Ice House

What's It Like Being a Specialist for the Texans?

Long snapper Jon Weeks tells all.

By Jeff Balke August 17, 2018 Published in the September 2018 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Image: Marco Torres

He and safety Kareem Jackson are the longest-tenured Houston Texans. He’s been to the Pro Bowl. He sometimes touches the ball more than star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Yet very few people would recognize Houston Texans long snapper Jon Weeks—now playing his ninth season with the team—on the street, and many diehard fans don’t even know his name.

For the uninitiated, a long snapper is that guy who throws the ball between his legs to the punter, or to the person holding the ball for the field-goal kicker. That’s what Weeks does, and as a specialist, that’s all he does, averaging only about seven or eight plays per game. And he’s fine with that.

There was a time when Weeks wasn’t sure he’d have an NFL career. After graduating from Baylor in 2007, he spent a couple of years as a firefighter cadet in his hometown of Phoenix. In 2010 he was invited to a specialists’ camp for punters, kickers, and long snappers, where he was discovered, and was subsequently signed by, the Texans. Even though some said that at five-foot-ten, he was too short to play his position, it turns out that Weeks is pretty darn good at football. 

If you ever hear a long snapper’s name called during a game, that means he’s most likely committed a turnover or gotten a penalty. In other words, Weeks’s job is to remain anonymous—to just get it done and stay out of the spotlight. But as the football season heats up, we say, to hell with that! Let’s take a moment to appreciate the man who quietly battles defensive linemen on the Texans’ behalf each Sunday.

How did you end up as a fire cadet in Phoenix despite success at Baylor as a long snapper?

The day that I kind of hung up my cleats, which is terrible to say, I was watching the Steelers game. They had told my agent they would give me a tryout if something happened to Greg Warren, a tremendous snapper in Pittsburgh. He ended up tearing his ACL.

I went out that day, snapped, and got ready for a possible workout with Pittsburgh. And the call just never came. I had to take a look in the mirror and say, Life goes on. I’ve got bills that are starting to stack up. I can’t really sit around here and do nothing, waiting for this call.

But I was able to fall in love with firefighting. Firefighting kind of put football in my rearview mirror. I loved being with the guys. I loved the training. I loved being able to help people. Firefighting took over my life.

If it wasn’t for my group of friends, who would every now and again say, Hey, Jon, why don’t we snap a little bit?, when the opportunity came in 2010 to go to a specialists’ camp, I don’t know if I would have done it. 

Now, you’ve been in the league eight years. Is facing guys like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, even in practice, just crazy?

There are a lot of times when 99 [Watt] is on my right and 90 [Clowney] is on my left. I’m responsible for one of these guys, and they are going to get a head start on me with my head between my legs. I still have to make sure that that ball is delivered accurately, on the spot, and somehow block one of those two guys.

Do other players mess with you because you’re “just a specialist”?

Mostly what you get as a specialist is, guys will take a long look at you while you’re sitting at your locker. They’re like, Why in the hell didn’t I become a specialist? You guys live the freaking life. If I come back in another life, I’m going to be a specialist. It’s all in good fun.

Given your perspective, do you think you view the game differently from the way other guys do?

Not taking anything away from anyone else, but for me, there might be a different appreciation for what I’m doing. I think that only comes from the fact that I’ve had the game taken away from me. For two years, people told me I was too short and couldn’t do it. Fortunately for me, I was able to come back and land with a great organization. I really enjoy every second I’m in that locker room, because I know what it’s like to not be in there.

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