Snap Judgement

Eau Claire’s Kyle Stelter helps elite long snappers — from high school to the NFL — master the game

Luc Anthony, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Kyle Stelter
Kyle Stelter

The long snapper may be the most underrated position in football. An errant snap to the side can throw off a field goal attempt or a punt, giving the opposing team a sudden advantage. Essentially, the long snapper is a quarterback who throws backwards – miss the throw, and the end result is not ideal.

You might think that with the importance of that position, there would be well-established coaching in that field. Kyle Stelter of Eau Claire discovered just the opposite, so he started coaching prospective long snappers himself. Thus was born Special Teams University: a business that has instructed numerous players from across the nation, including Indianapolis Colts long snapper Luke Rhodes.

"How do you train your body to do a very specific skill every single time with 100% accuracy, while in different environments, while not overthinking? This is something that I work on a lot with my NFL clientele, who obviously are good at their craft but may struggle sometimes with the mental game." – Kyle Stelter

Stelter was a long snapper at Osceola High School, and spent his college playing days at UW-Stout and UW-River Falls. His junior year was when the opportunity came to start. Stelter had previously been seen as too small, but he took advantage of the starting long snapper’s difficulty in warm-ups for a preseason game – and the starter’s request to their coach for Stelter to play instead. Stelter earned the Special Teams Player of the Game award, and never gave up the starting role.

At the same time, Stelter noticed the lack of instruction for that position. 

“I realized that every other position on the field has a coach except the long snapper,” Stelter recalled. “QBs, DBs, even kickers have private coaches that can help them hone their crafts in the off-season.” Thus, Stelter started with one local athlete and built Special Teams University through social media. In the past decade he has built the project into what he says is “the largest and most successful long snapping business in the world.”

Stelter, who also has some high school and college coaching experience under his belt, takes an approach different from what one might expect from a service with a football specialization. 

“I do not hold rating and ranking camps,” he said. “My sole focus is helping athletes improve with very personalized, results-driven, science-based coaching.” 

Stelter believes that developing one-on-one relationships with players “will not only help me be a better coach, but it will help the athletes feel more comfortable and improve more as well,” he said.

When players matriculate to work with the instructors at Special Teams U, they are naturally looking to improve on long snapping fundamentals, but they ultimately receive more detailed instruction. 

“How do you train your body to do a very specific skill every single time with 100% accuracy, while in different environments, while not overthinking?” Stelter asked. “This is something that I work on a lot with my NFL clientele, who obviously are good at their craft but may struggle sometimes with the mental game.”

The mental game can be one of the toughest aspects of being a long snapper. Stelter notes that long snappers are the old players expected to be 100% effective every time they step onto the field. Consider what goes into setting up a field goal or extra point attempt: “The long snapper is expected to snap the ball between seven to eight yards with perfect spiral and placement, snap with the perfect velocity so the laces come to twelve o’clock so the holder doesn’t have to spin the ball, and then take on large D-linemen who are trying to block the kick. I highly recommend any fan who thinks this sounds easy to give it a try!”

The list of accomplishments by those coached by Stelter is a testament to the effectiveness of Special Teams University. In addition to the aforementioned Rhodes with the Colts (the highest-paid players at his position in the NFL), the business has had, according to Stelter, the only long snapper taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, the CFL Grey Cup winner, along with two other NFL and four other CFL long snappers, in addition to numerous snappers in the prep and college ranks. Locally, Stelter has taught Duncan McKinley of Eau Claire Memorial since seventh grade; he is now committed to go be a Badger at UW-Madison next year after his senior season with the Old Abes. Go to one of their games in the coming months, and see for yourself how Stelter’s teaching has impacted an area athlete.

Special Teams University will remain based in the Chippewa Valley: Stelter is building a facility in Eau Claire that will feature the latest equipment to properly train long snappers coming from anywhere in the country. What is ultimately most rewarding to Stelter is an education that manifests itself in the full life of his students: “I've seen how hard they push themselves in this sport, with this specific craft. They will all be successful somewhere outside of football as well.”

Learn more about Stelter and his business at www.specialteamsu.com.

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