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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

For Damien's Tanner Carew, football is a snap

Carew has earned a scholarship to Oregon with his abilities as a long snapper on punts and PATs.

August 28, 2013|By Eric Sondheimer

Long snappers are considered slightly less quirky than kickers — who are to football what left-handed pitchers are to baseball — but their makeup perfectly fits the task at hand.

Take the personality of Tanner Carew, a La Verne Damien senior who has committed to Oregon and who long-snapping guru Chris Rubio believes is the best in the nation at what he does.

"I would say Tanner is definitely quirky," Rubio said. "He's laid back. The first time I met him, he was telling me how he wanted to ride a wake board from Long Beach to Catalina. And I said, 'No, there's sharks out there.' Then we start talking about Rubik's Cube and how he can do that. I said, 'I don't believe you.' Then he did it, and I said, 'That's amazing.'"

Carew, 6 feet 2, 215 pounds, starts at tight end and linebacker for Damien. But it's his ability to snap the ball on point-after-touchdown kicks, field goals and punts that will pay for his college education.

Colleges have stepped forward in increasing numbers to offer scholarships to long snappers after realizing their importance.

The pressure on kickers to deliver in the clutch is immense, but so is the pressure on long snappers.

"It comes down to who works the hardest and who has the best mental toughness," Carew said. "You have to bounce back after a bad snap."

College coaches expect perfection in long snapping if they're going to hand over one of their precious 85 scholarships to a long snapper, and Carew understands the expectations.

"If it's bad, then they know next year they have another scholarship guy coming," he said.

Carew hikes the football back to the punter on a line in less than 0.75 seconds.

"He can snap the ball very well with great speed," Rubio said. "He's almost like a surfer, where he's laid back and doesn't really realize how good he is. He's just smooth."

Damien's kicker, Tristan Vizcaino, is the real winner in having Carew around. He made five of six field goals last season and receives a boost in confidence knowing Carew's consistency. Vizcaino has committed to Washington State, making Damien perhaps the only school in the nation with a long snapper and kicker already set to receive college scholarships.

"I can rely on him," Vizcaino said.

Of course, if anyone needs entertainment, Carew is glad to provide it with his Rubik's Cube demonstration. As an eighth-grader, he used to complete the puzzle in 27 seconds.

"I guess it can help your fingers get a tight spiral," he said of working the cube.

Yes, a kicker's best friend is a long snapper, and Carew seems to be picking up plenty of quirky ways from his kicking friends.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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