Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 42 of 47 DECEMBER 2019 43 IRISH IN THE PROS BY ANDREW MENTOCK A fter graduating from Notre Dame and going undrafted in 2008, long snapper J.J. Jansen was signed by the Green Bay Packers. However, he suf- fered a knee injury early in the year and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. His assumption was that the injury would spark the end of his football career. Jansen's mother agreed. "I got hurt my first year in Green Bay and a few days later my mom said, 'Would this not be a good time for you to go get your CPA?'" Jansen said. "I was an accounting major, and I thought, 'All right, I kind of had my fun, I had my shot, and now I need to move on.' I had zero expectations. "I thought it was really cool that I got invited to an NFL camp. I had no sense of what the league thought of me. I had no sense of my talent level." To his surprise, the Packers traded him to the Panthers for a seventh- round pick before the following sea- son and the rest is history. A little more than a decade later, Jansen is still playing in the NFL with Carolina. By the end of this season, he will have made $10,222,500 over his career and has more than $1 million left on his contract through the 2020 season. Jansen is the fourth-most tenured long snapper currently in the NFL with 12 years of experience (Don Muhlbach of the Detroit Lions leads this category). Jansen said his technique and thriv- ing under pressure are important to his success as a long snapper, but he also noted the importance of having a selfless attitude. "I always take my job very seri- ously, and I think everybody does," he said. "But I think having an early appreciation for what the job require- ments were — it's not about me. "It's what does the punter want? What does the kicker want? How can I put them in the best positions to be successful?" His NFL maturation process began while he was at Notre Dame. Then Fighting Irish head coach Charlie Weis may have had his struggles on the field, but after coming from the New England Patriots he had NFL- like expectations for his players and this paid off for Jansen. At the time, his special teams coach was Brian Polian, who currently holds the same role with Notre Dame un- der Irish head coach Brian Kelly. Like Weis, he also brought a wealth of NFL knowledge. "Coach Polian had his connec- tions through his dad with the Colts and the Bills going back to previous years," Jansen said. "You had a really good sense of what the NFL would be like, both on the field and off. "I didn't always feel it, but I think when you compare stories with other guys I was more prepared for the NFL than I think the typical player, and that was the advantage of playing for coaches who had a lot of experience, took their jobs really seriously." Jansen also benefited from hav- ing to learn how to snap and protect when his team was punting, which is necessary for the NFL because only the left and right gunners are allowed to pass the line of scrimmage and run down the field before the ball is actu- ally kicked. He said this was once how it was in college, but a rule change made it so all 11 players could take off as soon as the ball was snapped and thus punt formations and the responsibility of a longer snapper have changed. If you watch the Irish today, you'll see cur- rent long snapper John Shannon take off as soon as he snaps the ball. "It helped me immensely to be sort of in the old-school punt forma- tions because that's the way the NFL is," Jansen said. "The rules haven't changed in the NFL the way they have in college." While he has found his career as an NFL long snapper rewarding, the job still comes with its challenges. One of the more difficult aspects of having a long NFL career as a long snapper is that people tend to notice him only when he has made a mis- take. He could make 500 perfect snaps in a row, but people are only going to reference the one that went over the punter's head. "The fact that as a long snapper you're relatively anonymous, you take pride in the fact that you become anonymous," Jansen said. "It's the same way that other players maybe take pride when they become recog- nized. It's just a retraining of a profes- sional value system. It's not always easy — far from it — especially when times are tough. "You can't help but think, 'Man, no- body even knows who I am. I'm do- ing well but everyone's quick to say negative things.'" ✦ J.J. Jansen: The $10-Million Long Snapper Jansen, who has been with the Carolina Panthers since 2009, is the fourth-most tenured long snapper in the NFL with 12 years of experience. PHOTO COURTESY CAROLINA PANTHERS NOTRE DAME IN THE NFL: WEEK 12 HIGHLIGHTS • Will Fuller (Played at Notre Dame from 2013-15), WR, Houston Texans: Notched seven catches for 140 yards in the 7-4 Texans' 20-17 win over the 6-5 Indianapolis Colts … Has 41 receptions for 590 yards and three touchdowns in seven games played. • Julian Love (2015-18), CB, New York Giants: Recorded one tackle and his first career interception, which he returned 30 yards, in the 2-9 Giants' 19-14 loss to the 5-6 Chicago Bears … Has three tackles on the season. • Romeo Okwara (2012-15), DE, Detroit Lions: Had five tackles (all solo) in the 3-7-1 Lions' 19-16 road loss to the 2-9 Washington Redskins … For the season, he has 17 tackles, half a sack and one forced fumble.

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