Between media sessions for the high-profile quarterbacks Friday at the NFL scouting combine, Tanner Carew sat at a round table, a personalized nameplate in front of him.
The Oregon product was mostly anonymous — the lone long snapper invited among the 336 players auditioning for an NFL job. But that didn’t make Carew’s experience any less valuable.
Thursday, one day before NFL Network kicked off hours of live coverage showing on-field drills, Carew estimated he snapped the ball nearly 200 times under close supervision of the league's special teams coaches. He snapped to a handful of aspiring punters and also fired it back to set up field goal attempts for the kickers who were here.
“I never snapped that much in my life,” Carew said.
Friday morning, Carew and the other specialists went through other on-field drills, including the 40-yard dash. He clocked in at 5.0, hopefully fast enough to show teams he’s athletic enough to sprint downfield on punt coverage.
At the Senior Bowl in January, Carew made two tackles and also was credited with downing the ball once — a performance that drew attention he’s not used to while manning the most unheralded position on an NFL roster.
“It's good a long snapper got noticed for something positive," Carew said. "I had a good game. I thought I had a pretty good week, and it was kind of cool to get noticed — and not for messing up."
It's not necessarily unusual for a long snapper to be invited to the combine. Two participated last year and one, Colin Holba of Louisville, was drafted in the sixth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Holba eventually earned a spot on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ roster. The other, Bradley Northnagel, didn’t make a team last year, but he signed a futures contract with the Oakland Raiders in January and will participate in their offseason program while working as a grad assistant at Cal.
Carew also played linebacker and tight end while in high school, but snapping was his path to a Division I scholarship with the Ducks.
“I was good at it, and I used it to get an education, that's how it started," he said. "Used it to get myself to the next step, and I had an amazing four years at Oregon.
"I loved Oregon, love Eugene, made great friends there. It was definitely a way to get me to college, play the game I love.”
Now maybe he'll play a little bit longer.