Dylan Hirzel is probably the least recognizable starter on the University of Findlay football team. Most long snappers are.
Hirzel has an interesting story about the road that brought him to play for the Division II Oilers.
“My dad (Eric) told me a story,” said Hirzel, a redshirt freshman from Lake. “He said when he was in college, his roommate told him to teach his kids how to long snap. He said it was the easiest road to see the (football) field. If you ask anyone, they know long-snapping or kicking are the two easiest ways to see the field in college football, and beyond.”
Hirzel’s older brother, who is also named Eric, went on to be the long snapper at Defiance College before graduating in 2006.
“My dad taught me when I was in middle school,” Dylan said. “My brother is a good teacher as well.”
Hirzel, a 2012 Lake grad, is also a 6-foot-3, 215-pound backup tight end behind senior Jaryd Brown. He came to Findlay after a solid three-sport athletic career with the Flyers, twice earning All-Northern Buckeye Conference honors in football as a tight end and outside linebacker.
He was also an all-conference center in basketball and he still holds four school records in track, in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles and the 4x100 and 4x200 relay.
Hirzel said Findlay’s coaches were the last coaches he talked to during the recruiting process.
“When I came and visited, I just loved the campus right away,” said Hirzel, who is majoring in sport and event management. “The coaches convinced me to get here on a visit. I went home, and a couple days later they called me and I signed.”
Oilers head coach Rob Keys decided to redshirt Hirzel after the team’s game against Ashland last season. Hirzel did, however, make the travel squad as a backup long snapper.
“It wasn’t disappointing,” said Hirzel, who turns 20 next month. “I knew there was a pretty good chance of redshirting. The tight end ahead of me (Brown) was a junior last year and he was on the road to getting the school’s all-time record for receptions. I knew that was going to be tough for me.”
Hirzel has played in three games game at tight end this season and does not have any receptions, but his main role is as the team’s long snapper. Hirzel’s tight ends position coach is John Morookian, who played tackle at the University of Toledo.
“He just got out of UT and he relates to us,” Hirzel said. “He knows what he’s talking about. He was a tackle at UT and I think they brought him in just to work on blocking, and so far he’s been doing an awesome job. I’m still undersized right now. I came here at 195 pounds and I’ve gained about 20 pounds, and they want me to add at least another 20 pounds, after spring ball.”
Morookian said Hirzel has been a solid contributor to the Oilers’ squad. Findlay is 4-3 and 2-3 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“He gives great effort, and that’s something you can’t teach athletes,” Morookian said. “He cares and he goes hard, which is infectious. The guys are trying to get better, especially guys who are backups, and that’s a huge plus. He’s a good kid. He’s nice, polite and he can joke around and have fun.”
A long snapper is one of the most important roles a football player can fill. It’s an art that is difficult to master, where every snap on extra points and field goals must be at a precise speed, angle and height. The snap to the punter is supposed to hit him at waist level.
The only time a long snapper gets noticed, basically, is when he messes up. Hirzel said he’s been flawless so far this year; in fact, he can recall exactly the last time one of his snaps went horribly wrong.
“I think I had one bad punt (snap), my sophomore year in high school,” he said. “We lost 9-7 to Eastwood and that punt snap resulted in a safety. That’s the only snap I’ve had that either didn’t get punted or kicked.”
Hirzel said he looks forward to getting more playing time at tight end next season.
“During spring ball it’s going to be a competition again,” he said. “I’m expecting to get playing time and gain more weight next year and see how it goes.”
Morookian said Hirzel still has a ways to go, but he expects him to be a big contributor in 2014.
“He’s quick and he has good feet,” the coach said. “He catches the ball well. He needs to work on the blocking standpoint, but he has another year to get better. He’s definitely making huge strides and he has a bright future. If he becomes a better blocker, he’ll be right up there.”
University of Findlay long snapper Dylan Hirzel. (Photo courtesy of UF assistant athletic director David Buck)