Allen Park — Long snappers don’t like attention, because if people are talking about them, it’s usually because something went wrong.
Before Tuesday, Scott Daly was a wallflower at Lions training camp, blending into the background as a soon-be-defeated contender for veteran Don Muhlbach’s job in Detroit.
But the unthinkable happened. Three weeks before the season, the Lions decided it was the end of the line for the 17-year veteran who had played in the second-most games in franchise history, essentially handing the job to Daly in the process.
It’s not exactly a bad snap that cost his team a game, but it thrust a spotlight on the reserved Daly, who understands his opportunity is the bittersweet result of a mentor and franchise icon losing his job.
“I’m just trying to keep my head down, work as hard as I can,” Daly said. “I love Don. Don’s been an amazing teammate, great friend and great mentor. I appreciate everything he’s done. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career to really be able to work with the best, whether it’s been Patrick Mannelly with the Bears and L.P. (Ladouceur) with Dallas, and now Don. I can say confidently that Don’s one of the best to ever do it and I’m truly grateful for him and I’m just trying to, again, just keep my head down, get better each and every day because I know I have to earn this.”
It’s incredibly difficult to make an NFL roster, but what’s rarely considered is how much more challenging it is to break through that glass ceiling as a specialists. While there are around 80 quarterbacks on rosters and well north of 100 receivers, linebackers and cornerbacks, there are typically only 32 kickers, punters and long snappers once the season starts. And among those, many hold on to their job for years, just like Muhlbach did in Detroit.
Daly has been fighting for this opportunity for four years. Undrafted out of Notre Dame, he spent time in Dallas and Chicago, while settling for much smaller paychecks in the AAF and XFL to keep the dream alive.
But for all the uncertainty, Daly never gave up hope he’d make it because he believed in his abilities.
“I’ve had a crazy journey,” he said. “I mean, no specialist’s journey is the same. I just try to take it for what it is. I’m very grateful for every spot that I’ve been to, I’ve been able to grow and learn from each and every destination that I’ve been to.
“I love to snap and I know I can do this,” Daly said. “I have confidence in myself. A lot of it’s timing. A lot of it’s being at the right place at the right time. Just knowing that and seeing a lot of specialist’s paths and journeys going from team to team and being cut and being released or whatever it is. Just knowing that if I do my very best, then I put myself in a pretty good chance to be able to go form there.”