Note: The following appears in the Wofford gameday football program.
In the landscape of college football, the long snapper position is rarely in the spotlight, and that is just the way Clemson senior Patrick Phibbs likes it.
For the three seasons he has been a full-time starter, Phibbs has been intent on keeping his head down, literally and figuratively, to the point that he is glad that he is not the most recognizable name on the Tiger roster.
“Every snapper in the country would agree with me…you do not want anyone to know your name. If you hear your name, you have done something wrong. We don’t care about the spotlight. If you want praise, you are at the wrong position. Once you mess up, you are never getting any praise.”
Despite the lack of name recognition and headlines, Phibbs has been an integral part of Clemson’s recent success on the gridiron, but winning football is nothing new to Phibbs.
In 2014, Phibbs was a part of a Central Catholic High School team that had an 11-2 record. Phibbs has experienced the same number of losses in his three active seasons at Clemson. The magnitude of the years of prosperity under the bright lights is not lost on Phibbs.
“During my high school career, I lost a total of six games. From my freshman year of high school to my senior year here at Clemson, I’ve had a total of nine losses. I guess I gravitate to good programs.”
In his time at Clemson, Phibbs has had the opportunity to snap for several placekickers, including Greg Huegel, Alex Spence and current Tigers B.T. Potter and Steven Sawicki. Phibbs noted that each of them has a different process when it comes to field goals.
“It is different for every person. They all have different ways of dealing with when they make it and when they miss it. Greg had a very relaxed attitude. Alex was a complete 360…he was very tactical about every single thing he did.
“Everything had to be a certain way. B.T. is more like Greg, and Steven has a long snapper’s mindset as a kicker. He doesn’t care about pressure.”
In addition to being the starting long snapper on field-goal attempts, Phibbs has added punt snapping to his repertoire this season with the departure of Austin Spence. While Phibbs is not the fastest player on the field in punt coverage, he trusts in his ability to “snap a good ball.”
“I told Coach (Danny) Pearman, ‘I will try my best to get down the field. I’m not as athletic as everyone else on the field, but the ball is going to get back there.’”
For Phibbs, the hardest part of playing the position of long snapper has nothing to do with the physical toll it takes.
“The hardest part is the mental aspect. I have had a bad snap, and it stinks. The hardest part of playing the position is the margin of error being extremely small.”
While Phibbs has had a successful career at Clemson, watching college football was not a part of the long snapper’s weekend routine prior to his arrival in Tigertown. In fact, he never watched a Tiger football game before he joined the team. Although Phibbs did not grow up a fan of Clemson football, he had a family connection to the university that eventually compelled him to travel nearly 600 miles south.
“My aunt went here and was a rower in the 1990s. I came down for the summer camp when I was in high school and toured the campus, and I snapped for Coach Pearman, and I snapped really well.
“Whenever I started doing well, Coach Pearman would try to intimidate me. He came over to me and said, ‘We’re going to have Coach (Dabo) Swinney come watch you snap.’ I was thinking, ‘I don’t even know who that is.’
“I snapped the heck out of the ball, and they told me that if I got accepted into Clemson, I could come (onto the team) the next year. I told myself that even if I did not make the team, I was still at a great school.”
Family has also been a significant part of Phibbs’ choice to be a long snapper. His father snapped and played fullback on Southern Illinois’ 1983 Division I-AA national championship team and has been his inspiration to play football at the college level.
During his childhood, Phibbs and his father engaged in the age-old pastime of tossing the football in the backyard, and it was during those moments when he learned the basics of long snapping.
Phibbs started snapping in organized games in sixth grade largely due to the fact that he was the only person who could do it consistently. He has been snapping ever since.
Football has been a big influence on the lives of other members of the Phibbs family. Phibbs’ sister, Audra, who recently became a lawyer after passing the bar exam, originally wanted to go into pro football scouting.
“She’s the biggest football fan you will ever meet. My mom has also been a rock throughout my college experience.”
The importance of family to Phibbs is also what led the senior to Clemson and its family-like atmosphere.
“I genuinely believe that everyone here appreciates the people around them. Everyone is treated with respect. It really is a family down here, and they welcomed me, and I really appreciate Coach Swinney.”