Conrad Mueller knows the loneliness of the long snapper.
The Davidson Wildcats junior has played one of the most solitary positions in football since fifth grade, so he’s figured out how to make himself part of the team when he’s not hiking the ball on punts and placekicks.
“I enjoy it, but sometimes it can be a challenge feeling connected to the team,” said the former Parkwood High standout, who is a preseason All-Pioneer Football League first-team selection.
“So I try to do extra running or lifts in the weight room, retrieve loose balls at practice, anything I can to be useful.”
Fourth-year Wildcats coach Paul Nichols gives Mueller high marks for that.
“When I came here we literally didn’t have anybody coming back in the kicking game — long snapper, punter or placekicker,” Nichols said. “He takes a lot of pride in what he does and he’s been one of the people who has helped us solidify our special teams.”
Mueller’s come a long way from his beginnings as a long snapper, taking up the position in youth football on the advice of his father. He was a center and long snapper, starting as a 130-pound freshman at Parkwood. That’s where he caught the attention of Nichols his senior year.
“We evaluated him and thought he was a natural fit for us both academically and with respect to football,” Nichols said.
And he’s excelled getting kicking plays started, becoming one of the first two PFL players to be named all-conference at that position. He was honorable mention last season.
“It’s an honor to be recognized,” Mueller said, noting players in his position draw attention only when they make mistakes — no small thing when you’re in on just 70 to 80 plays in a season.
“You don’t have a lot of room for error,” said Mueller, who is from Waxhaw. “I can tell everything’s OK when I don’t get yelled at. If you don’t hear anything it’s good.”
Davidson hasn’t experienced much football success in Mueller’s three seasons, winning four games. But a season-ending 20-17 victory at Stetson last November in a game delayed five hours by bad weather gives the Wildcats a boost entering the season, he said.
“It’s a great feeling that the last time we were on the field we won the game,” Mueller said. “We didn’t quit, and it was positive motivation for us in the offseason.”
The Wildcats open their season at 1 p.m. Saturday at Georgetown. Their first home game is Sept. 17 against Livingstone. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
at Kentucky Wesleyan
at San Diego