INDIANAPOLIS – Many years ago, Justin Snow was on the practice field at Baylor just doing some long-snapping to help his punter loosen up.
Snow had only long-snapped for one season, and he was not working that day to attract attention. Still, first impressions……….
Snow later on had a Pro Day that spring, and he landed on the watch list for the Colts. Now 12 completed seasons later, Snow has put together one of the longer careers in franchise history, and he stands as one of the senior members in the league at his position.
"If you had asked me if I would play 12 years in the National Football League, I would have laughed at you," said Snow. "Way back when in college it always was a dream, but I thought back then the right situation would have to come about. I only was a long-snapper in college for one year. Being in the position I am now to start year 13, I feel so fortunate."
Snow's first season was 2000, the year that started the club's run of extended success that included 115 regular season wins in a decade, the NFL record. He was a member of seven division-winning teams, two conference champions and a World Championship team.
He endured only the second losing year of his career in 2011 and while Snow never took winning for granted, he did learn from the club's recent 2-14 record.
"We've definitely been spoiled since we've been here, being with great teams," said Snow. "Year in and year out, you're always a contender. To have a season like we had, it was a bit of a wake up call. There are a lot of teams that do this that don't have winning records every year.
"I feel very fortunate to be a part of those great teams, setting records for the decade with the most wins. To have a season like this, it just proves that every year you have to come out, you have to stay healthy and be ready. It shows how important all of that is."
Snow has been to the top of the mountain with the Colts in winning Super Bowl XLI. He has been with teams that have earned a great deal of playoff success even without going the distance. He has played in front of only one non-sellout home crowd during his years in the RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium. This past year was thin on victories, but he noted the atmosphere when the Colts won two games in a five-day span last December.
"The two wins we had last season, they almost felt like playoff wins. It was such a relief," said Snow. "You never want to go down in history as a team that didn't win any games. Getting the second win on that Thursday night against Houston was just pure elation. It was electric. The crowd was in it, and it was rewarding. It shows us how important it is to work hard in the off-season, get your body in shape and be ready to play potentially 20 games, counting preseason."
Snow now has played in 192 career games, the sixth-highest total in franchise history. He moved past Marvin Harrison (190) late last year and trails only Peyton Manning (208), John Unitas (206), Eugene Daniel (198), Rohn Stark (197) and Jeff Saturday (197). His consecutive games played streak ranks only behind Manning in Colts history, and Snow is one of 13 Colts to participate in 100 or more regular season victories, with his total of 127 ranking fourth-most in that category (141, Manning; 132, Unitas; 132, Saturday).
Just as noteworthy, until this season Snow never had missed a snapping assignment for a punt, placement or field goal attempt.
"I'd never missed a snap in my career until the last game," said Snow. "I had a concussion and missed an extra point and a punt snap. I've always kind of prided myself in that. I still have the consecutive games mark. I feel honored. I feel honored with the guys I play with in Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee. Day in and day out, they are true competitors. I enjoy going to battle with them."
Snow is a hard-worker in the conditioning program. He says he is maintaining his youth, but had to overcome a couple of ailments in 2011.
"I still feel young. The past season was a little bit tougher," said Snow. "I had the MCL injury in the Tampa game (week four) and it kind of lingered all season. I didn't get a chance to rest it. It's something that caused some back soreness because I had to compensate and do things a little differently. It was rougher. It took me a little longer to feel healthy. I am feeling normal again. I'm not complaining. We're all so fortunate to be in this game."
Snow and his teammates have seen a regime change for 2012. Ryan Grigson is the new general manager and Chuck Pagano is the new head coach. In addition, the team has new special teams coaches in Marwan Maalouf, who joined Pagano in moving to Indianapolis from Baltimore, and Brant Boyer. Snow has made the necessary introductions, and he notices a new time for the program.
"I met Coach Pagano last week and introduced myself. I met the two new special teams coaches (Marwan Maalouf and Brant Boyer)," said Snow. "There is a lot of energy. I'm excited to see the direction we're headed – back to the winning column, I know.
"Just seeing the energy 'Moof (Maalouf) has (is good). He's been with the best, as far as special teams coaches go, and he's learned from them. What he's going to add to our unit is exciting. He's a young guy. He has energy. He's very intelligent. He's aggressive. It will be a new step for us.
"We have a completely different coaching staff, so it's going to take adjustments for everyone to get familiar with one another. It's part of the game. It's the way it goes sometimes. You have to adjust, get back on your feet and ride again. I'm looking forward to it."