Dan was an elite snapper in our program for over a year and a half. He was 1st Team All-Conference for Football AND Baseball. Simply, he was a great athlete! Dan was heavily recruited by Division 1 Football Coaches and was receiving Preferred Walk-On interest to be a Long Snapper. However, paying his way through college was not in the budget, so he had to pursue the route that was going to offer the most financial help for school. Dan landed athletic scholarships to play baseball for Robert Morris University which is an NAIA school right down the street from his house.
Dan chose to pursue the baseball route and make the hard choice to hang up the long snapping cleats. He made this decision as it at least guaranteed him a way to afford college. In my eyes, that is a very humbling and mature decision beyond his years. Over the next few months Dan would help his HS Football Team out with Special Teams and help them with snapping, so naturally he would jump out there and snap. Time went by, graduation happened, and Dan was 2 days away from Registration day with Robert Morris University. That's when Dan was thrown the craziest curve ball in his life...on June 15th Dan received the below text...
Let's give you some back story on how this happened. As many of you know, one of our own long snappers, Tuck Gill had just de-committed from Southern Illinois University a couple weeks prior to pursue playing football at Eastern Michigan University. Which at the time was not a big deal as Southern Illinois had a snapper who was going to be a 5th year Senior and their starter for the upcoming season.
On June 15th, the 5th year Senior walked into the SIU coaches office and said he was not going to be coming back to play football for his final year. He told them that he was going to pursue a program in his future career. Understandably, this put SIU in panic mode as they just then realized they had ZERO snappers on roster for the 2017 season. This is when several coaches from SIU reached out to me and wanted to see who I had that was ready to play D1 Ball and that they would be willing to offer said player a Full-Ride Scholarship.
Initially, I'm thinking "well...all of my guys are already picked up!" However, I knew that SIU needed help so I made it a mission to find them a snapper that could do the job. I talked to a few of our guys who were already committed, none of them really wanted to leave their current situation. Understandable as they were supposed to be heading off to their new school later that week anyway. That's when I thought "DAN! He was a heck of a snapper, I'll just give it a shot...who know's what can happen?" I reached out to Dan and sent him the text message from above and that's when Dan's life changed forever.
Dan immediately was very interested in this potential offer. He said that if they offered him, he would commit on the spot. That's when I created an impromptu film of Dan's last snapping session (it was fate that I still had that film) and sent it to the coaches. They loved it and the Head Coach wanted to talk to me about Dan playing for SIU. I told them that he had already signed a National Letter of Intent, HOWEVER, that was to an NAIA school for BASEBALL. Fun fact, in case you didn't know this, out of all of the NCAA levels, NAIA is the only level that does not have a penalty for an athlete to de-commit from the school that he signed a letter of intent for. FATE AGAIN.
On Friday Morning, June 16th Dan received a phone call from the SIU Head Coach offering him a Full-Ride Scholarship to Long Snap as a True Freshman for the Southern Illinois Salukis. Obviously, Dan committed on the spot and will be on the field for the Salukis this fall. Dan went from playing NAIA Baseball to playing Division 1 College Football and starting as a True-Freshman...on a FULL-RIDE SCHOLARSHIP!
This was an unbelievable experience! As a coach and a mentor to Dan, I could not be more proud of his resilience throughout this entire journey. I always say long snapping can change lives as it changed mine. I can now say for certain that it too changed Dan's. Congratulations Heilbron family! Things happen for a reason and the big man upstairs was looking out for you guys!