Kyle Nelson, #86, has started 54 games for the 49ers since 2014. If his name and number don’t ring a bell, that is perfectly fine with not only Nelson, but also special teams coach Richard Hightower. As a long snapper, the less people know of you or your name that means you are doing your job perfectly – literally perfect. If people begin to learn your name, that usually indicates you aren’t fulfilling your job requirements and will probably be let go soon. That isn’t the case for Nelson.
Nelson’s story starts in Calgary, Toronto (Canada), where he began his sports career primarily playing ice hockey. Although football had been in Kyle’s life forever, his father a football coach in the CFL, and his grandfather played for 12 seasons. Nelson first started getting into football his junior year of high school. Long-snapping was something Nelson knew how to do for a long time, so it came naturally to him. His dad, who was now coaching for the Ottawa Redblacks (CFL), back in his playing days he said,
“If I ever have a son, I’m going to make sure he learns how to snap.” (49ers.com) That’s exactly what he taught Kyle. Telling him, “You’re going to learn to snap, because it will help you the more you can do,” (49ers.com).
When Nelson got to college that’s exactly what he did – “more”. He bounced around colleges while playing a variety of positions: wide receiver, corner back, safety, fullback, and snapper of course. Nelson continued to bounce around, because he refused to be “just a snapper”. Nelson finally settled in at New Mexico State, primarily playing tight end and long snapper.
Much like his college career, Nelson’s NFL career started about the same way. Bouncing around several teams until finding for what he hopes to be his forever home in the red and gold. He replaced long-time 49ers long snapper Brian Jennings who had held the job for 13 years prior. He earned his job for his versatility and consistency of snaps – which is what every coach looks for in a snapper. Nelson has remained anonymous to most of the Niner Faithful for about four seasons now, and hopes to continue to be anonymous for as long as possible. So next time you see a punt or field goal in any of the upcoming games, don’t forget to look for #86 in Red and Gold. He probably won’t want the attention, but from snapper to snapper:
LONG SNAPPERS NEED LOVE TOO!