ST. MARYS — The football spirals tightly, it has to cover almost 10 yards but the arc is shallow, fitting right into the holder's hands.
Special teams is about timing, the ball reaching the holder right before the kicker does, all three coming together in unison, their rhythm allowing St. Marys to add to its point total. As soon as the play is over, Chuck Vennard is off the field.
“How was that?” he asks his coach.
Always concerned with perfection, trying to play as well as he possibly could to help his team. And though he won’t be playing anymore, St. Marys is making sure it doesn’t forget him or his dedication. Earlier this week, Vennard took his own life having graduated high school five months ago.
St. Marys football coach Chris Dworek coached Vennard for two years, his junior and senior seasons with the team.
“He had a rough life,” Dworek said. “He had to work on his own, part way through his senior year he had to live on his own, make his own money. He did it, and made it through that tough part.”
A member of the Civil Air Patrol, the ideals of duty, teamwork and persistence were ingrained in Vennard.
“He was a good hard working kid, he was a fun kid to have in practice, because he was tough and worked his butt off every day,” said Dworek. “He was a long snapper, he took a ton of pride in that. After every snap, after every practice snap in pregame, he always asked, ‘How was that?’ He was concerned, he cared about the team, he tried to be his best all the time.”
The team found out about Vennard’s suicide Tuesday morning.
Long-snapper is far from the most glamorous of football positions. Even at the professional level, there are 32 NFL teams, a long-snapper on each. Standing out and getting noticed can be difficult but Vennard’s teammates saw his impact.
“He was just a positive kid, he gave his teammates and practices everything he had,” Dworek said. “Kids noticed that and appreciated that… (The) news was devastating.”
This week has featured a lot of talk amongst the St. Marys football team. About their upcoming game with Brookville, strategy and proper technique. But much of the conversation has been about mental health, depression and suicide.
“That's what we said the first time we addressed the guys,” Dworek said. “Don't be afraid to ask somebody for help, because there's so many people that want to help. Don't be afraid to talk to someone, because there's so many people that want to listen.”
Dworek sadly mused he’d wished that he would have said things like that more often. All the students have each other's numbers, all have Dworek’s number. They know if they need him, all they have to do is call.
Football is a manly sport. The people who play it aren’t supposed to be susceptible to emotions, sadness or depression. But football players are human, especially the ones in and just out of high school.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Americans between the age of 10-34, according to the American Federation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
“No one should feel helpless, no one should feel uncomfortable enough to feel something that drastic that affects their and their families lives,” said Dworek. “(There are) too many people who are willing and able to help.”
St. Marys hosts Brookville tonight at 7 o’clock in a monster matchup, as both squads are 5-1, a game that has huge implications for the District 9 Large School Division. St. Marys plans to honor Vennard at the game by wearing purple No. 8 helmet decals.