Snapper Liam McCullough doing good work for Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH — He replaced a Pro Bowl player on the Falcons, but fans of the team may not know his name or pay him any attention when the Falcons host the Steelers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

That’s fine with Liam McCullough because that means the long snapper is doing his job well.

“That’s the last thing you want as a long snapper is recognition, unless you’re making tackles or downing a ball or fumble-recovery things, like that,” he said.

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After a stellar college career at Ohio State, McCullough signed in April as a free agent after Pro Bowler Josh Harris signed with the Chargers and then Beau Brinkley suffered a ruptured Achilles.

The Falcons signed McCullough because they liked his athletic ability, his snap velocity, his approach and his attitude, according to special teams coordinator Marquice Williams.

“When you’re a snapper in (the) NFL, there’s only 32 of them,” Williams said. “And sometimes people don’t notice what you’re doing until something happens right when it comes. So when it comes to his position, yeah, you try not to be noticed. And it’s underappreciated, the job that the snapper is doing in the NFL, until something bad happens. And we really appreciate the work that he puts in each and every day to help our units out.”

It completed a life’s journey. McCullough has been a long snapper going back to peewee football. As a freshman at Worthington Kilbourne High School in Columbus, Ohio, the varsity coach asked him to be the long snapper. McCullough performed well enough that the coach told him that he thought it was something he could pursue in college.

McCullough started going to camps. He was taught by Chris Rubio, who refined his technique and taught him how to properly snap a football. He became one of the top-rated long snappers in the nation. Football has become so position-focused that McCullough was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He signed with the Buckeyes and played in 55 games, again playing well enough that he was a finalist in 2019 for the Patrick Mannelly Award, which goes annually to the top long snapper in college. (Mannelly is a graduate of Marist School.)

McCullough spent time with the Raiders and Steelers before joining the Falcons. He’s played in all 12 games. With McCullough launching the ball, Younghoe Koo has made 20 of 25 field-goal attempts, and Bradley Pinion is averaging 40.8 net yards per punt.

The team practices its kicking Wednesdays and Fridays. The players also work on situations such as wet-ball drills.

“That’s the things we talk about as a unit to get into a rhythm,” Koo said. “We talked about the laces from a snapper’s perspective; we want the laces to be taken care of in a good location. That’s what we were looking for from a snapper.”

McCullough said the key to being a good long snapper is consistency. It doesn’t matter how hard a snapper can snap or how fast the snapper gets down the field after the snap, if he can’t deliver a catchable ball to the holder or punter.

And with consistency can come what McCullough hopes is a long career.

“I tell people my job is to make Koo’s job easy and Bradley’s job easy,” he said. “As long as they’re doing that and the long snapper is going unnoticed, I’ve done my job.”

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