Morten Andersen had just kicked the Chiefs' game-winning field goal to beat Oakland 27-24 on Nov. 23, 2003. Reporters swarmed Andersen as Chiefs long snapper Kendall Gammon prepared to walk unnoticed out of the locker room with his two sons.
Gammon looked toward the crowd surrounding Andersen because of his game-winning heroics and saw a teaching point for Blaise and Drake.
“That’s what happens when Daddy does his job the right way,” he told them. “I get to walk out of here and nobody says a word, but the kicker gets to do interviews—and rightly he should—because he did a great job.”
Gammon preferred it this way as a long snapper: to be dependable is to be anonymous and to be recognizable is to be mistake-prone. The best thing people ever said about Gammon was when they said nothing.
“They could take me for granted to a degree, which was nice and that’s what I wanted,” said Gammon. “It was my goal for nobody to know my name because normally the only way you’re gonna know my name is if I screw up.”
Gammon didn’t grow up aspiring to be a long snapper in the NFL, but he did want to play a professional sport.
“I think every kid runs a touchdown and scores, and not every kid bends over, throws a ball between his legs and says, ‘I’m gonna snap a ball in the league someday,’” said Gammon.
In fact, it wasn’t until Gammon’s third year at Pittsburg State University that he began long snapping. He landed a scholarship to Pittsburg State as a wide receiver and tight end in high school, eventually “eating himself into offensive line” in college.
One day at practice, Gammon was interested in how snapping the ball worked. He caught a coach’s eye and moved to the position.
Playing around at a practice in college resulted in playing at the highest level for 15 years.
“People just have no idea how hard it is to make an NFL team because you can be the best and if you’re not in the right situation at the right time, a numbers game just might get caught up,” said Gammon.
Gammon’s NFL career is worth talking about.
A stretch of 218 straight games played (the longest streak by any active non-kicker at the time), an appearance in Super Bowl XXX with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1995 and a Pro Bowl selection in 2004 as a Kansas City Chief speak to that.
Those are the three accolades Gammon shared in with the star players in the NFL. Long snappers don’t win MVPs. Long snappers don’t set single-season touchdown records. But long snappers are dependable. Gammon could be counted on by his teammates. And it was the team that mattered most to him.
“There’s lots of role players in the NFL,” said Gammon. “I always talked about it when I sometimes would speak to the team—we had different people that speak every once in a while—if your job is a role player, then you go out there and you be a role player so that somebody else can be a star.
“And if that guy is a star, it’s his job to step up and be a star, and the two have to intermingle. The fact is, I wasn’t the highest profile, but I probably could have affected the game as quickly as anybody with one snap.”
“So, I never saw my job as any less important than anything that anybody else did, and I think because I approached it that way, other people saw it as well.”
The NFL eventually approached the long snapper position the same way Gammon approached it every day, every practice and every game by making it the last specialty position added by the league.
Gammon believes he played a part in changing that, despite originally parlaying long snapping with playing backup when he entered the league in 1992. But when he retired from the NFL in 2006, every team had a long snapper on the 53-man roster.
“Now, when you see specialists, it’s not just kicker and punter. It’s kicker, punter and long snapper,” said Gammon.
Gammon walked away from the NFL in 2006. Unlike leaving the locker room in 2003, he didn’t go unnoticed.
Returning for a 16th season in the NFL was an option for Gammon, but he’d begun concerting energy into endeavors away from football. He knew it was time.
A career in the NFL as a role player set Gammon up perfectly to excel in many different roles post-football.
Since retiring, Gammon has authored two books titled Life’s a Snap and Leadership Lessons from the Best in the NFL. He’s in commercial insurance with a local Kansas City firm, Cretcher Heartland, as well as the Director of Development for Intercollegiate Athletics for Pittsburgh State University.
The role most important to Gammon, though, is father.
Gammon’s sons have followed in their father’s footsteps but not because Gammon forced them to. Blaise—a junior in high school— is a basketball player, while Drake—an eighth grader—plays football.
An organization approached the Gammons to tour their home, similar to the MTV show Cribs. Gammon politely declined—but not without good reason.
“I always say that you can’t snap a ball in the NFL for a living and have an ego,” said Gammon. “I like to think that my humbleness with what I was doing and my appreciation has carried over to my boys.…I made sure my boys knew that we just don’t put things out there for people to see and make it look like we have more than others.”
All quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.