INDIANAPOLIS – One of the finest careers in Colts history came to an end last Friday when long-snapper Justin Snow was terminated.
Joining the Colts as an undrafted free agent who happened to be spotted on Baylor's Pro Day, Snow fashioned a career that included 192 league games, plus 18 more in the playoffs.
Players who think a career that starts in an undistinguished manner likely will not take flight would be wise to note Snow's hard work and professionalism. It is an example that integrity can lead a long way in the NFL.
For the past 12 years, Snow was a meticulous worker in the classroom, weight room and on the practice field. He was the triggerman on snaps for some of the most successful specialists in Colts history – Mike Vanderjagt, Hunter Smith and Adam Vinatieri. During his time in Indianapolis, Snow was an answer to a few problems, never the cause of one.
When the Colts line up in Chicago next Sunday, Matt Overton will be the long-snapper. Overton has traveled the same free agent route as Snow. He has succeeded Snow, and he hopes to have a career just as lengthy.
Snow leaves the Colts having appeared in 192 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in franchise history, 16 games shy of Peyton Manning (208), a future Hall-of-Famer. Snow's overall game total ranks sixth-most. Manning, John Unitas (206), Eugene Daniel (198), Rohn Stark (197) and Jeff Saturday (197) are the only Colts to appear in more games. Only Manning (19) and Saturday (19) appeared in more playoff games than Snow.
Just as a quarterback handles the ball on every offensive snap, special teams plays that decide a number of games in a competitive league start with the long-snapper.
Snow performed well enough that Vanderjagt left as the franchise's leading scorer with 995 points. He has the two longest streaks of consecutive extra points in club history, and Vanderjagt nailed 42 straight field goals from 2002-04, setting an NFL mark. His percentage (87.5) also is a league standard. Vinatieri has thrived as well with the club, continuing a career that could lead to Canton. Vinatieri is one of only a few players to top 500 points with two teams, and his post-season success is unmatched. Smith concluded his career ranked along with Stark and David Lee as the most decorated punters in franchise history.
A bottom-line business like the NFL means victories stand above all. Snow is one of 13 Colts players ever to participate in more than 100 regular season triumphs. Snow participated in 127 victories, ranking behind only Manning (141), Unitas (132) and Saturday (132). His departure leaves only two active Colts on the list, Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne.
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano has a special teams background during his 28-year coaching career. Pagano saluted Snow's career.
"One thing I will say about Justin, he's been here for 12 years and played in 192 straight ballgames," said Pagano. "He's a fabulous human being, great guy, great player, done a lot of great things. He played in two Super Bowls, won a Super Bowl here.
"Through the whole process, I can't thank Justin enough just for being a man and the type of person he is. Nobody coached Matt (Overton) more than Justin did and helped him. In talking to Justin when he came in and we visited about the decision we had to make and what direction we were going…he's a stand-up guy. He said, 'I never really had an opportunity, there was never a mentor in place. I always told myself if I had the opportunity to help somebody I would do it.' Not only that, but all the special teams guys and all the special teams coaches across the board in all phases (would agree).
"He's a pillar guy. He's a Colt for life. This is his home. It will always be his home. I can't thank him enough on a bunch of levels for what he's done."
Snow touched on a number of topics in 2011 for the club's Scout Magazine about his career. Here are a few of the areas he addressed that meant a great deal to him in his time with the club:
Q: How fortunate do you feel in being one of a handful of players in the club's 50 -year history to participate in more than 100 regular-season victories? Also you have played in 176 (now 192) consecutive games, one of the longest Colts streaks. You must take pride in that, too.
A: "It's indescribable. That's something again I never thought I would be able to accomplish. You pinch yourself, wow. It's only happened to about 13 people in the history of the team, that's special. It's something I will never forget. I am very grateful. I owe a great deal to my teammates and coaches."
Q: You actually have played in the fourth-most victories behind Peyton Manning, John Unitas and Jeff Saturday. Is that humbling?
A: "It truly is humbling. That really is the only way to describe it. To be a part of that piece of team history almost is beyond words. I'm just honored."
Q: You are grateful for the teammates you have had for years, aren't you?
A: Working with Peyton Manning, Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Gary Brackett, Robert Mathis, Dallas Clark, they are all long-tenured guys. They are great men on and off the field, great players, husbands and great fathers. To share this success with them is special."
Q: You have been a key part of some very good seasons for Colts kickers and punters. They certainly appreciate your contributions to their successes don't they?
A: "I hope they do. I came in with Mike Vanderjagt and Hunter Smith. I was with Hunter for nine years, and he still is a great friend today and always will be. He's really shaped me into the kind of man I am today on a Christian level. He and Mike were in my wedding and both had great success here. Then Mike is followed by Adam Vinatieri, one of the greatest kickers in the history of the game. We had Matt Stover for one season. Those are three kickers there who easily could be Hall of Fame material. Adam and Stover could be for their great careers and Mike for being the most accurate kicker with the most field goals in a row. It's been fantastic. Now, we have Pat McAfee. He's a guy who can kill the ball on punts and kickoffs, and he can step in a kick field goals. I really appreciate what they've done for our team and what they've done for me. There have been times when I had my mistakes and they bailed me out. It's a partnership you have now that you always will take with you."
Q: What was it like performing along with Mike Vanderjagt?
A: "He was a great friend and he was a player did a lot for this organization. He was a guy you could count on for kicking game-winning field goals. Being a part of that was special. I know he is happy with what he did here. He's the leading scorer in franchise history, and he always will have his place in club history."
Q: You had a very close relationship with Hunter Smith. What do you remember the most about him?
A: "Hunter was a great athlete who probably could play any position on the field. He just happened to be a punter. He was our third quarterback. He could have played receiver or safety. He could do anything on the field. He was one of the best holders in the game. He called himself the most accurate holder, and he even made a song about it. He was a great athlete and person, and he is a great person in the community. Growing up in Texas I had heard of him, then I got to meet him and know him. Sometimes meeting someone you heard of is less rewarding. With Hunter, it was quite rewarding. He's a terrific guy."
Q: You now are with one of the game's greats in Adam Vinatieri. What impresses you the most about him and where would you place him among all-time kickers?
A: "People don't know how hard of a worker he is. From when he came in, he was one of the most competitive guys on the field. He's a perfectionist, he's hard on himself. Adam always will be successful. He's got it in his blood. It was funny, when I first met him I was almost a little intimidated. He was such a prolific kicker. It was like, 'This guy has three Super Bowls.' I was somewhat nervous of making a mistake. I didn't want make a mistake obviously for my sake or the team's sake, but also for not wanting to let him down. I remember telling him, 'For some reason I'm nervous around you.' He brought that up last year and we laughed. He's a guy who's had so much success and will be in the Hall of Fame one day. It truly is an honor to play with him and win a Super Bowl with him and share a locker next to him. He truly is a professional."
Q: You always have had a very strong presence in off-the-field work for the team. That is very important to you, isn't it?
A: "For me, it's about giving back. For as many doors that have been opened for me by playing with this organization, you want to give back to the community. You want to be a positive influence for kids and young adults. I have been approached by several people to help their kids snap. I always take the opportunity to do that because I never thought I would have this chance. If I help someone else out, maybe someday they'll get their chance. It's so important for me to be that positive enforcement in their life, whether it is taking time to talk to them or visiting hospitals. It's something I am grateful that I have the opportunity with this organization to do."
Q: What are your greatest moments with the team?
A: "There are so many! The Super Bowl is first and foremost, playing in two of those are great. The (2007) AFC Championship game when we trailed and came back and won was fantastic. We've had so many comebacks. The Tampa Bay game on Monday Night (in 2003), when we came back and won from 21 points down with four minutes to go. A game I'll never forget and (Head Coach) Tony Dungy gave me a game ball and I don't know why was in Denver in 2003. It was snowing and we won in overtime when Mike Vanderjagt hit a long field goal (51 yards) to win. I knew Mike had it in him because he hit a long one (54 yards) to tie it. I went to Tony and said, 'Mike can make this.' He looked at Mike and Mike was like, 'What did you just say? I'll try it.' Tony gave me a game ball, I guess, for talking him into it. We had one in Houston down by a lot with little time left. Gary Brackett returned a fumble for a long touchdown and we ended up winning. I was like, 'Did that really just happen?' Those were games I got chills with, and I think I will for the rest of my life."
Q: Of past teammates, who are the two or three closest friends you have had?
A: "I would say Ben Utecht, Rob Morris, Matt Giordano, obviously, Hunter Smith, Bryan Fletcher, Dylan Gandy. We had a Bible study group we always were a part of. We'd meet on Monday nights at someone's house. We did it for four or five years. Rob Morris, what a great guy. We came in together."
Q: You have seen some great moments in two different home stadiums, Lucas Oil and the RCA Dome. What is the best memory you have in each place?
A: "We won AFC Championship games in each stadium. It would be hard to top those games. The crowds were so memorable and the games meant so much. Those moments when you realized you were going to win were special."
Q: If you had one message for Colts fans, what would it be?
A: "It's been so much fun for me to be in a great organization and to play in front of great fans. We have had a lot of success here, and the fans have been a part of it, too. They embrace players. They support us, and they have helped make this one of the toughest environments for opposing teams. I think I can speak for our players in thanking them for all they do for us. You see so many of the same people each game. They wear our colors and cheer us on no matter what. I've mentioned special people I have been around in the organization during my career, and I would like to include our fans, too."