WOODSTOCK — With less than two weeks until the second National Signing Day, one local football player is still searching for a home.
Woodstock senior Colby Cox is the No. 9-rated long snapper in the country by Rubio Long Snapping, but he is experiencing the highs and lows that come with being a special teams player in the world of college football recruiting.
“It’s been stressful at some points because coaches leave certain schools and you think, ‘Well, what happens now?’” Cox said, “but it’s all starting to fall in place. I’m blessed to have options.”
For most athletes rated within the top 10 in the country at their respective positions, a scholarship offer usually arrives well before the second semester of their senior year.
But with scholarships at such a premium, many coaches are waiting until the final minute to secure the final pieces of their special teams units.
Chris Rubio, who has operated Rubio Long Snapping since 2004, has made a name for himself as the top talent evaluator when it comes to high school long snappers. When college coaches need a long snapper, Rubio is likely one of the first phone calls they make.
In his evaluation of Cox, Rubio did not mince words.
“His upside is off the charts,” Rubio said. “He’s got great size, No. 1. That’s one of the first things you’re looking for. He’s really smooth with his form, which is really what long snapping is all about.
“A great long snapper should look like he’s doing nothing, and that’s what you see with the best long snappers is a very fluid motion. Long snapping is one of those things you have to be consistently working on, and he’s an athlete who was willing to put in that time.”
Long snappers are generally the last position to get recruited according to Rubio, but the best programs in the country seem to view having a reliable long snapper as something to be taken seriously. Perennial powerhouses LSU and Alabama have kept a steady pipeline of long snappers from Rubio’s pipeline during the last decade.
Offering a full scholarship for long snapper is something many schools are hesitant to do, but once they see the value, it is a habit that is hard to break.
“Once a school does it once, they’ll do it over and over again,” Rubio said. “The schools don’t like doing it at first, but once they do, they’ll keep coming back. Long snapping is such a tricky position because you can’t really get into a rhythm. Quarterbacks can find their rhythm, but long snappers have to complete a 15-yard pass upside down and do it at a 100% clip.”
Long snapping is in the Cox family at this point, with older brother Logan serving as a backup at Georgia Southern.
A naturally gifted athlete, Colby Cox also plays on the Woodstock baseball team. The athletic versatility to play multiple positions on both sides of the ball in football also bodes well for Cox at the next level, as the best programs are looking for a player who can also hold their own physically.
“When schools ask me if he’s played in any other positions, that’s something that opens people’s eyes when I tell them he’s played defensive line and tight end,” Woodstock offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator Tom Sheehan said. “Schools want to know if the kid their recruiting can move in space because, in most cases, the long snapper isn’t blocked on punts.”
Cox began to take long snapping seriously as a freshman while watching his older brother, who was a senior at the time. He attended camps around the country over the past four years to gain exposure and hone his craft, and both Cox and Rubio said the growth has been considerable from his first days of learning the motion.
Cox became so proficient, it actually presented a unique problem — one Woodstock coach Brent Budde said was a first in his coaching career.
“Most of the time, you’re worried about if the ball is going to get back to the punter, not necessarily him catching it,” Budde said. “But Colby’s snaps come back so fast that, two years ago, we had to put an athlete back there just so we were sure he’d catch it. We made Tyson Giles, our punter, get some work at receiver this year just to work on his hands because they’re not easy to catch. It’s a rare problem to have.”
Cox currently has 12 offers — including Alabama, Mississippi State and Arkansas — and more offers were expected to come within the next few days. He planned on visiting Tuscaloosa and Starkville over the weekend.
Cox said coming to a final decision will be a relief, and he is excited about the prospect of playing at the highest level of college football.
“Taking the visits is cool, but the best part is just seeing all my hard work pay off,” Cox said. “People make fun of long snapping, but I’ve worked hard at it, and it’s getting me to college.”