It’s a quiet Monday in the Hawks Championship Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. The football team has its weekly day off so the usual hubbub is missing. Yet, senior linebacker Josh Banderas is there, working.
He could be anywhere else. It’s his day to relax after all, but Banderas has a goal. He wants to play in the NFL.
As a linebacker, Banderas hopes to get the attention of a professional team. He knows it wouldn’t hurt to make himself more “marketable” though, as he calls it. That’s why former Nebraska long snapper Gabe Miller is there with Banderas, running through long snapping drills at the Huskers’ indoor practice field.
“One, two, three, four, five,” Miller said. “A little herky-jerky there.”
Banderas adjusts. He’s slowly going through the motions of long snapping. Miller notes that Banderas hasn’t been stretching much lately. He can tell. That’s why he teaches.
“Plus, he’s really good at it,” Banderas said.
Miller has been long snapping since he was in third grade. He didn’t really know what he was doing until the eighth or ninth grade, but it’s something he’s always done.
“My dad played college football and I think he recognized that it would be a good position for me,” Miller said.
Miller was Nebraska’s long snapper until a back injury sidelined him and ultimately ended his career. When he realized he wouldn’t play again, he turned it into an opportunity to teach others.
Long snapping had been on Banderas’ mind before he called Miller. Former Nebraska coaches had suggested he give it a try. Former Husker linebacker Barrett Ruud suggested the same if the NFL was truly a goal of his.
“He played in the league for so long that he recognized the value and saw the careers of guys who did long snap,” Banderas said. “He just knew it would be good and wished he would have done it.”
“Like I tell Josh and other guys, there are a lot of good linebackers in college football,” Miller said. “Josh is one of the better ones, but there are not a lot that can long snap. It could be a $400,000 ticket.”
That ticket to the NFL won’t come easy though. Banderas knows that, which is why he’s been working with Miller for nearly two years to perfect his long snapping craft.
“It’s like golf,” Banderas said. “It is just repetition, repetition, repetition. Learn how to do it the same way every time and learn how to do it perfect. It’s been a challenge and I’m nowhere near perfect yet but I keep working at it.”
So with Millers’ help, he’s been doing just that. Over the last two years, Banderas has learned just how difficult long snapping can be.
“There is a lot more that goes into it than one would think,” Banderas said. “You don’t pay attention to it and you never really do unless the long snapper makes a mistake.”
Banderas doesn’t want to make those mistakes. He wants to be a reliable long snapper that any NFL team can count on. He still has plenty to work on but according to Miller, he’s already come a long way.
“Since he first started, he’s a lot more finesse now,” Miller said. “He can move and his flexibility has improved quite a bit too just from doing long snapping drills and stuff like that. He was pretty rough when he first started, but Josh is one of the guys – and I’ve worked with quite a few college guys that have wanted to try it – that puts the work in. He understands.”
What about goals? Miller would like to see Banderas snap nine-out-of-10 balls right to the punter’s body. If he can do that by Nebraska’s Pro Day (or the NFL Combine), Banderas will be in good shape.
“That’s very do-able,” Miller said. “Very do-able.”
Banderas hopes so. The NFL is his dream and he’s willing to do what it takes to make it, even if that means he’s the “scout team water boy.”
“I’m a linebacker first and I’m a linebacker at heart but whatever is going to help me play the longest is what I’m going to do,” Banderas said. “If I can help a team by long snapping, then I can help a team.”
With Nebraska’s Pro Day more than five months away, Banderas will keep working with Miller. That may mean giving up an hour or two on a day off or some time after practice, but he doesn’t mind.
“As long as I can contribute, I’ll be happy to do it,” Banderas said.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.