To fill the uncomfortable silence, I compliment Junkin on his economical style. Junkin mentions that he has also tried to write haiku. "But that form, like Japanese society, is highly restrictive," he says.
So the poet laureate of long snappers has no snapping-related haiku for us. Emboldened by his example, I give it a whirl:
This jerk waits until
I'm helpless, then cleans my clock.
I hate the noseguard.
By the end of last season Junkin estimates that he had bent over the ball 1,040 times in succession without making a bad punt snap. When he reached the 1,000 mark last season, in a game against the New York Jets, play was not stopped; Cal Ripken-like festivities did not erupt. Junkin staged his own little celebration. "I ran down and snatched the ball from the official," he says. "The guy thought I'd lost my mind."
Ingratitude comes with the territory. As Brad Banta, who handles long-snapping duties for the Indianapolis Colts, says, "The more unnoticed you are, the better you must be doing."
Just because I'm anonymous at work doesn't mean I have to be anonymous in life. This seems to be the philosophy of many of today's deep snappers, none of whom enjoys a higher profile than Minnesota Viking Mike Morris, who stands 6'7" when his Mohawk has been teased to its full height. No long snapper has cultivated his minor celebrity more assiduously or shrewdly than Morris, who last season got several minutes of face time on Six Days to Sunday, a TNT documentary about a week in the life of two pro football teams. He co-hosts a sports talk radio show and has his own fan club, which Morris fondly describes as "my rednecks—a bunch of biker-slash-taxidermists in black T-shirts. They love ball, and they've chosen me as their leader."
Morris acts as a kind of self-appointed shop steward of long snappers. Don't use the expression "long-snapping chores" around him. "Do you hear people calling them 'the quarterbacking chores'?" he says. This reminds him of another slight: "They ought to take a long snapper to the Pro Bowl. They bring a return man, they even bring some goofball who blows up the wedge on kickoffs. But they don't take a long snapper. That's a lot of money out of someone's pocket."
Your pocket, Mike? "Hey, I'll take my name off the list," he says. "That's how strongly I feel about this."
One man doesn't buy it. "If self-promotion was an art, he'd be Michelangelo," Junkin says.
In issuing the following warning to his fellow snappers, the martial artist echoes the wisdom of Master Po, the blind Shaolin sage from the Kung Fu TV series. "You've got to be a little strange—that's part of the job description," Junkin says. "But you can't be weird when you're doing the job. If you miss a block or roll one back there, you've hurt the team, and it's time for you to leave."