By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – You have never heard of Ben Bachelier and he likes it that way.
"The goal is to be unrecognized," said the senior long snapper Bachelier after a recent practice. "The only time you hear of a long snapper is when they mess up. There is a lot of dedication to put in the time so you go unnoticed and do your part."
A graduate of Nogales (Ariz.) High School, he was a four-year starter and three-year letter winner at center and long snapper. As a senior, he was named Lineman of the Year and earned first-team all-conference and second-team All-Southern Arizona honors as a 2006.
But given his size (6-0, 230), the chances of playing Division I football as a center were slim to none. But long snapping provided him an opportunity, offering a unique skill set that is treasured by football coaches across the country.
'To continue playing after high school, I decided to use long-snapping as a means to reach that" said Bachelier. "It was a way to get my foot in the door and I came up here and liked it. It is a good way for me to play Division I."
Head Coach Jerome Souers recognizes the value in his long snapper.
"A fast way to lose a game is to snap a ball over the punter's head," said Souers. "You realize how good you have it when you have a deep snapper you can count on. Ben Bachelier has been very consistent. I am very proud of the model he has become as a student and an athlete. He is a fine young man and I am very proud to have him in the program."
Souers serves as the specialists coach, but the group is often left to work on the side and on their own. Bachelier delivers the balls to a pair of all-conference kickers in Matt Myers and Drew Zamora.
"We are always helping each other and have to be a self coach," said Bachelier. "We look out for other things the guys might be doing to help them tweek stuff."
So far, so good. He played as a true freshman and has handled the long snapping duties full time for each of the last two seasons. Myers was a finalist for 2010 Fred Mitchell Outstanding Place-Kicker Award and tied for 16th in the nation with 1.27 field goals per game. Zamora ranked third in the Big Sky and 12th in the nation in punting average, recording 16 punts inside-the-20 and two 70-yard punts during the season, just the second punter in school history to record two punts of 70 yards or more in the same season.
All the success started with the snap.
"Ben makes my job a lot easier," said Myers. "I don't have to worry about anything. My confidence going into a game situation in field goals is much higher than other people have because they have to worry about the snapper. He is right on target every time. Everything is consistent, fast and game speed every time we practice."
While Bachelier's success on the field might be unnoticed, his classroom work has earned him several accolades.
He has received the 2010 and 2011 Cynthia Bennett Awards for excellence in academics award at team banquet, recording the highest grade point average (3.97) on the team. The exercise science major has been a two-time Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete recipient, a 2010 ESPN Academic All-America nominee and 2010 Big Sky All-Academic selection.
"It is real important because it will take me where I want to go in physical therapy," said Bachelier of his academics. I am blessed with a good mind and been lucky. My parents always stressed the importance of a good education taking you where you want to go. I always worked hard at it."
In addition to his football preparations each summer, Bachelier has worked on the Cardinals Crew each of the last three summers, helping prepare for the arrival of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals to campus each summer. He manicures the outside practice fields, helps lay the turf in the Walkup Skydome and helps with general preparations around campus.
"Ben follows in the tradition of a number of student-athletes that we had with Cards crew," said Skydome Director Dave Brown. "He certainly has held up the tradition in the most positive, interactive way. It is a great experience to get out and see the little things that go into preparation for training camp. Not only has he proven able to spend the necessary hours, he has really showed outstanding leadership and developed a lot of respect among his peers. As a result, he represents the athletic component. Our athletes don't just take the summer off, they get out and work."
Not only are they preparing the fields for the Cardinals but HIS team.
"It is a point of pride to put the turf down because after they are done, it is our field," said Bachelier.
As Bachelier and his teammates prepare for the 2011 season, he has the season opener against Arizona circled as a special kickoff to his senior season. Growing up 45 minutes south of Tucson, he attended games growing up in Arizona Stadium and his father and grandfather played baseball for the Wildcats.
"It will be real fun," said Bachelier. "I have a lot of friends that go to UA and more people can come up than just my parents. My grandparents, aunts and uncles will be able to watch and it will be real fun to play for them in that setting. I grew up going to games there and actually being on that field is real cool."
And before each NAU kick you should look for #50 because he is a big part of the Lumberjack football program and is hardly unnoticed.
Three Dot Data… Junior offensive lineman Trey Gilleo was featured in his hometown paper on Sunday, The Kingman Daily Minor. Look for a link to the story here…Jacob May of the Arizona Daily Sun had a nice feature on the offseason conditioning by the team on Saturday…Running back Zach Bauman will be featured on sports talk show Around the Rim on 104.7 FM in Flagstaff Monday between 4-6 p.m. Listen online.
Picture of the Day…Rick Johnson snapped this shot during full pad drills on Saturday.
Video of the Day…Tim Wilkinson talks about after practice on August 14 via the NAU Athletics You Tube page.
Next Practice…The Lumberjacks will be off on Monday and resume practice Tuesday.