By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Nobody knows a football long snapper’s name … unless he makes a mistake.
Fortunately for Joel Baldwin, he will enter the 2013 season at Tupelo High unknown to many. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior has produced a clean slate of extra point, field goal and punt snaps the last two seasons for the Golden Wave.
“Hopefully, it will remain that way,” Baldwin said, then laughed.
Former THS coach David Bradberry was glad to have such a dependable special teams player on his roster.
“There’s not much margin of error,” Bradberry said of Baldwin’s skill. “It’s all about speed and timing. Joel has a great zip on the ball. It makes a big difference. All kickers and holders will tell you that.
“He has done a great job the last two years.”
Baldwin was named to the Mississippi Association of Coaches Class 6A all-state team this season. His grandfather, Kent Busbee, was an all-state selection in 1962 from Meridian.
Two months ago, Baldwin earned a trip to the 11th annual National Snapping Event, scheduled for Jan. 19-20 in Las Vegas, with his performance at the Nike Fall Camp for deep snappers in Atlanta, Ga.
‘Tons of potential’
Chris Rubio, an instructor who conducts deep snapper camps throughout the country, commented on Baldwin’s work.
“Joel has come a long way with his long snapping and has transformed into one of the best in the country for his class,” Rubio said in a press release. “He has a good frame and snaps a very smooth ball.
“He has tons of potential and is definitely headed in the right direction.”
While at the Nike camp, Baldwin experienced on-field instruction, film and classroom review, and seminars on recruiting and nutrition. Long snappers from 10 states, including Mississippi, attended the camp.
“Chris Rubio is the best in the nation when it comes to exposure and instruction for long snappers,” Baldwin said. “You work on your technique during drills. There’s also competition, where they look for accuracy and consistency.”
Baldwin’s goal is to play Division I college football.
“Most of the time, long snappers are preferred walk-ons who have to earn their scholarships after a year,” he said. “I definitely want to play.”