’s been Notre Dame’s primary long snapper for the past four seasons after redshirting during the 2012 run to the national title game matchup with Alabama. Saturday, he’ll do it for the final time at Notre Dame Stadium, when the Irish (4-6) take on Virginia Tech in football (7-3) for the first time ever.
“When you do not talk about your long snapper for four years, that's a pretty remarkable thing to be that efficient, to be that consistent,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly offered of one of only eight Irish scholarship seniors whose eligibility actually expires at season’s end.
By the way, former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, who retired at the end of last season, won’t be able to attend the game, because he committed months ago to be a motivational speaker of sorts to the contestants at this weekend’s Miss Virginia USA beauty pageant, per Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post.
Daly’s parents, who watched their son become a long snapper by default in fifth grade (“I was the only one who could kind of throw it back there,” he said.) and then coax it into a dream, do not have any such commitment that will keep them away from making the trip from Downers Grove, Ill.
“It was pretty emotional last year when they knew I was coming back,” Daly says with a smile of the first of his two Senior Days.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder comes off way more pragmatic in general than impassioned, though. For starters, he calls long-snapping his “craft,” and it really is for him.
He started taking yoga as a junior in high school, and continues today, to help him with his flexibility and with injury prevention. He formed a coach/player relationship and attended camps held by Chris Rubio, generally recognized as the Yoda of long-snapping.
Daly translated the discipline, hard work and respect required to get his black belt in tae kwon do years ago into his ability to spin a football back seven yards to a holder and almost always keep the laces away from where the kicker will make contact with the football.
And he used to cut out newspaper articles about Patrick Mannelly and hang them on his bedroom wall. Mannelly, who retired before the 2014 NFL season, parlayed his long-snapping ability at Duke into being a sixth-round draft choice by the Chicago Bears in 1988.
He then went on to play for the team 16 years and holds the record for longest tenure as a Bear in franchise history. Today he is one of Daly’s mentors.
“I’ve been working out with him and training with him the past three years,” Daly said. ‘He’s been giving me little nuances here or there, helps me find the right mind-set.”
That came in real handy late in the 2014 season when Kelly changed holders and almost demoted kicker Kyle Brindza during a long slump. Brindza finished on a high note, though, nailing a game-winning field goal as time ran out for a Music City Bowl victory over LSU.
“Obviously, it’s a transition to go from one holder to another,” said Daly who went from Hunter Smith to Malik Zaire in 2014. “But we trust whoever’s out there. The coaches put the best guy out there, and that’s why they make the big bucks and we don’t question it. My job’s still the same.”
And that job is to complete the entire field goal operation, including the hold and kick, in 1.25 seconds or less, and his snaps to punter Tyler Newsome to be under 0.8 seconds.
“He's awesome,” said Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer, ND’s holder in 2015. “His consistency is second to none.
“For a guy who's a senior and has been through a little bit of everything here and to remain the same as that guy each day is awesome. You can definitely see his development physically in the last three years I've been here. He's the type of guy that you look up to in terms of remaining disciplined, taking every rep and every opportunity seriously.”
Even if most everyone else hardly notices.