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Nobody heard long snapper's name, and that was a good thing for Bison football

North Dakota State long snapper Ross Kennelly delivers the football to punter Garret Wegner during fall camp in August.David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 2
North Dakota State long snapper Ross Kennelly gets ready for drills during fall camp in August.David Samson / Forum News Service2 / 2

FARGO—It's an old cliche of a long snapper in football that caused Ross Kennelly and his dad, Paul, to share a laugh together last Saturday. Nobody heard Ross' name being called—and that's a good thing.

He was on the money with all seven extra points and each of Garret Wegner's three punts in the 49-3 season-opening victory against Cal Poly. It was the sophomore's first game as the Bison long snapper after stumbling onto the job almost by accident.

"You go through everything that Garrett and I did all offseason and it was nice to finally get some meaningful reps where the pressure is kind of on so to speak," Kennelly said. "It's so repetitive and to finally see everything come to fruition and really execute was a good feeling."

His locker last year was next to James Fisher, who was a four-year starter as the NDSU long snapper before graduating after last season. Not having a backup, it was Fisher who approached Kennelly, a linebacker, about picking up the trade.

Kennelly was his team's long snapper in high school in Superior, Wis.

"Through the word of mouth and Fish being in coach's ear, I was given some opportunities and kept going with it," Kennelly said. "Fish taught me a lot and I got better at it."

Kennelly said he would stay after practice on occasion with Fisher and work on long snapping. NDSU has had an impressive run of good long snappers in the Division I era, starting with Jeff Curtis in 2006. He was a four-year starter who gave way to Michael Murphy in 2010 who gave way to Fisher in 2014.

Curtis is a volunteer assistant of sorts who helps Kennelly during practice.

"I wouldn't be where I'm at without those guys, Jeff Curtis and James Fisher," Kennelly said. "Jeff is here almost every day and he's great. He does a lot for me. I'm very grateful for them. It's cool to be able to hopefully follow in those footsteps but at the same time writing my own story and keep that going."

Being a long snapper has come at a price for Kennelly, however. He no longer takes very many reps as a backup linebacker. He had 109 tackles his senior year at Superior and signed with NDSU with the idea of competing for a starting linebacker job.

Kennelly admits it's been tough giving up that quest, but said he's dealing with it.

"At the same time, what I'm doing now is necessary, it's needed and it's important," he said. "What I'm doing is bigger than myself. It's for the team and it's something I know really benefits the team. If that's me sacrificing a little more playing time elsewhere, it is what it is. It's a team game. That's why I'm here, to do the right thing with my teammates and hopefully win."

NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said the Bison are trying to develop backup long snappers Matt Anderson and Spencer Waege in an effort to give Kennelly a shot at backup linebacker. Kennelly also is a fit at kickoff and punt team coverage.

"Both are doing a good job but right now Ross is that much better," Klieman said. "We don't feel comfortable with them in a game situation yet but in time I think they will."

The comfort factor with Kennelly, however, is at a high level.

"I wasn't worried at all on his first short snap or long snap," Klieman said. "As the season moves forward, he's going to be as good as anybody we've had because he takes the time and it's really important to him. I'm excited what he's going to be able to do for us."

Kennelly wasn't the only lineman to have a big day against Cal Poly. Senior center Tanner Volson was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week, although it could just as well have been a few of his teammates. NDSU ran for 458 yards averaging 10.2 yards per carry.

Volson had four knockdowns and had a film grade of 100 percent on assignment.

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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