The Bootleg: Okay, so we’re here
with Stanford's #1 long-snapper Zach Nolan. a redshirt
junior walk-on, although we hate to call you a "walk-on" because
you’re been here contributing long enough, we probably should score you a
scholarship! Does that special job of yours encompass all of the
special teams units?
Nolan: Yes, field goals and punts.
You walked on here in 2006 and mentored under Brent Newhouse for a couple of
years. What tricks of the trade would you say you learned from
I think the biggest thing Brent taught me was the mental approach you have
to take every time you snap. Once you get in the game and stuff is flying around
you have to rely on your routine to make sure you get the ball to the punter,
that’s the biggest thing.
What’s your second position?
That’s all I do, long-snap.
What about in high school? You’re a legitimate athlete too [he is
listed at 6'4"], so it’s not simply just a case of mastering routine. I mean, you have to be a full-on
football player to be a successful long-snapper, right?
Sure, I played o-line and d-line in high school. It was a tough transition (to
college ball). I was around 230 pounds and now I’m around 215, fast, lean, and
ready to run. That’s the biggest thing - getting the footwork down with the
protection and also being able to run down and cover Pac-10 returners -
that was a big transition from high school.
How many special teams tackles do you have to your
I got an "assist" so far.
What game was it?
So you remember the specific game, eh?
Well, it was the only tackle I had. The thing is that (punter) David Green hangs it up there so well, they fair-catch most of them. I think we only
had 11 punts returned against us last year, so just to get in one was a
You mentioned "technique" – I’m guessing "repetitions" are key as well. You’ve
developed relationships with holder Bo McNally over time. Is there solid
chemistry within those units?
Well, with Bo, we snap so much together we come out here and just do rep after
rep after rep. With punters, we were out here all summer. We came in at seven in
the morning before workouts just to get in more snaps and punts and all that. I
feel that they know where I’m going to put it every time and hopefully I put it
there every time.
Sounds like consistency under pressure is critical. This is a bit of a work of
art, right? You can’t just be winging it. It has to be a "9" every
Right. I come out here in the offseason six times a week. I’ve got my "buddy"
the net over there and we’ve become good friends (laughing.) Just basically doing the same thing over
and over again and getting everything down. The technique has got to be the same
every time and I just love doing it.
Bo gets all that glory because he gets to occasionally run a trick play, he
scored on a two-point conversion. Are there any fumble-rooskies in your
repertoire or trick plays? Can we expect you to be going out in a pattern or
I'd love to. Coach Durkin’s not too high on having me going out on a pass route
apparently, but I keep pushing for it.
Do you get treated pretty well by the rest of the team, being that you’re such a
highly specialized guy? You’re not offense, not defense…
ZN: Obviously I’m not out here hitting and
we’re off on our own a lot and not always doing the toughest stuff. At least I
hit people though, that’s the thing.
What about other sports for you? Baseball, anything like
Actually tennis more. I actually enjoy racquetball too. Racquetball’s a good
Do you use the facilities here? Can you play intramural sports or is that
"non-permissible activity" in your contract?
Yeah, I do, but don't tell the coaches that. (Laughing)
know the NCAA allows "occasional" outside consultants to work with a team. Have
you had a long-snapper consultant come in here?
We haven't had a long-snapper consultant, but a kicking consultant, Randy Brown.
He’s working with the (Baltimore) Ravens and has been around the league a long
time. John Harbaugh told us about him.
What are the key things for you in snapping? Obviously, not to mind that there's
someone trying to kill you the minute you snap the ball, but what else do you
have to worry about? Is it how you grip the ball, or
Well, that stuff kind of comes with work, but the biggest thing for me on punts
is learning the protections. I mean, the blocking is probably my
biggest challenge because the snapping itself has always been natural for
me. In our punt system the snapper has a considerable amount of
responsibility as far as blocking guys. Some teams just snap it, hit the guy,
and run downfield in coverage. I
actually have a guy to block on each punt and that all changes if they twist
around, if they come with two guys in the gap, or stuff like that.
Now you’re not Chase Beeler and you’re not Bert McBride so you don't have quite
that XXL size to hold guys off. Are
you often getting out-sized? Are they usually sending someone big up the
They usually don't "bull rush" you, but I'm big enough and I'm strong enough
where its only two seconds where I have to block the guy and I make sure he
doesn’t get 10 yards towards the punt. Usually I’m pretty good at it. So far
I’ve gone against some 260-pound USC guys and they didn’t do too well against
How about personal goals for you. What makes a successful season for Zach
The punters and the kickers having a good season. That's what I rely on. There
are no stats for long-snappers, but if Dave (Green) leads the Pac-10
in net average, I’m good.
So you don't mind giving up the glory to those guys if you guys get to a bowl
game…and you get the travel food?
I have to. As long as they do well and they give me some recognition,
that’s all I need. And I love the travel food for sure!
Is your family pretty proud that you’re part of this
They love it. They love coming out here. They're huge football fans. I
think they're already planning on coming out to six games. They're going to Wake
Forest because that’s the closet game to our home in Florida. So they're out
here all the time and it’s a really good atmosphere.
can you envision doing 20 years from now? I’m not saying you can’t long-snap for
two decades in the NFL but what are your long-term ambitions from a
business or education standpoint?
In business, maybe I'll go along the lines of venture capital – that kind of
excites me as an economics major. My dad's in real estate so that was always
kind of interesting to me. The NFL is obviously a goal that’s out there and
who knows what will happen?
Greeeaaaat. So you’re thinking you will "buy low", come into the
field at a time when venture capital has been under a considerable
amount of pressure? Maybe the stock market will recover by the time you’re
Thanks for your time, Zach, we really appreciate it. Good luck and have a great
Thank you very much!
Note: Special thanks to The
Bootleg's Andy Drukarev for helping "Emeritus" out with transcription so we can
get these interviews out to the fan base a bit more quickly.