Oct. 21, 2009
Mason Foster Interview (paid subscription required)
By Kyle MacDonald
Those plays are punctuated by the feet of Folk and Mahan kicking the ball through the uprights or far downfield. But the start of those special plays is of a long snap from the accurate hands of senior Danny Morovick.
At 6-foot-4, 217 pounds, Morovick is built differently than the interior linemen who block on either side of him. Brute force is their specialty as they hold the line against an ambitious group of rushers.
Morovick's build is similar to that of a rangy wide receiver, which is fine because his job is based solely on finesse, specifically the task of delivering the pigskin into the hands of another specialist - Ronnie Fouch or Will Mahan - with speed and precision.
The role of long-snapper is like many positions in football. Some players for the most part stay unknown and anonymous game after game, season after season. And that's if they're doing their job right. Their name may only appear in print if something goes terribly wrong.
And that's OK with Morovick.
"It's a lot of fun being in that situation," he says. "Really, I look at it as a good opportunity to get into the spotlight."
When Folk's 22-yard field goal with three seconds remaining beat USC and signaled the start of a new era in Washington football, Morovick was at the center of it all.
It was Morovick who had lined up over the ball, and hiked it to holder Ronnie Fouch. Folk then stepped into his motion and sent it flying through the uprights.
"Without question, it was the highlight of my career so far," says Morovick.
Sending low, tight spirals between his legs requires countless hours of repetition. Specialists such as Morovick, Fouch, Folk and Mahan are constantly refining their technique throughout practice.
"We have our specific special teams period where we're involved in a drill," Morovick says. "But other than that we're just off on our own, snapping to the punters and getting our own work in."
After hundreds of hikes, the art of finding the punter or holder's hands becomes second nature, which is a must, because when there are thousands of screaming fans and opponents breathing down your neck, it's essential to remain calm and focused.
Now a seasoned long snapper, Morovick doesn't let the pressure affect him. Whether it's a seemingly routine PAT or a game-winning field goal, he's the same unflustered guy.
"I wouldn't say I handle things any differently."
Morovick has been perfecting his craft since before he arrived on Montlake in 2006. He's been playing the game since he was five years old.
His dad, Dan Morovick, played safety for USC and was a member of the Trojans' 1978 national championship team. Danny grew up in Southern California, and played for Mission Viejo High School. One of his prep teammates was Mark Sanchez, a star quarterback for USC and now the New York Jets.
Morovick also played quarterback during his junior year, but when the Mission Viejo's coaches found themselves without a long snapper, he stopped taking snaps and started making them on special teams.
"My stepdad long snapped at Wake Forest," says Morovick, "so he just gave me a few pointers, told me to go out there and try, and I ended up getting the job. That's how it started."
Morovick learned his trade quickly. As a senior, after only two seasons of long snapping, he was recognized as one of the top-12 long snappers in the country. Initially he was recruited as a walk-on by several colleges, including Washington. Instead, he decided to stay close to home and attend Saddleback Community College.
Although he wasn't playing football, Morovick's skills had not been forgotten. After a semester at Saddleback, the Huskies called again, this time offering a scholarship. Morovick accepted, and became the first player recruited solely to long snap to ever be on scholarship for the Huskies.
Like most players, Morovick has a dream of someday playing in the NFL. There are only 32 jobs available and he's realistic; he knows only the best become pros.
"Most of them have long careers and there's only one per team."
Morovick, meanwhile, goes about perfecting his snaps. For instance, Fouch likes the ball snapped at his chin, about 6 inches away from where he spots the ball for Folk.
"And that's where I aim it," he says.
Halfway through his final season at Washington, Morovick has played in each and every game of his career - 44 in a row.
He's come a long way from playing flag football in the park. Now he hopes to contribute to the Dawgs playing deep into December.
While Folk has become a hero, Mahan is averaging over 41 yards per punt and Jake Locker is working his magic with the offense, Morovick will keep on sending tight spirals into the backfield. Hopefully someone in the NFL will take notice.
"Maybe something will work out, but if not, I completely understand."
In the beginning, fear may have motivated Morovick to become the best at his position. Now, he's fearless.
"I'm pretty confident in my ability; I know what I can do," says Morovick. "When I started out I was worried, not wanting to mess up. But now, I go out there and know I'm going to do the job well."