Badgers recruit Bay hopes to not make a name for himself

Adam Bay was ranked the top long snapping recruit in the nation.
Courtesy Bay family via Andy Silvas Photography

With National Signing Day upon us, Adam Bay is more than happy to be mentioned among Wisconsin’s 2017 recruiting class.

But if you don’t hear his name for the next four years, Bay will be ecstatic.

Bay, of Desert Ridge High School in Mesa, Ariz., is among the rarest of scholarship athletes in Division 1 football — a long snapper. And long snappers are best seen and not heard of.

“That’s the way I want to be the next four years, I don’t want to have my name out there,” Bay said. “I don’t want to be on any sports talks because that means I’ve messed up.”

No one signs up at an early age wanting to be a long snapper. It is hardly the sexiest position on the roster. There aren’t too many — OK, any — movies or TV shows revolving around the star long snapper and the head cheerleader.

This wasn’t the case of Bay trying to find a position just to be on the field, though. In eighth grade youth football, there was on opening on his team for a long snapper. The coaches asked who would like to play that position. Bay, who also played center and defensive end, raised his hand.

“Just trying to be a good teammate,” he said.

He also became a good long snapper. No, a great one. Despite having no experience at the position, it turned out Bay was a natural when it came to long snapping.

“Some people have it, some people don’t,” Bay said. “It’s just something I’m glad I found about myself.”

Bay didn’t just rely on his innate ability. He found Ben Bernard, a long snapping coach whom Bay calls “one of the best of the nation if not the best” and began practicing with Bernard four nights a week as he headed into high school. Bay also started attending Kohl’s kicking camps.

By the time Bay was a sophomore, there was an opening for a long snapper on the Desert Ridge varsity team. There was little question of who would fill that role.

Bay got so good at long snapping that by the time he was a senior in high school, that’s the only position he played. Offensive line went by the wayside years earlier due to his size (around 6-foot, 210 pounds) and defensive end took a back seat as well once Bay realized what would be his future’s bread and butter.

“Long snapping for me at this point is second nature,” he said. “I could be messing around at the park and just grab a football and just do it. Starting off in 8th grade it was definitely a weird adjustment. I played center in 8th grade, I played defensive end, but it is clearly different. It’s a position I’ve grown used to. I’ve practiced it so many times, over a million times, honestly.”

Bay has gotten so good at long snapping that Kohl’s Kicking listed him at No. 1 in the country at that position (as well as a first-team High School All-American) while the recruiting site 247Sports had him at No. 3. Bay also was invited to and recently participated in the Under Armour All-American Football Game in Orlando, where he mingled and played with recruits from Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Florida State, among others.

If you’re wondering what makes someone one of the top long snappers — besides being able to randomly snap upon request in a public setting — Bay says he can place a ball wherever a punter wants and on the shorter 8-yard snaps for kicks, he can “get perfect laces where they don’t have to turn the ball at all.”

But there’s more to playing long snapper than just accurately hiking the ball at distance — albeit that is quite important and a prerequisite. Bay prides himself in claiming that he’s “definitely the most athletic long snapper that you can find,” which comes in handy in both blocking and getting downfield to make a tackle.

By his junior year, Bay started getting offers from colleges all around the country. Not by coincidence, the snickers he heard from his teammates because he was a long snapper stopped around then as well.

“Kids laughed me growing up doing it but now the past year and a half they’ve kind of shut up, I guess,” Bay said of his life as a long snapper in high school. “They realized how important it is not only to the team but where it is getting me and where I want to be at in life.”

The place Bay wanted to end up was Wisconsin. The Badgers run a pro-style punt, which Bay liked. He also felt he fit in more with a Big Ten school rather than a Pac-12 or ACC one, for example. Then after going on a visit to Wisconsin this past summer he fell in love with the school (he’s thinking of majoring in engineering, another UW plus) and was ready to commit on the spot.

One problem: Wisconsin didn’t make him an offer.

Bay wanted to have his collegiate choice nailed down before his senior year so he got on the phone and committed to Missouri.

However, only a couple of months later an offer was forthcoming from Wisconsin (as it happened, long snapper Jake Cesear left the program). Bay was put in a difficult situation, not wanting to back on his commitment to Missouri. But in the end, Wisconsin is where he wanted to be.

“It was pretty tough, (but) I’m not going to lie, it’s not a bad situation to have,” said Bay of suddenly having the Badgers offer as well as Missouri’s. “But it was definitely stressful to decide where I wanted to be because I loved Wisconsin during the summer … and I kind of devoted myself to Missouri. I was really happy with Missouri, I mean I still love Missouri, but overall Wisconsin was a better fit for me, that’s just where my heart was.”

Bay enters Wisconsin in a good situation. Last year’s long snapper, Connor Udelhoven, has exhausted his collegiate eligibility. Zander Neuville was listed on the Badgers’ depth chart at second string, but he has never long snapped at UW and at a listed 270 pounds doesn’t exactly fit the description of the position.

Not that Bay will be handed the starting spot, but he said he is “definitely not redshirting.” In other words, he’s coming to Wisconsin to be the Badgers’ long snapper as a freshman.

“I feel like they want me to be their guy so I just have to go in there and earn the spot, regardless,” Bay said. “As of right now from what I’ve heard and from what I’ve seen, there’s no one on the roster besides me, but I still have to work and try my hardest.”

Dave Heller is the author of the new book Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow as well as Facing Ted Williams Players from the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns