Goofing around could lead Kyle Vaccarella to the heights of college football.
“One day with one of my neighborhood friends we were throwing the ball around,” Vaccarella said. “I was throwing the ball through my legs thinking it was a cool trick shot.
“My dad came out and said ‘what, are you long snapping?’ We were like, ‘what’s that?’”
That’s the specialty that has helped turn Vaccarella, a Fairfield Prep senior, into a sought-after player.
Vaccarella got connected with Rubio Long Snapping, started by former UCLA long snapper Chris Rubio. One camp went well. Vaccarella got invited to another camp. And on he went.
He has a scholarship offer from Texas Tech and other offers from the likes of Michigan, Penn State, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Miami (Ohio), Auburn and Akron.
He has also been in touch with another eight or so big-name schools. He said he expects to make a decision on National Signing Day Wednesday.
“He’s not what you assume as the typical long snapper,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “He’s a mountain of a kid (6-3, 240). He’s a football player who’s also a long snapper.”
That’s a point of pride and also, Vaccarella thinks, an advantage.
“(Coaches) know you will be that type, trustworthy, who can go down there and tackle somebody,” Vaccarella said.
He also was a top skier, growing up going to Pico Mountain in Vermont every weekend, then skiing competitively in high school. Focusing on preparing for college football made him give it up, but he’s still thankful for the time he got with his coaches and teammates on the slopes.
Vaccarella had been a punter growing up before moving to the other end of that snap. As a sophomore at Fairfield Prep, he played junior varsity. As a junior defensive lineman and fullback, he became an all-state player.
“Credit him working really hard at his craft,” Hellstern said, “and taking care of himself.”
Working on the craft is a lot of repetition, building muscle memory, Vaccarella said.
“You have to make sure your hands are properly formed,” he said, “extending out, throwing out your hands. You also make sure your hands are very soft. The tighter they are, the more the likelihood of a bad snap.”
Confidence is important, he said, but also making sure no bad habits sneak in.
“If you do something sloppy, it becomes a habit, and that can carry into a game, cost you a fourth down or a touchdown,” Vaccarella said. “That won’t happen.”
Vaccarella says that he told himself he was going to be the best player in the state, and if he was going to do that, he had to train that way.
That kind of character stands out about him, Hellstern said.
“I’m very, very lucky to have had a chance to coach him,” the coach said. “The kids look to him because of his presence and, more than anything else, his work ethic. and drive to make himself the best he can be. High school boys, you can talk all you want, but they’re going to be willing to follow strong action.”
And even though the COVID-19 pandemic cost the Jesuits their football season, “despite the circumstances,” Hellstern said, “he came to work.”