This year's challenger is Greg Warren
, and his good friend Jeff Reed
says he's the best hot-shot rookie long-snapper yet.
Reed, the Steelers' placekicker, previously kicked at the University of North Carolina
where Warren was the long-snapper Reed's senior year. The two have remained friends throughout Reed's pro career. Reed even stood in Warren's wedding two months ago.
"He's a good friend of mine," said Reed. "Not only is he a good person, he's a good player. He has a good heart and gets along pretty much with everybody."
Warren gets along with Schneck, too, but Schneck has beaten back this type of competition seemingly every year since he arrived in 1999. The problem for Schneck, though, is that as a seventh-year player his salary jumps to $665,000. Warren, as a rookie, would make $230,000, so he's legitimate competition for Schneck in more ways than one.
"It's only making him better," Reed said of Schneck's annual challenges. "I'm not biased towards Greg, but in the past couple years I've been in camp Greg's probably better than the other guys they brought in. Then again, that doesn't mean anything. Greg has to do a good job and he knows that, and Schneck has to keep doing a great job and he knows that. It'll be a healthy competition. They're already nice and friendly with each other. They're friends. They hang out and stuff. We all stick together in this business because we all know how it's run."
Does Reed dare side with either friend?
"Honestly, it doesn't matter," he said. "A snapper is a snapper. If he's good, he's good. In this business, you don't want a friend over a better snapper. I've known Greg longer, yes, but I've known Mike for three years and Mike has done nothing but help me out, not only in football but in life. He has me leaning in the right direction in how to do this and that with your money, and his family's made me dinner. There's a lot of stuff about Mike that Greg's not involved with, so it's not like I'm favoring one over the other because Greg went to North Carolina and Mike went to Wisconsin
. They're both good friends of mine and I'll do anything for both of them."
Reed first came to know Warren in the UNC weight room. Known as "Quad-zilla" to his Steelers teammates because of his thick leg muscles, Reed couldn't keep pace with Warren, who comes to the Steelers as a 6-foot-3, 252-pounder.
"The (position) groups all have lifting records on the power board," Reed recalled. "I was a specialist. I would've won all those categories but unfortunately we had Greg, and Greg pretty much killed me in everything. I even tried creatine to see if I could pass his records, but I couldn't do it. He's too strong."
Warren said he squats 520 pounds and benches 380. He's a good tackler, according to Reed, but Warren said he'll wait and see before agreeing. He was asked if he'd ever tackled the Steelers' other UNC product, "Fast Willie" Parker.
"No. Shoot," Warren said. "I'm glad I never even had a chance to because my shoes might end up somewhere else. He's one of the fastest things that came through Carolina."
In four seasons as the UNC long-snapper, Warren made only one mistake: As a freshman, he sailed a snap over the punter's head and through the end zone for a safety.
According to Longsnap.com, Warren has a pro-like deep-snap time of 0.7 seconds. The site listed him as one of the top five long-snappers coming out of college this spring.
"I felt I had a good chance to compete here," Warren said. "We had a couple teams talking with us but my agent, when he called me, said ‘This is the one we're going to,' so I said that's fine. I just wanted a shot with some team. It didn't matter who."
Warren said he first long-snapped in middle school after the coach told him it was in his blood.
"He told me my father did it in high school," Warren said. "Our town's so small, everybody knows everybody. So they told me about my father and told me to go ahead and do it.
"Then, in high school, when my father was my coach, he just told me to get in there and do it. It didn't come naturally at first. I've had to snap a whole lot and work at it. There was a big leap I had of improvement between my senior year in high school and college."
It'll take another big leap for Warren to take the job from Schneck, even if his good friend can't cheer him on.
PITTSBURGH – It might be another snap in the dark, but the Steelers believe they have a hot-shot rookie to compete against veteran Mike Schneck.
It might be another snap in the dark, but the Steelers believe they have a hot-shot rookie...