Like many kids, redshirt junior long snapper Andrew East grew up playing a wide range of sports, including football, baseball, basketball, rugby and cycling. But East’s drive to fulfill his dream of playing college football quickly distinguished him from others his age.
The Indiana native trained rigorously from childhood with continual help from his father, a former long snapper for Purdue University. However, as East began to review his recruitment options during high school, he was dubious that his hard work would pay off.
“In high school when I was getting recruited, it didn’t seem like I was going to get the opportunity to play DI, which was my dream,” East said. It wasn’t until former Vanderbilt football coach Bobby Johnson contacted him that East finally knew that his football career would continue on his desired path.
Johnson originally recruited East to play linebacker, but East’s unique talent as a long snapper quickly became evident during his first fall practices.
“It’s something that my dad taught me. I was kind of disappointed that I couldn’t play linebacker, but I’ve realized it’s a pretty valuable job,” East said. East cited the most recent Georgia vs. Clemson football game as a prime example of the long snapper’s importance. As the Bulldogs attempted a 20-yard field goal, Georgia’s long snapper botched the snap that consequently lost them the game, 38-35.
Since entire plays often depend on a perfect snap, it’s not surprising that East feels that handling the pressure that inevitably comes with his position is one of the hardest parts of his role as starting long snapper.
“When you’re in Alabama’s stadium with like a hundred thousand people screaming, there’s a lot of pressure, but the coaches do a good job of preparing you,” East said. During practice, head coach James Franklin forces his long snappers to focus while he screams in their ears and pours water down their backs, ensuring that nothing will distract them come game day.
Although East’s position does not require that he spend a lot of time on the field, he stays focused and constantly prepares on the sidelines by paying close attention to the action on the field and by encouraging his teammates. This dedication to working hard at his position and to supporting his teammates earned him a privilege that is rarely given to long snappers: the honor of being co-captain of the special teams unit with senior kicker Carey Spear.
“We both came in here as freshmen, and we both had the mentality that we weren’t just going to be kickers or long snappers. Long snappers and kickers kind of have the reputation of doing their own thing and not working as hard as the rest of the team, and we decided that wasn’t going to be us,” East said.
East strives to lead the special teams unit by example, bringing his energy to both the weight room and the football field. At times, however, he believes it is essential to be a vocal leader as well.
“The way I do that mostly is by one-on-one relationships. So I try to be sure I know everyone on the team well enough to be able to tell them, ‘Hey you’re doing a good job at this’ or ‘Hey you need to step up at this,’” East said.
Although the road to becoming a team captain and the starting long snapper has not been easy, East could not be more pleased with where the twists and turns of life have taken him.
“One of my friends once said that the best people on campus are on the football team, and I couldn’t agree more with him. I love these guys, and it’s a blessing to be with such an awesome group," East said.
Overall, East is excited about this season and believes that, thanks to all the young talent, the team has a bright future.
And as for his own future?
“If the NFL door opens up, I think that’d be an awesome opportunity. That’s definitely been a dream of mine,” East said.
In the meantime, however, East looks forward to playing two more years for the Commodores, managing his role as the only non-senior team captain and helping the team live up to high preseason expectations.