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Cain looks forward to second season


Long snappers in the NFL live by the motto, 'No news is good news.' They don't want to be the topic of discussion on the Monday morning radio talk shows or see their name in the newspapers.

Usually if their name is mentioned during the television broadcast on Sunday then something has gone terribly wrong.

Well, long snapper Jeremy Cain made plays in his first season with the Jaguars that made it hard not to mention his name. No, it had nothing to do with snapping.

Cain made tackles, nine of them to be exact. Only Rich Griffith in 1999 totaled more tackles as a Jaguars long snapper. Nine tackles doesn't seem like a lot but remember the snapper has to get ball to the punter and block before thinking about getting downfield.

It was an impressive debut for Cain, who outlasted veteran Joe Zelenka in the preseason for the job. Zelenka had been the Jaguars' only long snapper since 2001, and he was a fan favorite.

"Joe's a professional and that's why he has a job right now," Cain said. "He's as good as it gets. It was definitely a competition. I couldn't let it get in the way of what I was trying to do. It all worked out. I feel like I did what I had to do to earn the job."

Zelenka ended up signing with the Falcons midway through the season and remains on the roster. It was Cain's second competition for a job in his career, after the first one went against him. He battled veteran Ken Amato in 2008 for the Titans' job and was released during final cuts.

Being a long snapper was not the exact path people had envisioned for Cain after he earned all-state honors as a linebacker at nationally-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas High in Ft. Lauderdale. Granted, he also was the long snapper in high school but linebacker was his primary position and it remained that way in college.

Current University of Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple was the head coach at Massachusetts when he visited Aquinas to recruit in 1999, a year after winning a national championship. Cain had several Division I-A teams looking at him but his high school coach sold him on the opportunity to play all four years for the Minutemen.

Whipple quickly began to see an opportunity for Cain besides playing linebacker.

"When I got there my freshman year he told me I should consider taking this seriously," Cain said. "It was always secondary to playing linebacker."

Cain flourished as a linebacker in college where he was a two-time All-America selection and a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the nation's top defensive player. The Chicago Bears signed him as an undrafted rookie where he played in five games, mainly on special teams.

He was playing around with teammates before a Bears practice in 2005, snapping to one of his teammates. Bears special teams coach, Dave Toub, took him aside and said this is something he should take seriously.

Following the 2005 season, the Bears allocated Cain to the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europa where he played linebacker and long snapper.

"It kind of hit me there that I should hone in on this skill and maybe an opportunity will come up and it did," Cain said. "I'm glad I prepared for this."

Cain hasn't played a down at linebacker since. He credits two NFL long snappers with helping him make the transition. The Bears' Pat Mannelly helped him with his footwork and blocking while they were teammates.

Upon his return from Amsterdam, Cain met longtime NFL long snapper Jeff Dellenbach at a kicking camp in Coral Gables. The two hit it off and began to meet during the week and train.

"Jeff really helped me get more consistent," Cain said.

After sitting out the 2006 season with an injury, Cain received his first opportunity to snap in the NFL when he signed with the Titans in October after an injury to Amato. Cain played in the final nine games and one postseason game.

"It was a great experience and I definitely think it helped me here," Cain said.

Cain ended up sitting out the 2008 regular season after failing to supplant Amato for the Titans job in the preseason. He was signed by Washington at the end of the 2008 season and was waived in June of 2009. The Jaguars didn't take a chance and claimed him off waivers a day later.

Now the only long snapper in camp, Cain still doesn't sound like a man content after playing in a career-high 16 games in 2009. He has been a regular at the club's offseason conditioning program, working with the offensive and defensive players.

There's a feeling you might hear his name a little bit more in 2010, of course, for making tackles. The linebacker in him has never completely left.

"I love it," Cain said. "I have been doing it since I was a little kid. It comes natural from being a high school, college and NFL linebacker. I just try to prove it every time."

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