During my career in the NFL as a Special Teams Coach, I had a pretty good eye for talent. I always looked for sleepers in every draft. Every year before the draft I would always call College Head Coaches and Special Teams Coaches around the country and try to find good football players that were flying under the radar from NFL Scouts and Personnel Directors.
Some of the players I signed as free agents after drafts that turned into pretty good football players on Offense, Defense or Special Teams were: Robert Griffith, Femi Ayanbadejo, Brian Russell and Will Demps all from San Diego State. B.J. Sams (Mc Neese State) Matt Katula (University of Wisconsin).
In 2006 A.J. Schable was my choice. The Cardinals needed a big fullback or blocking tight end. I heard through my sources about a kid in South Dakota and it was A.J. Schable. A.J. was flying under the radar as a defensive linemen.
Even the Cardinals did not have draft able grades on A.J. as a defensive end. However, that never stopped me before. I envisioned A.J. as a utility player. Fullback, Tight End, Defensive End or Linebacker and Special Teams Player.
The Cardinals would not pay for me to go on a scouting trip to work out A.J. in Vermilion. I had a feeling about A.J. talent, just like many of the other players I named earlier. So, on my own dime, I paid my own expenses to go see A.J. and work him out.
A.J.'s workout was very impressive. The young man at 6'3, 280 pounds could run, block, and catch passes. He was everything I thought we needed with the Cardinals. Dennis Green agreed with me. After the draft we signed A.J. to a free agent contract.
In 2006 A.J. made the Arizona Cardinals team as a utility and special teams player. A.J. spent one and a half seasons with the Cardinals. Last year he was signed and release by the Eagles and Jets after a injury in preseason.
A.J.'s agent, Ron Slavin called me a couple of weeks ago and asked my thoughts about working with A.J. to develop his snapping skills. I thought it was a great idea. A utility player that can play offense, defense, special teams and snapper. That has to raise his stock!
Just think, if the Pittsburgh Steelers would of had a utility player like A.J. on their roster a couple of weeks they might not have lost that game to the Eagles. When their snapper went down during the game due to an injury, their back up snapper, threw the ball over the punters (Mitch Berger) head for a safety. That play led to an immediate score plus changed field position and the complexion of the game.
Below A.J. works and masters my Windmill Pitching Drill.
During the lessons we worked on A.J.'s stance, weight distribution, grip of the ball and technique. We videotaped A.J. everyday. The video evaluation and breakdown after practices were very important to A.J.'s progress. A.J. was a quick study in the meeting. The things I told him on the field became crystal clear during the slow motion video review. He saw the mistakes he was making and corrected them the next day.
We worked every fundamental from A to Z. Repetition, drills and more repetitions. A.J. was picking up the technique and getting more consistent every practice. He was acquiring the correct muscle memory. Pick up the ball, elbow thrust, release point and follow through.
A.J. was starting to get a smoother and more consistent delivery on his field goals snaps. He was now improving each day on my 'Perfect Laces' Drill'.
As A.J. progressed and became more consistent on his punt snapping technique I introduced drills for snapping and vertical setting back off the ball and protecting. In the photo below he's working a drill on snapping and vertical setting straight back off the ball and blocking a rusher.
After four days of working on his field goal and punt snapping technique A.J. has a good base of snapping fundamentals and a host of drills. I believe in drills for everything. Drills and muscle memory go hand in hand.
I was very impressed with the progress A.J. made and I believe so was he. Below you can hear A.J. Schable's Testimonial.
Click below to hear A.J. thoughts about his One on One Snapping Lessons with Coach Zauner:
It was great to recruit and sign A.J. three years ago with the Arizona Cardinals. However, it was really gratifying to work with A.J. now and maybe have an affect on his future in the NFL again from a different prospective.
I wish A.J. the Best of Luck in the Future!
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