Nathanael Snyder’s kickoffs over the course of a Center Grove football game often are things of beauty — end-over-end spectacles as high as they are deep.
The senior also fancies himself a pretty good punter.
Only it’s Drew Conrad who competently handles punting chores for the Trojans. It so happens Conrad is a skilled placekicker in his own right.
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Special teams could soon be living up to its name for Center Grove, which behind the talents of these two players can win the field position battle more often than not.
“A good kicker is worth five players sometimes, and we’ve got two of them who have both done a good job sharing the duties and not trying to compete and knock each other out,” Trojans coach Eric Moore said.
“Conrad is an awesome punter, but if we have to, Snyder can punt. Snyder is an awesome deep kicker, but if we have to, Conrad can kick.”
Snyder’s rocket right leg deposited 52 of last season’s 82 kickoffs in the end zone, making them unreturnable more than 63 percent of the time.
To demonstrate what an advantage that is, consider Center Grove was kicked off to 48 times with only 14 being touchbacks (29 percent).
Conrad punted 27 times for an average of 38.7 yards. His numbers likely would have been higher had he not made a concerted effort to pin the opponent inside its own 20-yard line with eight of his punts.
“That’s his deal. Drew is a precision punter,” Moore said. “And what I love about him is he’s an athlete. Six-foot-two and can catch a football, throw a football. So what happens is you don’t get that punt rush.”
Both players played running back, receiver or linebacker as young kids in the Center Grove Bantam League.
By the time they reached high school, this same athleticism had to be channeled elsewhere to best benefit the program.
“My freshman year I played wide receiver. Coach Moore talked to me and told me they would need me for kicking more than as a receiver,” Snyder said. “That was when I needed to concentrate on kicking, because it would help the team out more than anything.”
The switch wasn’t difficult for Snyder, who previously kicked for his middle school teams.
Last season, quarterback Joey Siderewicz was Snyder’s holder on extra-point conversions and field-goal attempts. This season, it appears those responsibilities are in Conrad’s hands.
The pairing increases the opportunity for dialogue between friends who already talk shop often.
“We both know kicking and punting mechanics really well,” Snyder said. “If Drew is doing something wrong and can’t figure it out, I can see it. He’ll have an iPad and I’ll help him record it so he can see himself.”
Added Conrad: “I hold for him on field goals, so if I notice he’s doing something (wrong) I can tell him about it.”
Last season, Snyder made good on 47 of 53 point-after boots and delivered four field goals for the Trojans.
Offseason conditioning added 10 pounds to Snyder’s frame (he’s now 195 pounds). He said he thinks he has the strength to be even more productive as a senior.
“I have more pop on the ball this year,” he said. “I feel more comfortable further back. I have more confidence. Kickoffs are the best. Everybody’s so pumped up the first kickoff, and if you hit a big kickoff it gets the crowd cheering. I like that.
“I just worry about keeping my head down to make sure my mechanics are good. Then I look up to see if the ball went into the end zone so I don’t have to cover anything.”
Conrad also put in extra work during the summer. Whereas a year ago he was more concerned with leg strength, his attention prior to this season shifted to technique, flexibility, leg speed and being explosive through the football with every punt.
“Since I want to play at the next level, I started working on the rugby style, where it spins and hits inside the 10-(yard line) and rolls to the 1. That kind of stuff,” Conrad said. “Another thing is my hang time, because that’s really important for coverage purposes.
“It leads to more fair catches.”
Conrad, who managed an average of roughly 3.7 seconds hang time as a junior, looks to be anywhere between 4.0 and 4.4 seconds this fall.
All the while Snyder watching, critiquing, looking to help. In other words, returning the favor.
Family: Parents, Joel and Shannon; twin brother, Noah, 17; sister, Sophia, 10
Favorite kicker: Pat McAfee
Summer kicking camps attended: Purdue, Maryland, Iowa, Toledo, Wisconsin
Family: Parents, Kevin and Stacy; brothers, Zack, 14, and Luke, 12
Favorite kicker: Thomas Morstead
Summer kicking camps attended: Kentucky, Illinois, Northwestern, Boston College, Wisconsin, Ball State