It is the sort of relationship that, when operating at peak efficiency, is one borne of repetition and familiarity.
The snapper fires the ball to the punter. The punter takes a perfect delivery in stride and boots the ball away. That also can be said of that same snapper on place-kicks, where even a slightly errant delivery can cause points to be left on the field.
In the case of Colorado’s football team the long snapper, JT Bale, works with the same player in both situations, as punter Alex Kinney doubles as the Buffaloes’ holder.
By now, the duo certainly has put together a working relationship that leans heavily on familiarity. Nevertheless when Kinney first set eyes on Bale, with both of them having only recently set foot on campus as true freshmen, it was, in its way, a sort of kinship at first sight. Five seasons later, the two mainstays of the Buffs special teams units will be part of a senior class celebrating its final home game against Washington Saturday night at Folsom Field (8:10 p.m., ESPN).
“JT showed up to a team meeting with his fishing pole and his camo bag, so we kind of knew we’d be friends from then on,” Kinney said. “I moved in with him after the first semester.”
That kinship has endured on and off the field. Outside of quarterback Steven Montez and center Tim Lynott, none of the 17 seniors set to be honored Saturday night have played more football for the Buffs over the past five years than Kinney and Bale, who have roomed together since that fateful meeting as freshmen.
Bale, of course, plays a position that only gets noticed when a kick-botching mistake occurs on the snap. With Bale, that never happens to the Buffs. Bale goes into his final home game having fired off a total of 480 snaps on both punts and kickoffs without being charged with a single bad snap. Sometimes Kinney is there to bail him out, as he did on an off-line snap on a field goal attempt against Stanford that Kinney still was able to get down cleanly for kicker Evan Price. Yet for the most part Bale has toiled in quiet but efficient anonymity.
Which is exactly what any long snapper strives for, even if Bale’s 480 snaps are the most by any specialist in CU football history. No other player has even attempted a single long snap on punts or place-kicks over the past four seasons.
“He’s never really missed a snap on a punt or field goal,” Kinney said. “It’s not something I ever have to worry about. I kind of stop and smell the roses, so I’ve kind of seen this (last home game) coming for a while. Obviously it’s going to be sad, but I expected it. It’s been on the calendar. I’ve been expecting it for five years.”
While the point of the game is to punt as little as possible, Kinney has done it as much, and as well, as just about any punter in Buffs history. His 252 career attempts going into the Washington game trails only Darragh O’Neill (281) for the most in program history. Last year, Kinney became the first punter to be named a CU team captain since Barry Helton in 1987.
On Saturday, the friends, teammates, and co-workers will savor their last hurrah at Folsom.
“It goes fast. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here for five years,” Bale said. “It’s kind of a wild concept.”