On Sunday Sept. 12, Christian Kuntz will make his NFL regular-season debut at the ripe old age of 27, charged with handling long-snapping duties for his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. Never mind that he “never really thought about the long-snapper position until [he] started doing it,” as he noted during his media session on Wednesday.
From College Standout to NFL Nobody
An outside linebacker by trade, Kuntz was a big fish in a small pond in college. He was a three-time All-American at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University and a two-time winner of the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year (2015, ’16), collecting a conference record 30.5 sacks along the way. But that didn’t impress anyone at the NFL level. Not only did he go undrafted in the spring of 2017, he didn’t even get a look-see from an NFL team until August of that year. Even then he lasted just one day—one practice—with the New England Patriots, before being unceremoniously released.
Fortunately for Kuntz, he got another opportunity—a tryout with the Green Bay Packers—which turned out to be a career-altering experience.
“…. They knew I was the backup [long-snapper in college] and did it for like three games at Duquesne, and they asked me to snap,” recalled Kuntz when he met with the media earlier this week.
“Once I did, they were like, ‘Hey, this is what you need to work on the next year, two years, whatever you need to do, and you’ll be in the league,’” he continued. “So that’s kind of how I took it and ran with it.”
Four Years of Hard Work Pays Off
Though it took four more years before Kuntz would finally win a 53-man roster spot as a long snapper, the words of that Packers observer proved prophetic.
While he had brief engagements with the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018, it was in 2019 that Kuntz attracted the attention of the Steelers. He failed to make the team (despite getting a sack during a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, pictured above), but the powers-that-be brought him back again the following year after a stint with the Dallas Renegades of the XFL. Along the way, he says the Steelers “prescribed specific steps” for him to take and worked with him to make the transition from linebacker to long-snapper.
Then, after a tryout last November, Pittsburgh signed him to its practice squad. That’s where he would spend most of the remainder of the 2020 season, the precursor to him inking a one-year Reserve/Future contract in January.
That led to a months-long position battle with incumbent long-snapper Kameron Canaday, one that seemed to go down to the wire. In fact, it didn’t come to a conclusion until Pittsburgh’s fourth preseason game, one in which Kuntz did all the long-snapping, ostensibly because Canaday was sick before the game.
In the end, Kuntz—6-foot-1 and 228 pounds—won out over the 28-year-old Canaday, who was Pittsburgh’s long-snapper for the past four years.
“I definitely feel like I’ve progressed as long-snapper since they [first] saw me,” added Kuntz during Wednesday’s media session, but he’s well-aware that he needs to continue to be consistent if he hopes to retain what is largely a thankless job, one that will pay him a salary of $660,000 this season.
Recalling a Long-Snapper Emergency
And yes, he says he does remember what happened the last time the Steelers had to call on their emergency long-snapper, though he misremembers the opponent as being the Cleveland Browns.
The incident occurred on October 26, 2008, during the fourth-quarter of a tightly contested home game against the New York Giants. After Greg Warren was carted off with knee injury, the Steelers sent linebacker James Harrison out with the punt team. Not only did Harrison snap the ball over the head of punter Mitch Berger (allowing the Giants to tie the game with a safety), Berger aggravated his hamstring injury chasing the ball through the end zone. Adding insult to injury, the Giants used excellent field position following the ensuing free kick to drive for a touchdown and come away with a 21-14 victory.
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