Remember the last time Alabama had a bad snap on a punt or field goal?
Yeah, me neither.
In 2016, Alabama had just finished up a run of tremendous stability with long-snappers, with Carson Tinker and Cole Mazza putting together 8 straight years of steady snapping (and both guys caught on with NFL teams afterwards). Scott Meyer was a preferred walk-on that most expected to take over for Mazza, but Nick Saban went out and offered a scholarship to Thomas Fletcher, the #1 or #2 ranked long-snapper in the class of 2017, depending on which recruiting service you asked.
Hailing from IMG Academy, Fletcher was the rare snapper actually worth using a scholarship on, and the 225-lb phemon was an Army All-American and the winner of the Rubio Long-Snapping camp.
In his freshman year, he handled the punt team long-snapping while the older Meyer stepped in as the field goal team long-snapper. By year 2, Fletcher had unseated Meyer and handled all the snapping duties for the tide.
Year 3... Still perfect on every single snap.
On top of that, he came up with a few tackles and a fumble recovery in his senior year and was ultimately named 1st-team All-American and the winner of the Patrick Mannelly Award for the nation’s top long-snapper.
Fletcher’s impact ran deeper than just his ability to rifle a ball backwards 10 yards with uncanny precision, though. He was named to Nick Saban’s leadership council on multiple occasions, and was viewed as not just a leader on special teams, but a strong presence for the entire team.
Thomas Fletcher became much more than Alabama football’s long snapper after a loss in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Fletcher’s sophomore season ended with a 44-16 loss to Clemson, one in which Fletcher felt helpless.
“I can’t go on the field and do something miraculous or put points on the board, sack somebody for a loss, that kind of thing that somebody else can do,” Fletcher said. “I realized in the days following that game that the best thing I could do for myself and for the organization was to have a positive impact on the guys that could make a difference, guys that could do something miraculous. I took that idea to Coach (Nick) Saban and asked for his blessing a little bit to take a little more of a leadership role in the organization.”
There’s been a single long-snapper drafted in the 6th or 7th round of each of the last 6 drafts, so Fletcher, as the nation’s top snapper, will have a shot at becoming an actual NFL draft pick rather than just an undrafted free agent.
Fletcher has been such a perfect contributor that I’m not sure he’s ever once been mentioned on a television broadcast in 4 years... And that’s the highest compliment a snapper can have. Alabama will be hard-placed to find his replacement in 2021.
Roll Tide, Thomas!