It could be the most obscure position on an NFL roster, yet one of the most important. Their jobs are done with little fanfare. So is the everyday life for Bills' long snapper Garrison Sanborn.
The undrafted free agent from Florida State may not receive the headlines of other Bills' newcomers such as Terrell Owens or Jairus Byrd, but Sanborn is making his presence felt. The 24-year-old has been a quick study and performing at a high level snapping for punt and field goal units.
A unique element of the long snapper is lack of recognition, even when you're playing well. A bad snap that changes field position quickly makes you a target, all the reason Brian Moorman said Sanborn is happy staying away from the limelight.
"It's better whenever their name is not announced, unless they're making a tackle. I'm sure if you asked him he'd say the same thing, that he'd rather stay inconspicuous," Moorman said. "But he's doing a really good job. He works hard. He's a perfectionist."
After every snap, when Moorman returns to the sidelines, Sanborn asks his punter where the snap was placed. He said it's an example of Sanborn's determination, no matter how tedious the question gets.
"If there's one complaint I have about him it's that he asks me where the ball is every single snap. But that's a good thing, so it's not really a complaint, it's a compliment to him that he's a perfectionist and he wants to be good and get better every day and that's good for a young guy."
Sanborn's responsibilities are knowing protections and relaying them to teammates inside. A punt formation begins with executing blocks then charging downfield to cover returners, but everything comes back to perfecting a snap.
"Whether you're snapping on the field by yourself or snapping here, it's all about the snap, so nothing changes in that respect," Sanborn said. "The main thing to focus on is doing the exact same thing I did at home, and that's the difference. Instead of going against air, you have some the best in the world rushing."
Coming from a major program like Florida State, Sanborn was put to the test by athletic speed rushers that prepared him for the pro game. While playing in 32 games for the Seminoles, he had a hand in 189 of the team's 648 points from 2006-2007.
"Every team we go against, there have been guys on that team I've played against before. I've seen the caliber, especially going against first rounders like Kamerion Wimbley and Ernie Sims. Having tasted that it helps your confidence," he said.
Moorman needed little time to adjust with Sanborn, because of the confidence the rookie carried since signing with the team in May. There was no concern of snap placement and both hit the ground running in offseason camps.
"I pretty much felt like that from the beginning. He came from a big program and didn't seem like he was rattled by anything," Moorman said. "I think you can pretty much tell in minicamp because that's when the stopwatch is on you for the first time and you're in front of the whole team and that can be nerve racking."
Knowing he's a young player, teams have tried to apply pressure up the middle and confuse Sanborn. He said the different alignments are noticeable, but in the end it's his responsibility to make the right call.
"I don't know if it's the fact I'm a rookie or not, but what teams do specifically is line up a guy in front of me on punts for the sole intention of hitting me as hard as he can," he said. "Forcing me to think about him and making a bad snap. The key is blocking that out and getting the job done."
Helping get those protections correct is Bobby April, and Sanborn said his presence and vast knowledge are unquestioned.
"It's been great since I met him. He's phenomenal, and he's taken the time to work one-on-one with me and make sure I know the coverages, my blocking is better and snaps are on point," he said. "That work has really helped and a reason why I'm doing well."
It also doesn't hurt to have Moorman and Rian Lindell at his disposal, a combined 19 years of NFL experience.
"I've been put in a really good situation because those guys have been around, they've seen snappers go through here, and they know what it takes to make it. They all have been very helpful and want me to succeed, always giving me pointers. I'm surprised they're not tired of my questions."
Sanborn admitted he has much room for improvement. There are never enough snap repetitions, and he wants to continue focusing on blocking first then being an asset to teammates. After making his first career tackle against Tennessee, he would like to make plays downfield frequently as well.
Moorman said he is sound for a rookie, and the potential is there for years to come.
"The more he starts to understand protections and things like that then I think he'll even get better because he won't be thinking about the protection before he snaps," Moorman said. "He'll kind of understand and be more comfortable knowing pretty much what every team is going to throw at him."