FOOTBALL: No Publicity Is The Best Indicator Of Successful Career For Flaherty
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
You have never heard of Boston College’s best football player. That statement is not in any way meant to be condescending, cheeky, or otherwise, because how many players in football can claim that they come to work every day and are 100 percent perfect? While every player strives for perfection of some form in his particular craft, Sean Flaherty has long snapping down to a science, and he’s the top scientist in the country.
Punter Gerald Levano and kicker Nate Freese acknowledged as much when they praised their fellow special-teamer.
“The thing that nobody actually knows about Sean is that he’s the best snapper in the country,” Levano said. “Nobody actually knows that.”
And that he’s the best player on our team,” Freese added. “For his position, he’s definitely the best player on our team.”
While Flaherty’s true title is probably something closer to “the best player Superfans have never heard of,” it does not in any way diminish the fact that the fifth-year senior has compiled one of the most impressive resumes on the current Eagle squad.
The long snapper came to BC as a preferred walk-on and sat out his true freshman season as the result of a redshirt that he received from then-head coach Jeff Jagodzinski. Since sitting out his first season on the heights, Flaherty has become a special teams mainstay and has delighted BC fans through his anonymity.
The fans who fill Alumni Stadium for each home game can be forgiven for not knowing much about Flaherty, as he has never made a bad snap in four years. A spotless track record like that is not something usually seen at the collegiate level, where special teams are especially more unpolished and prone to mistakes than in the NFL.
Flaherty has come to embrace and even encourage the anonymity that comes with his position.
“Pretty much if nobody knows my name, then I’m doing a good job,” he said. “I want to be anonymous. No one notices a good snap, but if I had a bad one then everyone would notice it, so the pressure that goes into it is pretty big. No one’s going to notice if it hits [Levano] in the knee or the shoulder pad, but I want to hit him in the waist every time. The focus and concentration that goes into snapping, and that you need to have every game, is probably something that people don’t realize, but it takes a lot of energy.”
In talking with Flaherty, Levano, and Freese, it is apparent that their internal chemistry has a lot to do with Flaherty’s personal success. With Levano being a fellow fifth-year and Freese having been at BC for the past three years, the trio have been together for the duration of that period.
All three of them pointed to countless hours spent together, both on and off the field, which has honed a process that is as close to perfect as possible. Before each game, Flaherty, Levano, and Freese pick a spot on the field as the one they are aiming to hit with each snap. While the average Superfan merely pays attention to the kick or punt itself, it is really only half of the play.
As a firsthand observer for the past three years, Freese confirmed Flaherty’s individual contribution to BC’s special teams success.
“I think what makes Sean the best at what he does is that it’s the same thing every time,” the kicker said. “You know what you’re going to get every time, and [Levano] will always get the same snap.”
With a long snapper, one of the first questions is often how they became involved in such a niche role of the game. For Flaherty, his story began in his backyard.
“When I was in seventh grade, my dad, my uncle, and I were out in the backyard throwing the football around,” Flaherty said. “I had never even thought of being a long snapper at that point, and so my uncle showed me how to do it and how to hold the ball. I don’t really know what happened, but the first time I snapped it, it came out as a perfect spiral. I went to my coach at school, and like that, I became the snapper for the team. Throughout high school, I kept snapping and we got new coaches my junior year. One of the new coaches told me that I had a good shot to go Division I for snapping.”
What began as a backyard toss with his family would eventually lead to looks from Division One programs around the country. Jagodzinski proved to be the most persuasive for the Loveland, Ohio native and his family, and Flaherty arrived in Chestnut Hill as a preferred walk-on.
After sitting out his true freshman season, Flaherty was given his first opportunity in the season opener the following year. This chance, under new head coach Frank Spaziani, would lead directly to Flaherty’s most fond moment in maroon and gold.