SCOREBOARD

Prep grad Long giving best snap toward pro football career

NOT A LONG SHOT AT ALL – St. Peter’s Prep graduate Dennis Long has traveled a wild ride through college football and now is possibly getting a shot to attend training camp with a National Football League team this summer.
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NOT A LONG SHOT AT ALL – St. Peter’s Prep graduate Dennis Long has traveled a wild ride through college football and now is possibly getting a shot to attend training camp with a National Football League team this summer.

The road toward a possible career in professional football has been a – pardon the pun – long and winding one for Dennis Long.
But it all began with just a simple snap.
Long was a football player at St. Peter’s Prep, a graduate from Grand and Warren in 2012.
But Long was never a standout with the Marauders. An aspiring offensive lineman, Long had a tough time breaking into the talented Marauder lineup.
“I had some trouble getting on the field,” Long said. “We had some good players back then.”
But Dominick Lucignano, a retired Hoboken police officer and former Prep assistant football coach, asked Long if he had an interest in trying to become a long snapper. It was a perfect name – Long for long snapper.
“I took it very seriously because of him,” Long said. “I practiced it every day. I practiced sometimes all day every day.”
Long would work with the Prep punters and kickers all the time. Eventually, Long became proficient at the art of long snapping.
“Once I got good at it, I realized that there could be a future in it,” Long said.
Thus began the odyssey that is Dennis Long’s football career.
Long started his journey at Nassau Community College on Long Island, where his roommate was Rasul Douglas, the standout cornerback for the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Douglas is originally from East Orange.
“He’s still a very good friend,” Long said of Douglas.
After Long’s stint at Nassau, he transferred to Troy University in Alabama, but after just one semester there, Long moved on to East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.
Long stayed at East Stroudsburg for two years.
“Things went really well there,” Long said.
Long quickly established himself as one of the best long snappers in the nation. He earned an appearance in the 2017 National Bowl in Florida with all of the best NCAA Division II and Division III players in the country.
From that, Long earned an invitation from Gary Zauner, who spent 13 seasons as a special teams coordinator in the National Football League with the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals.
Zauner, a former punter and placekicker in college and went to training camp with the Vikings and Houston Oilers in the 1970s, now owns a kicking/punting camp in Fountain Hills, Arizona.
“Coach Zauner looks up guys who are specialists and offers them the chance to come to his camp,” Long said. “He’s the best in the business. I got an e-mail from him, asking me if I wanted to come to Arizona to train with him.”
Long didn’t have to think twice about that opportunity. He packed his bags and headed to Coach Zauner’s facility in Arizona to work on his craft every single day with some of the best in the land.
“Coach Zauner got me into the [NFL] Specialists’ Combine,” Long said. “There, I had the second highest testing score of all the long snappers.”
That test score was sent out to all of the NFL teams. At that point, Long secured the services of a player agent named Bryan Gavin, a certified agent with the National Football League Players Association out of the firm of McHugh and Imbornone in Florham Park.
“Because I played in an NFL style offense at East Stroudsburg, Bryan feels that I should be in a training camp [in July],” Long said. “I should be able to compete for a spot.”
Two weeks ago, Long was invited to participate in the New York Giants’ pro day for prospective draftees. Long has also worked out for the New England Patriots.
Long has also befriended Rick Lovato, the long snapper for the Eagles who originally hails from Middletown.
“I’ve sent him films to let him see what I might be doing wrong,” Long said.
The NFL Draft will take place in Dallas in two weeks. Chances are that no NFL team will select a long snapper with a draft pick.
But soon after the seven rounds of the draft is completed that weekend, Long stands a good chance of getting a phone call with an invite from some NFL team to attend training camp.
“That’s the goal,” Long said. “My agent feels like I have a good shot.”
So the kid who couldn’t find a spot on the St. Peter’s Prep offensive line just might find himself playing in the NFL. Dreams do come true.
“I’m 24,” Long said. “I’m right in the prime age for long snappers. I just want to get the chance to go in and show what I can do. Maybe I can do the same job as some or even better.”
And if it means stealing a spot from an NFL veteran?
“I’m all for it,” Long laughed.
Long graduated from East Stroudsburg with a degree in political science. But for now, his degree is being put on hold as he chases his dream of being a pro football player. Long remains in Arizona, training for as much as eight hours a day – sometimes more – just working on his craft.
Long snapping is a fruitful career in the NFL if you can get a chance.
Zak DeOssie has been a member of the Giants for the last 11 years and was a member of two Super Bowl championship teams, earning two trips to the Pro Bowl. Mike Leach of Jefferson Township in Morris County spent 16 years in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals.
“It took my friend Rick Lovato three years before he got his break,” Long said. “I’m not going to give up easily. I just want to keep playing football. That’s all I want.”
If the pursuit of a career in pro football doesn’t pan out, then Long might pursue a career teaching high school history and coaching football.
“That’s always been a dream of mine,” Long said.
Still, to be this close to a chance of playing in the NFL? It’s something he has to shoot for.
“If someone would have told me six years ago that I would have even a chance at the NFL, I would have laughed at him,” Long said. “I didn’t think there was a chance. I’ve been very lucky. I have parents who have helped me a lot along the way. I’ve had friends open doors. I’ve been very fortunate.”
Now, we have to see if Long’s luck continues in a few weeks with a phone call. Right now, it’s not that much of a Long shot after all.

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.