Justin Drescher moved to Boulder July 10. Before he slept a night in his new bed, the former Southlake Carol High School football player was out on the practice field working with two players he’s since become well acquainted with — holder Nick Holz and kicker Mason Crosby.
Drescher earned a scholarship solely for his talent as a longsnapper. It’s rare for a college football team to extend a scholarship offer to an incoming longsnapper — typically, an offensive lineman or tight end pull double duty in the role. But when perhaps the country’s best placekicker eschews the NFL to return to your team for his senior season — and your ace longsnapper runs out of eligibility — you go get him a kid who will deliver the ball on target.
Drescher met someone else when he showed up in Boulder, too — the player he’s replacing. Greg Pace walked on at Colorado in 2002 and became the first true-freshman walk-on to start a game in quite some time that year. He eventually earned a scholarship, and a reputation for accurate snaps. Pace ran out of eligibility after the 2005 season, and after a tryout with the Chicago Bears, is back with the team this fall as a student coach.
(Of his tryout with Chicago, Pace said the team told him, “We like your snaps, we like your technique, we like your style. If you could just grow four inches…”)
He’s mentoring Drescher, and the other longsnappers, and helping with special teams.
“That really helps because he’s been through the thick and thin of everything,” Drescher said of Pace. “He’s going to help me to be better and get to where I need to be.”
Crosby has taken the freshman under his wing the past month, as well. Unlike most of his incoming teammates, Drescher has worked in the afternoon sessions this week with the veterans. His snaps in both punting and field goal situations have looked crisp and accurate — a huge improvement from this past spring when a bevy of first-time longsnappers were routinely sending balls over punters heads.
“He’s got some good zip on the ball,” Pace said. “He’s also blocking better than I was at that time.”
Drescher had been a fan of the Buffaloes for a while, and knew of Pace and, of course, Crosby, a fellow Texan. He played offensive guard in high school, but at 240 pounds, knew he wouldn’t be recruited as an offensive lineman, and thought it would be difficult to find a spot as a longsnapper.
In January, Drescher attended Chris Rubio’s prestigious kicking camp in Las Vegas, where roughly 70 college coaches came and watched. (Rubio ranked Drescher the No. 6 longsnapper in the nation). CU special teams coach Kent Riddle was at the camp, struck up a relationship with Drescher and Colorado extended him an offer.
Though he’s not played in front of a sold-out crowd at Folsom Stadium or in front of more than 70,000 Cornhusker fans in Lincoln like he will if he wins the longsnap jobs this fall, Drescher comes to college with a more impressive résumé than most freshmen.
Three times, Drescher’s team — considered one of the best programs in the country — played in front of crowds of 40,000 fans, twice at Texas Stadium in Irving, and once at Bears Stadium in Waco. Drescher snapped every extra point, punt and field goal during his 32 games on the varsity team at Southlake Carroll. His team won all 32 games.
He’s also been in pressure situations.
“My junior year, I snapped the state championship winning field goal kick,” he said.
Thursday Practice Notes
• For the final time of August camp, the veterans and newcomers practiced separately. They’ll finally be together Friday afternoon, plus it will be the first practice in full pads. After two-a-days on Saturday, the team is scheduled for its first scrimmage of the camp Sunday evening.
• For the second consecutive day, the intensity was high. A scuffle broke out midway through the afternoon session, prompting Dan Hawkins to stop practice and administer some discipline. The entire team had to run 15 widths of the field without resting.
• While Wednesday, it appeared running back Thomas Perez might practice for the first time today, after receiving his transcript from Compton CC, Perez was still in street clothes Thursday. They are still awaiting another piece of official paperwork. No word on when it will come in and he’ll be cleared to participate, but it could be any day.