By Mason Kelley
Ryan Masel started to laugh. He couldn’t help himself. For the first time in his college career, he was asked to walk over to the post-practice interview area.
For a player whose success is measured by going unnoticed, invitations to speak with the media are few and far between.
“If no one is saying my name, I know I’m doing something right,” Washington’s junior long snapper said.
Entering his third fall camp, Masel is a two-year starter, a player who is pivotal to the program’s success on special teams. He has done his job so well he has been able to avoid publicity.
“I’m used to the pressure of going unnoticed,” he said. “I kind of like that. There’s no attention on me. Whenever I do my job right, there’s just no attention.”
Like many long snappers, Masel never planned on a college career spent firing perfectly placed spirals between his legs. In high school, he was an offensive and defensive lineman. But when he reached the varsity level, he thought about quitting, “Because I just couldn’t size up the other guys.”
Then ex-Washington punter Rich Camarillo – a five-time NFL pro bowler – provided a way for Masel to flourish. Camarillo, an assistant coach at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz., was working with his son, Eric. The young punter needed a long snapper. Enter Masel.
“That was just a blessing, because I never would have made it as an offensive lineman,” he said.
His first high-school snap sailed over the kicker’s head, but he started going to camps. He started to get recruited.
“It was definitely something I never thought was going to happen,” Masel said, “having coaches come to my school and saying, ‘You’re the long snapper, right? We’re going to give you a call later.”
Washington was the first Division I school to show interest, so he joined the program as a walk-on.
“I think that was my best choice,” he said. “I just love it up here.”
Through two seasons, Masel has been so consistent he earned a scholarship.
“A couple of times here it’s happened where I’ve had a low snap, but Travis Coons saved the day and made me look better,” he said. “I just try to minimize my mistakes.
“Every single game I get under my belt without a mistake, I feel more confident heading into the next game.”
Masel considers himself a “laid-back guy.” He doesn’t get caught up in the moment. When the game is on the line, “I just keep being myself. I don’t let the pressure get to my head.”
Despite the success, Masel admits the past few years have been surreal.
“I never thought this was going to happen in a million years,” he said. “Now that it’s happening and I’m halfway done, it’s just like people say. Time is just flying by.”
If things go as planned in his final two seasons, he will wrap up his career a four-year starter. All he has to do is keep doing his job and going unnoticed.
And for Masel, “That sounds pretty good to me.”