Tyler Ott embraces his ‘blessed opportunity’ with Patriots
|08.05.14 at 12:42 pm ET|
RICHMOND, Va. — Tyler Ott knows he has the chance of a lifetime as an undrafted long snapper out of Harvard. He also knows it won’t be easy.
This explains his extra time after practice working with punter Ryan Allen, making sure his mechanics are as close to perfect as humanly possible. He was brought in to compete with Danny Aiken for the long snapping job on the Patriots, a job Aiken has held since the beginning of the 2011 season.
Aiken was in the position in 2011 that Ott is now, and most long snappers are, an undrafted prospect signed by an NFL team, with the hope of doing enough good things to earn a roster spot, if not with the team that signed him, then another. In Aiken’s case, the Bills signed him at the end of the 2011 draft and released him in August before the Patriots snatched him up before the start of the ’11 season.
Ott is trying to do the same thing.
“It’s really a blessed opportunity. I really didn’t grasp the idea that I was going to play for an NFL team until my junior year at Harvard. Then, my senior year at Harvard, I came out to three games that season for the Patriots and then really once everything got rolling with getting an agent and hearing from coaches and teams, long snapping in the NFL was going to be a real opportunity for me.
I really didn’t have the Patriots anywhere on the map just thinking there’s 32 teams, what are the chances I could end up in Boston with the Patriots? So really, when I got that call that Saturday of the draft, it was a, ‘how did this happen?’ kind of thing but obviously I was very excited. I was with family and friends and it was just a moment you won’t ever forget.”
As the heat gets turned up in training camp against the Redskins, there are a number of spots where the battle intensifies. Long snapper is one of them, not so much against the other guy on the line of scrimmage but against yourself. Ott is trying to gain the trust of Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen while perfecting his form.
“Really, for a snapper, it comes down to accuracy and consistency,” Ott said. “And Steve being the veteran here and has the most experience, he has a lot of wisdom to share and he has a lot of points that he wants to make. He has standards he’s looking for too.
“So, you want to impress and you want to show your consistency for the coaches but I think the specialists positions are kind of unique in that you really have to build comfort with the kicker and the punter, especially here with the Patriots and Steve. He has certain expectations that he’s been getting for his time here and with a great special teams unit. That goes for the whole organization; they expect excellence.”
Ott says he’s pleased with his progress so far.
“It’s going well,” Ott said. “Coaches obviously make their final decision at the end. I’m out working during, before and after practice trying to get better and I’m really using this time to soak up as much as I can and really start crafting my skill. This is my real opportunity to craft and fine tune.
“Honestly, the transition was more that first day of reporting that first day of camp for OTAs and workouts in May. Once you walk in the door, it’s kind of a surreal feeling. But once you start getting to work, it’s the business. College prepares you somewhat for that. You’re on scholarship and you’re trying to keep your spot and playing for your spot. This is obviously a completely different level of that. But if you come in, especially with a specialist position, with a wide-eyed, staring at the lights kind-of-thing, you’re not going to make it very far. You come in confident and come in knowing what you need to do to get better and fight for that position.”
Ott knows the odds of beating out Aiken are against him right now. But he also knows, even as a 22-year-old rookie out of Harvard, that Aiken was in his shoes just three years ago and can help him through the process.
“Obviously, we know we’re competing for the same spot,” Ott said. “There’s only going to be one of us when the final cut happens but everything’s cordial. He’s got pointers and insights on how the coaches run the specialist group here, how the team runs.
“It’s really about making each other better and I think we’re both confident that whatever happens here, that one of us will be here and one of us could be at any other team. That kind of comes with the type of position we play. You have to believe in your abilities and be able to transfer that to any team that might pick you up if something doesn’t work out where you are.”