Long snapper Jake Filkins an underrated asset for Gophers
AUG 15, 2013 3:06p ET
After all, if a long snapper becomes a household name, it's usually not a good thing.
Filkins' job as the Gophers' long snapper isn't glamorous. He won't show up in box scores or get any credit for Minnesota's victories. His name won't even get mentioned on a game broadcast unless he screws up; only once has a broadcaster uttered his name, Filkins says, after he botched a snap.
That all comes with the territory of perhaps the most anonymous position in the game -- but one that is still very important.
"I understand that completely. I don't think in three years of starting I have a single stat," Filkins said. "For me, what makes me happy is when our punter has a good game and they talk about the punters, because it's like, 'Well, I had a part in that.'"
As Filkins enters his senior season with the Gophers, he does so as perhaps the only sure thing on Minnesota's special teams. Head coach Jerry Kill is still trying to figure out who both his kicker and his punter will be in 2013, with several players battling it out at each position.
What Kill and his staff do know, however, is that Filkins will be the guy snapping the ball on those plays. Consistency at that position can go overlooked, but the Gophers realize how important it is as they attempt to sort through the rest of the special teams questions.
"Unless you're really directly working with it, you take all those things for granted," said special teams coach Jay Sawvel. "He's done a great job with it. He's improving. He's continuing to improve. He continues to work to get better at some things. It's important to him, and he's important to us."
Filkins appeared in all 13 of Minnesota's games last year and successfully converted a total of 125 long snaps -- 69 on punts, 34 on extra points and 22 on field goals. Filkins was the Gophers' long snapper in 2011 as well as his freshman year in 2010.
Not bad for a wrestler.
Filkins didn't set out to be a long snapper, nor did he really set out to play college football. He actually ended up in Minneapolis via Prescott, Wis., as a wrestler. Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson recruited Filkins to wrestle at Minnesota after he earned all-state and All-American honors in both Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling in high school.
One day during the wrestling team's winter workouts on campus, Filkins and a few fellow wrestlers decided to goof around in the football facility. Filkins began snapping the ball between his legs and his friends noticed right away that he was good at it. They urged him to go talk to the football coaching staff, at that time led by head coach Tim Brewster.
While he was a wrestler for as long as he can remember, Filkins did also play football in high school. At the time, he didn't have much interest in getting back into football but he decided to talk to the coaching staff -- if for no other reason than to make his friends stop bugging him about it.
As it turned out, the staff was impressed by Filkins' workout. Two days after his meetings with the coaches, he was practicing in spring ball with the rest of the football team.
"(I) came back for camp and ended up winning the spot and I've been here ever since," Filkins said.
Filkins misses his first love of wrestling, but he still gets his fix of the sport from time to time. He lives on campus with some current Gophers wrestlers and often chats with them about it. He has also attended the Big Ten wrestling championships and the national wrestling championships since he walked away from the sport.
When Filkins first joined the football team, he was still wresting for Robinson's team. He redshirted during the 2009-10 wrestling season when he went 4-3 for the wrestling team at 197 pounds. When Kill came to campus, though, he told Filkins to choose one of the two.
Filkins chose football, and it's worked out well for him ever since.
"I miss all the workouts that go with (wrestling), different type of training that wrestling is," Filkins said. "But football's given me so many great opportunities. I can't thank everybody involved enough. I had no idea what it's like, and it's a great experience so far."
When Filkins' Gophers career is done after this year, he won't have much in the way of a highlight tape. He probably won't be given the game ball any time soon.
Sure, there might have been more individual glory to be had as a wrestler. But Filkins is now a part of something bigger -- even if he doesn't get the credit.
"He's done a very good job, so we're counting on him to have a great year," Sawvel said. "Hopefully nobody else notices him this year."
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