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Football: Clay molds future as long snapper
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Long snapping isn’t glitzy.

No matter how perfect of a spiral or how quickly a long snapper delivers the ball to the punter, the crowd won’t go crazy.

But the job is nonetheless important. Just ask North Forsyth’s Clay Barton, who participated in a Chris Rubio long snapping camp earlier this spring, and finished first out of 52 players from the Southeast at Roswell High School.

"All eyes are on you if you make a bad snap to the punter or kicker," Barton said. "You have a lot of pressure on you, but that’s usually when I make my best snaps. You don’t want to be the one messing up."

Barton, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound rising junior, isn’t new to the gig.

He’s been long snapping since he played for the Bennett Park Broncos at 8 years old. It originally wasn’t what he wanted to do, but being a team player, he decided to give it a try.

Turns out, Barton was a natural.

After hearing about the success of former Pinecrest Academy long snappers Bryce Haynes, who received a scholarship from Ohio State, and John DePalma, who signed with West Virginia, Barton made it his goal to follow in their footsteps.

"Clay has what it takes to play in college," said Rubio, who snapped for UCLA during his college career.

"He’s accurate, consistent and smooth. Once he lowers his butt to provide more power, he will be really good, and that’s an easy thing to fix."

It doesn’t matter to Barton whether his future is in NCAA Division I or not, all he cares about is long snapping for a college team.

"My dad helps me practice about three to four times per week for four to five hours," Barton said. "I have to spend about 45 minutes warming up.

"I’ll snap the ball to my dad and he will critique me and let me know what he thinks. I won’t go inside until I make 20 perfect snaps."

When Barton isn’t long snapping, he can be found umpiring Forsyth County youth recreational baseball games. He heard about umpiring from his former special teams coach last year and thought he’d do it to make some extra money.

He grew up playing baseball, but didn’t play this year for North so he could focus on long snapping.

"It’s a lot of fun for me and them," Barton said. "The games don’t get too intense, so I’m able to enjoy it. It keeps me in the game a little bit since I don’t play anymore."

But Barton hopes his future in sports will be as a player, not an official.

Following the Rubio camp in Roswell, he traveled to Las Vegas in May to compete against winners of other regions across the nation, where he finished in the middle of the pack.

He plans to attend a third Rubio camp on July 19 at Roswell High.

Rubio wants all snaps to reach the punter in .78 seconds or less. Even one-tenth of a second could be the difference between a successful punt and a blocked punt.

"Long snappers are like Honda Accords," Rubio said. "They aren’t flashy, but you know when you crank the car it’s going to start.

"That’s all college coaches want from long snappers. They don’t want to talk to them for four years.

"[Coaches] would rather yell at the quarterback for a bad pass on third down than to yell at the long snapper for hiking the ball over the punters’ head."