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BETWEEN THE LINES

NFL Career Is a Snap for LeBel

November 19, 1997|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Harper LeBel is earning $275,000 a year in his ninth NFL season. Not bad for someone who started out as a football manager at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks.

"I'm very appreciative how lucky I am," he said.

LeBel, 34, has stayed around because of what he does best--he's a long snapper. He hikes the ball on field goals, extra points and punts.

Kickers love him. He has been the snapper for Morton Andersen and Norm Johnson. This season, he's the snapper for Jeff Jaeger of the Chicago Bears. Jaeger is 13 for 15 on field-goal attempts.

How the 6-foot-4, 260-pound LeBel became a long snapper is a story itself. As a freshman, he had calcium deposits on his knees and couldn't play football. Notre Dame Coach John Skeese hired him as a manager.

"I passed out Gatorade, issued socks and passed out bags," LeBel said. "One day [Skeese] needed somebody to go help the kickers. I ended up holding or snapping and I've been doing it ever since. To say the least, who would have thought it would go this far."

LeBel ended up playing tight end at Notre Dame and got a scholarship to Colorado State. He was drafted in the 12th round by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1985. He didn't play in his first NFL regular-season game until 1989 with the Seahawks.

He was a bouncer at Gladstones restaurant as he waited for his break in football.

"I've seen both sides of the fence," he said. "I know what it's like to live from check to check. It's a tremendous teaching skill how difficult life can be. There's a lot of things I don't take for granted."

LeBel's mother still lives in Sherman Oaks. He has a house in Atlanta, is married, has two young children and a third on the way.

He's enjoying life as a long snapper.

"Everybody has to have one on a team," he said. "I've been that guy."

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