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With seconds remaining in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Seahawks lined up in punt formation.
And the snapper was? Not Kevin Houser, who injured a shoulder during the 24-7 loss and ended up at the hospital. Instead, it was Kelly Jennings. Yes, that Kelly Jennings. The backup cornerback who is listed generously at 180 pounds and known as “Slim” to his teammates.
The absurdity of the situation left coach Jim Mora befuddled.
“Goodness sakes, it is exasperating to believe that we could actually be at the point where our backup right corner is long snapping for us,” said Mora, shaking his head and cracking the only smile in his postgame interview session.
“I say to myself, ‘How did this happen? Our backup long snapper is Kelly Jennings.’ You can draw your own conclusions from that statement right there.”
But there he was, getting the ball back to Jon Ryan, who got off a 39-yard punt that was returned for 17 yards.
How did this happen? Jennings was the next-best guy.
“I knew if Kevin got hurt that there would be a chance I’d have to snap,” Jennings said.
Asked if he was the smallest long snapper in the long history of the league, Jennings said, “Probably. I probably am. I don’t think there’s anybody snapping who is this small.”
Which brings us back to: How did this happen?
Jennings began snapping in high school. The Seahawks hold “auditions” at training camp, as well as during special teams practices once the season starts.
“I was kind of joking around at practice one day,” Jennings said. “I was like, ‘Bruce (DeHaven, the special teams coach), if you need another long snapper.’ ”
Damned if Jennings wasn’t better than everyone else.
“I’ve done it a few times in practice,” Jennings said. “(Bruce) was like, ‘If Kevin ever gets hurt, you may be the guy to go in for punt.’ It actually ended up happening today.”
To the amusement and amazement of Mora.
“You try to develop guys,” he said. “Quite frankly, he’s our best option. And he got it back there.”
The move to Jennings also surprised the Bucs. “When they first saw it, they had to think, ‘Wait, something is up?’ ” Mora said.
Instead, it was Mora who had a think-again moment.
“I was very reluctant to punt again because I didn’t want them to just tee off on him,” Mora said. “You know, he’s 172 pounds dripping wet. Not your prototypical long snapper in the National Football League. God forbid we would have had to try a field goal.”
One snap was plenty for Jennings, anyway.
“I did a little praying and just tried to get my head together and try to keep the nerves down,” he said. “The biggest key was just getting it back to the punter so he could get it away.
“It’s harder than you think. It has to be a perfect play every time.”