The conventional wisdom on Nick Sundberg‘s training camp and preseason is so widely-accepted that even his mom agrees with it. “In the games he’s done really well. He struggled a little bit in camp,” she said.
(I stopped to talk to Stacie Sundberg outside of New Meadowlands Stadium on Friday, largely because I was startled by the unlikely-seeming sight of a woman wearing the first-year long snapper’s Redskins #57 jersey. But this wasn’t unusual for her: Stacie Sundberg has attended every one of Nick’s games, from high school through college and into his brief pro career.)
Being Nick’s mom, though, Stacie Sundberg was able to go a little beyond that conventional wisdom and explain how the ups and downs had all felt to Nick. “He did well up until camp and then I think the reality of it all kinda got to him a little bit,” she said. “But he got himself back together, and his words to me were ‘The games are much easier than practice.'”
Indeed, Sundberg has definitely rebounded from his shaky moments, but he remains in a competition with veteran James Dearth for the position. If schooling and training have any influence on the results (they don’t, really, but work with me), Sundberg will be hard to beat.
His high school coach was Ben Bernard, also of Arizona Elite Longsnapping, and Bernard started working with Sundberg in high school. “Nick never missed a day of practice for regular football,” Stacie Sundberg said, “and then he had to go, work out, run, and snap a minimum of 200 balls a day, and he’s been doing that for nine years.”
While Nick was getting his education, Stacie had to follow along. “Basically,” she said, “I had to learn what a good snap was.” Now she calls Coach Bernard with play-by-plays from Nick’s games that he can’t get to, and watches every one of Nick’s snaps on DVR, taking still pictures of every part of his motion.
And she’s not unhappy that her son isn’t the star quarterback or running back or whatever. “From a mother’s point of view it’s a perfect position,” she said. “They’re only in the game — if it’s a high scoring game — maybe twelve to fifteen times. It’s great to come out and see him play and know that he gets to participate at this level and can have longevity at a position that’s not gonna beat him up too quickly.”
The strangest coincidence about this whole meeting was that Sundberg had actually just mentioned his mother to me a day or so before, when I was asking about his unexpectedly colorful full-back tattoo.
See, Nick Sundberg doesn’t look much like a tattoo guy, even at a point when just about every other person has a tattoo hidden somewhere. But his entire back is actually covered with a brightly-colored, multi-part scene — not something that’s easy to miss.
“It’s not finished yet,” Sundberg told me, “but it’s a Greek mythology scene. I’ve got a lot of Greek in the old bloodlines. It starts up with Mt. Olympus, the middle section is Earth, and the bottom is the Underworld. You’ve got Zeus, Hector, Achilles, Hercules, Hades, Ares … quite a bit going on. For the first tattoo it was definitely a big one to choose, I guess. My mom was kind of shocked when I came home and had the whole outline done.”
Which is, it turns out, why he’s such a non-tattoo-looking guy otherwise. “My mom is very conservative when it comes to tattoos and things like that. She would never get one and she never thought I would either. So her only rule was As long as I can’t see it when you’ve got your shirt on, we’re good.”
So it was a happy coincidence to be able to ask Stacie Sundberg for her side of that story — she says that she’s still not totally thrilled, but she’s pleased to have gotten him to hold off as long as she did. “I wanted him to be old enough to be responsible for having that for the rest of his life,” she said, “but It’s really not up to me.”
The tattoo is unfinished, and Nick Sundberg actually hopes it will remain so for quite some time. “My artist is in Phoenix,” he said, “so hopefully I won’t be able to work on it until after February.”
That’s optimism, although no one I’ve talked to seems sure how the long snapper race is currently being scored, or when a decision is going to be made. Either Sundberg or Dearth might find out their number is up tomorrow, or Saturday, or halfway through the season. But if that happens to Sundberg, it certainly won’t be for lack of practice or education on the subject of long-snapping.
Tags: nick sundberg, preseason 2010, tattoos
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