GREENWICH — When Paul Williams is asked what position he plays for the Greenwich High School football team, his first response is linebacker.
Then, as if a footnote, he adds he is also the long snapper.
“People hear that and they say it is unique,” Williams said with a smile. “How many people do it or want to do it? It does open up a lot of doors.”
Williams is not exaggerating. On Sunday he gave a verbal commitment to play at Fordham. His specialty skill was a primary reason.
Williams said a lot of the credit goes to Bob Decker, a former Greenwich player who is now the long snapper at Arkansas.
“One day he messaged me on Facebook and said he heard I long-snapped freshman year,” Williams said. “Back then I was throwing one handed like a quarterback. He told me I could make a career out of this and look at some good schools, and it seemed like a good opportunity to continue playing in college.”
Williams said the root to his current status was somewhat serendipitous.
“In youth league I was a center and back then I would just look between my legs and throw it in shotgun,” Williams recalled. “They were looking for a long snapper with freshman football and I said I could just throw it. I learned to snap with two hands.”
Williams said he developed his skills by connecting with the Hammer Kicking Academy, based in Buffalo, and traveled to various camps.
“He’s worked at it,” Greenwich coach John Marinelli said. “It’s a rare skill. He’s worked on it at camps and gone across the country. It is something he takes ownership of. That’s something you want, to have your players take ownership, even if it is a small skill like that. It is an overlooked part of the game. Long snapping, holding, even kicking, some schools don’t spend a lot of time on it or it is hard to find a kid to really concentrate on it.”
Williams, who is 5-10 and 200 pounds, is one of the FCIAC’s best returning linebackers. He finished last year with 32 tackles — seven for losses.
Marinelli said Williams is the archetype of what coaches look for in long snappers.
“The snap is just the skill, it is also the blocking and on punts also covering,” Marinelli said. “A linebacker type of body like Paul or an athletic lineman with a big body who can get down the field and block. Those are the attributes you look for.”
Williams is also a captain of the school’s baseball and ski teams. Marinelli said he is one of the Cardinals’ best leaders, on the field and in the locker room.
“He holds people accountable,” Marinelli said. “He makes sure everyone is on the same page. All four of our captains do a great job. Paul is sort of our enforcer guy. He has a great relationship with everyone. He’s kind of the parent figure of the captains, if that makes any sense. He’s the guy that everybody goes to for advice. He’s very patient. Once he puts a helmet on he’s an animal but off the field he’s very kind, generous, does anything for his players.”
Williams said he practices with his father three or four times a week to stay sharp and hone his craft. He said long-snapping is similar to a role in one of his other sports.
“It is kind of like being a pinch runner, you get your opportunity and you just have to do your job,” Williams said. People just want you to do your job on the field. It looks good if people don’t know who you are. It gets repetitive but I’m a perfectionist and I want to have a perfect snap.”
Williams has been working with Zach Moore, the Cardinals’ new placekicker, but that does not alter his responsibility.
“It doesn’t really change what I do,” Williams said. “I’m excited about what our special teams can do.”