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Picking a college to play football becomes a snap for West Aurora’s Sean Weigand. ‘It must run in the blood.’

His freshman dreams of performing heroic feats at quarterback never materialized, but West Aurora’s Sean Weigand eventually found his place on the football field as a senior.

He’s making the most of building a career as a long snapper, which has become his true calling.

Weigand’s view has been upside down, spending last season peering between his legs to snap the ball seven yards for kicks on extra points and field goals by junior Casey Roney or 15 yards for punts by junior Carter Velez.

Keeping his eye on the prize in a specialized area where the goal is to go unnoticed, Weigand took the next step toward reaching it, signing a preferred walk-on offer with Northern Illinois.

“Freshman year it started out as a joke, trying long snapping because my dad and brother both did it,” Weigand said. “It must run in the blood.”

His father, Brian, played defensive line and handled long snapping in stops at both St. Cloud State and North Central College. Sean’s older brother, Peyton, performed the duties at West Aurora.

It kept him in the sport.

“I was originally a quarterback, but it wasn’t working out,” Weigand said of his struggles in a backup role. “I wanted to quit.”

Now 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Weigand is glad he took the advice of West Aurora assistant coach Joe Howell and focused on being a long snapper.

In fact, Weigand threw himself into it, working with former Northern Illinois long snapper Nolan Owen, who owns and operates Nolan’s Long Snapping based in Gilberts.

“I worked with him a couple times a week but made sure I’d get five days a week of full training,” Weigand said. “And lift six days a week.”

Owen was the first scholarship long snapper in NIU history, holding the job from 2007 to 2010.

Weigand continues Aurora’s growing history with the program. West Aurora graduate Hayden Sak was the Huskies’ long snapper from 2015 to 2018 and Aurora Christian product Erik Abrell held the same role from from 2018 to 2021.

West Aurora coach Nate Eimer has turned into a fan.

“I was kind of surprised Sean’s sophomore year when he said all wanted to do is long snap,” Eimer said. “That year, he was good at it, but by his junior year, he’s electric and kept working.

“He got stronger, and finally this year, he was almost perfect. I think on one maybe, the punter had to adjust and slide a half step to the side to catch the ball. It’s a huge part of what we do.”

Roney made 30 of 31 kicks on extra points and was 2 of 2 on field-goal attempts with a long of 39, although he’s consistently good from been good from more than 50-plus yards in offseason showcases and competitions. Velez averaged 34.8 yards for his 28 punts.

As for the rest of Weigand’s game?

“I had one opportunity to make a tackle this season on a punt return against Minooka and whiffed,” he said sheepishly. “And my junior year against Oswego, the return man fumbled at his own 4 and it was right in front of me.

“As I went to scoop and score, though, I started to trip and just decided to fall on it.”

Thankfully, most of the gig involves snapping.

“It was pretty easy to get the ball back with accuracy when I started,” Weigand said. “What Nolan did for me was get my speed up. The big part is speed of the snap combined with accuracy.”

Weigand, who received recruiting interest from several schools, was hoping to go south to warmer weather but the transfer portal has had a big impact on his specialty as well as other positions.

He said he knows of only one long snapper who received a scholarship offer coming out of high school. The rest have to prove themselves as preferred walk-ons and earn their spot.

“There’s only one scholarship for the spot,” he said.

Weigand felt his showing at a recent camp in Las Vegas, where his punt snaps were timed at .68 of a second, caught the attention of NIU special teams coordinator Adam Breske.

As a freshman, Weigand anticipates competing with returning starter Isaac Hatfield, a redshirt senior, hoping to eventually earn the starting job and a scholarship.

It’s coming into focus.