Camaron Cheeseman’s goal during his Michigan football career was to go unnoticed.
That’s the life of a long snapper, after all. If you’re talking about him, it’s more than likely he made an enormous in-game mistake.
But for the last several months, heading into next week’s NFL Draft, Cheeseman has been working to get his name out there. He has fluctuated between being ranked No. 1 and No. 2 with Alabama’s Thomas Fletcher on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s position rankings and as a long snapper knows the odds are long when it comes to being drafted.
In each of the last six NFL Drafts, one long snapper has been selected, and they typically are drafted in the sixth or seventh rounds. Joe Cardona was a fifth-round pick by the Patriots in 2015, and Blake Ferguson was the most recent long snapper drafted, going in the sixth round by the Dolphins last year. In a recent Sporting News mock draft, Cheeseman is projected a seventh-round selection by the Green Bay Packers. (Cue the marketing possibilities — Cheeseman and Cheeseheads).
“There’s that stigma that specialists typically won’t get drafted, but I think specialists have to go in with the mindset that they’re going to be a first-round pick,” Cheeseman told reporters last month just before Michigan’s Pro Day. “You have to go in with that idea that, ‘I’m gonna give it everything I have with the hopes of getting drafted and if I don’t get drafted, I’m gonna give it everything I have on whichever team gives me the opportunity (in free agency) and go in and compete to win a job.
“With our position, it’s very unique, because there’s only 32 of that position, give or take a few guys may make a practice squad here and there. So when it comes down to it, there really is next-level competition for our position. It’s common for all specialists to take two, three, four, I’ve heard guys taking up to eight years just to make a team in the NFL. But even after that, your position is never safe. You have to go in with that – I have to work every day to prove I should be the guy for that spot.”
The 6-foot-4, 239-pound Cheeseman returned to Ann Arbor last summer for summer workouts to prepare for his final season, but he opted out largely because of finances.
“After I came back to Michigan in the summer, I did not have a scholarship,” Cheeseman said. “At the time when I made that decision, the Big Ten, it was right when they canceled the season. There was no guarantee for the spring and I didn’t have a scholarship, so my family had to make the tough decision that I was going to go back home and start preparing for the NFL draft.
“When I got home, a month or so later they brought the season back, but I was already home, already moved on. It was all a financial decision. I wanted to come back and play my fifth year more than anything. That was the goal from my last game against Alabama, I wanted to come back for my fifth year and get ready to go, but that’s just the way things worked out.”
Cheeseman said he has watched a lot of film of Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Morgan Cox because he considers him one of the best in the NFL, and also because of his blocking.
As an 8-year-old when he started in football, Cheeseman played offensive and defensive lines. His best friend, Tanner Harding, a kicker at Notre Dame College in Ohio, encouraged him to work on long snapping. Cheeseman was the long snapper for the junior varsity team during his sophomore and junior years.
“I didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t even know you could play it in college,” Cheeseman said. “I didn’t know there was a specific spot for that. And then going into my senior year, I knew I was going to be the starting long snapper for the high school varsity team, so I was like, ‘I should probably find a coach.’”
He began working with long-snapper coach Gar Chappelear in Columbus, went to some college camps, and saw his ranking climb. Cheeseman wanted to play baseball in college but figured his future was in long snapping, and now he’s hoping that future extends to an NFL career.
Cheeseman, from New Albany, Ohio, just outside of Columbus, also applied to dental school and was accepted by Michigan and Ohio State. But studying to become a dentist is on the side burner.
“Right now I’m going to give it everything I have for football,” Cheeseman said. “If I’m in the NFL for 15 years, dental school, I can always reapply. I have my Michigan degree, I can always go back and study to get back in, I don’t worry about that. But right now, football I’m going to give this everything I have. if I have multiple coaches telling me it’s not looking good, perhaps I’ll go to dental school the next year, but I’m going to give football an honest chance until it looks like it’s not going to work out for me.”