Essential Bearcats shining on special teams

Seniors Dylar Richmond and Matt Garrett

By Kyle Roberts

Quick: name any long snapper in the NFL Hall of Fame.

I’ll wait.

How about a placeholder?

No? Nothing?

Exactly, because there are no hall of famers in either position. What a shame, too, because there are two crucial positions that could hamper any team from consistent success on the field if things aren’t just right.

Bearcat special teams coordinator Bryan Beck acknowledges the perception of both positions, but he’s quick to remind that these are two essential roles to the success of Ruston football this season.

“Obviously those are under-appreciated and under-valued positions,” Beck said. “(Ruston head coach Jerrod) Baugh has done a really good job putting emphasis on those positions all the way up from the junior high by seeking guys who are role players that want to fill a position that’s we see as important.”

They certainly found two outstanding young men that fit that bill to a Wing-T: senior long snapper Dylar Richmond and senior holder Matt Garrett.

For Dylar, his journey to the position began in seventh grade with his willingness to volunteer for a position that he was not very familiar with at the time.

“I didn’t know anything about deep snapping when I started in junior high,” Dylar said. “Fifteen yards back then seemed so much farther than it does now.  I wanted to be a deep snapper because no one else did it. I wanted to contribute because I wasn’t always an athlete and I was smaller. I really wasn’t any good until I was a sophomore; being able to do that under a second is extremely hard.”

Beck recalls Dylar’s willingness to take on a position that nobody else really showed any interest in credit’s Richmond’s character for how he approached taking on deep snapping.

“When I was at the junior high, Dylar was wanting to be in this role,” Beck said. “That’s really good at that level for someone to choose to be in this role. It’s easy for us to take for granted what he’s done for us; it’s been ten straight weeks with zero bad snaps (this season). That is a phenomenal testament to his work ethic.”

Dylar is the first member of his family to ever suit up for the Bearcats. It’s a different story for his holding teammate, however, as Matt comes from Ruston gridiron royalty: the L.J. “Hoss” Garrett family tree.

“I remember getting to watch my cousin (Ben LeBlanc) play when he was in high school,” Matt said, who is known by his coaches for his work ethic, as well. “It was awesome to watch, and I’m glad to play now, too.”

To be successful, Dylar and Matt have to be in sync as much if not more than a quarterback and wideout or a running back and his blockers. The two spend have spent countless hours working on techniques and precision until muscle memory and rote take over.

“It’s always the same thing; we go through the same motions before each game,” Dylar said. “Pregame, it’s the special teams players and coaches all in our spot.”

Matt echoes the same approach.

“It’s about repetition,” Matt said. “It’s doing it so much that you get comfortable with it, and you practice so much that in the game, it’s routine and muscle memory.”

The friendship goes past just on the field; the special teams players and staff have all created a family bond that makes practice and game time that much more fun.

“We have a great relationships; it’s like that for all of the special teams guys,” Dylar said. “We go home after practice, and we literally play video games together. We’re all tight.” To which Matt followed, “we do everything together in practice, so we’ve become brothers. We’ve been doing this for a long time, especially Dylar and me.”

The two have a synergy so tight that Dylar knows exactly how to hold the football when he’s snapping to give Matt the best chance for a quick setup. If you’re not familiar (or haven’t seen Ace Ventura in a bit), the goal for every holder for a field goal or point-after attempt is to plant the football on the ground with the laces out, facing away from the kicker.

The way we do this in practice, we get so many reps that during a game, we get snap-to-hold down perfect,” Dylar said. “For him as a holder, he has to have the laces facing away from the kicker every time he holds. Seeking perfection, that’s what you want to do. Sometimes to make it easier, I can snap the ball to him where he doesn’t have to spin it at all, but Matt does an amazing job of spinning the ball, even after a bad snap on my end, because it happens on occasion.”

The regular season already proved special for the Ruston program, finishing with a win over West Monroe for the first outright district title in over three decades and locking up the number one overall seed. But Dylar and Matt both had scares before the season started that makes this year so much sweeter: Dylar injured his knee in the spring and Matt battled appendicitis.

Now, thankfully both fully healed, they are both integral to the successful run Ruston has been on heading into tomorrow night’s second-round playoff home game against Ouachita.

And you can thank the hard work both Dylar and Matt put into their positions week in, and week out.

“They have done a tremendous job, and we’re really fortunate to be able to make a state championship run because all phases and details are accounted for,” Beck said. “Those guys are top-notch at what they do. They’re both very unselfish. These are jobs where your coaches and teammates expect you to go out there for a handful of plays a game get the job done. That adds a little pressure, but those guys are competitive and willing to accept that role and execute. I couldn’t be more happy for those guys and what they do for our football team.”