Pat Torpy did not hear his name echo much from the loudspeakers under the Friday night lights.
He just handled his duties on the offensive line and with the long snapping duties for the Sandburg High School football team with a blue-collar approach. If he kept a low profile, then he was doing his job.
The hard work eventually paid off for the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder, who committed to play Division III football at Illinois Wesleyan as a long snapper.
Torpy’s football career began in fourth grade when he joined the Orland Park Pioneers. From the start, he has made his living in the trenches playing center, guard and tackle.
“I’m not that fast, so I ended up on the line,” Torpy said.
Interestingly enough, Torpy’s two younger brothers Chris and Sean are talented runners at Sandburg.
But Torpy said he took to the offensive line right away.
“You get to hit someone on every play,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always been bigger, and the Pioneer teams were based on weight instead of age, so I got to play against kids that were older than me.”
In the seventh grade, his team was in need of a long snapper, so Torpy volunteered his services. He liked the opportunity to get down the field and get in on some plays.
“I was never really aggressive enough to play on the defensive line, so I never got to make tackles,” Torpy said. “I enjoyed doing it, and I knew I’d be able to run downfield and make a tackle. I knew the odds were slim that I would make a tackle, but there was a chance.”
He would continue to serve as the long snapper through high school, and saw his contribution as a way of bettering the team.
“Because I grew up playing offensive line, I’m used to not playing a glory position,” he said. “You’re not getting your name called, but that’s OK. I play for my team.”
Long snapping intricacies
Torpy took his commitment to long snapping to a new level when he started working with former Northern Illinois University long snapper Nolan Owen in St. Charles. Owen, who owns and operates Nolan Owen Long Snapping, has worked with several high school long snappers who have gone on to college careers, including Orland Park’s John Wirtel who is on the University of Kansas roster.
Torpy was introduced to Owen through the Sandburg kicking coach, who was working with the strong-legged Jonathan Milazzo.
“It started as a way to improve and put me in position to play in college,” Torpy said.
Upon working with Owen, Torpy realized there was a lot more he had to learn about long snapping.
“When you start, you think anybody can do it,” he said. “You just try to throw a hard spiral every time. When I started working with the private coach, I saw how awful my form was and learned how hard it really was.”
Owen remembers the first time seeing Torpy long snap at a camp in October 2012.
“The first time I saw him, I could tell he had no long snapping experience whatsoever,” Owen said. “But what stood out was this kid was getting into it and was taking it really seriously. I knew that [I] could do special things for him.
“He was gung ho, and that was a big plus for Pat. I knew he would stick around and I’d be able to mold him into what he could be.”
Torpy has worked with Owen for two years now, making the trip to St. Charles every other week. Owen quickly became impressed with Torpy’s will to push through tough workouts, along with his humble attitude.
“I push my guys pretty hard,” Owen said. “Despite being tired and sore, he pushed through every session. He is mentally strong, and that’s going to help him in the long run.
“A long snapper is very selfless position. Your job is to make the punter and field goal kicker’s job easier and not be mentioned or TV or even seen. Pat is very good with that. He doesn’t boast and is very humble.”
Torpy said he gradually picked up all the intricacies that go into every snap, and has continued to fine tune them.
“I learned how to get better drive by striding back with my legs, tucking my torso, extending my arms as far they could go and making sure the spiral is tight,” he said.
“It took a lot of repetition and drills that isolated the different motions. One drill is to lie on my back and throw the ball toward the ceiling to get a perfect spiral.”
Four more years
During his training, Torpy was made aware of how college coaches are looking more and more for specialty positions, such as long snapper.
“Before I started working with my coach, I never considered it an option,” he said. “I didn’t see myself playing past high school.”
While the door opened up for an athletic career at the college level, academics still remained Torpy’s top priority. Torpy graduated with grade-point average over 4.0, was a member of the National Honor Society and was a mathlete for three years.
“Moving on to college, it was more important for me look at academics,” he said. “Football wasn’t going to matter after I was done with school. I had to think about my future. Wesleyan was the best fit for me, academically.”
As for his preparation for D-III football, Owen said Torpy is taking the right approach. Since graduating from high school, Torpy has dedicated himself to long snapping, and his coach has seen the results.
“His past three sessions have been night and day from just a few months ago,” Owen said. “He’s made so much progress, and I wish we had more time with him. The way he’s progressed as of late, he could have gone D-I.”
Owen said Torpy can make an impact instantly at Illinois Wesleyan and is looking forward to see how far he takes long snapping.
“The sky’s the limit for the kid,” he said. “He has no idea what he’s capable of, but I do. If he keeps working hard he can do a lot of great things.”
- See more at: http://www.opprairie.com/torpy-carves-own-path-football-glory#sthash.pSLAXSEd.dpuf
Ryan Wallace, Staff Writer
The Orland Park Prairie