It's not every day you get to experience the wrath of Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer.
At least Aaron Mawhirter hopes so, anyway.
The 2013 Perkins graduate, who made the team as a preferred walk-on last season, just finished up spring practice for the Buckeyes. He is in the transition of moving from linebacker to long snapper, with hopes of bettering his chances of realizing his dream of seeing the field at Ohio Stadium.
Sounds simple enough. But one day early in the spring, the expected starter at long snapper — Bryce Haynes — wasn't there. That meant the spotlight — and tedious focus — of Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes' coaching staff fell on Mawhirter, who is currently listed as the No. 2 long snapper.
“I had one day where it was just a rough day,” Mawhirter said. “Our starter wasn't there, so I took every snap. And the way our punt drill is, we have 10 straight minutes where you snap, then sprint downfield and go back and do it again.
“I took every rep that day with Bryce gone,” he added. “Eventually, the constant running back and forth got to my body a bit and I had a couple bad ones. Well, Coach Meyer is right there, making sure everything is right on, and if not … you get talked to during meetings about it. But I’m guessing everyone who has ever played for him has gotten a talking to.”
The art of snapping the ball back to the punter or place holder on field goals or extra points sounds easy enough.
“In high school, yeah, it's just snap, and it doesn't matter how fast or where it's at, as long as the punter catches it,” Mawhirter said. “But here, it has to be perfect at the right hip or on their chest, and it has to be there in 0.7 seconds — or else it's a bad snap.
“Then you have to run down and go for the quickest guy on the field, the punt returner,” he added. “It's not as easy as you'd think, but then again, you do only have one job to focus on.”
After making the transition to long snapper, a reoccurring back injury flared up on Mawhirter, which set him back during the first few weeks of spring practice, which concluded Saturday with the annual Scarlet-Gray spring game at the Horseshoe.
But after he rehabs his strained back, Mawhirter has every intention of doing what he can between now and the beginning of fall practice — impress the coaching staff.
“Pretty much all anyone can do is go to all the workouts and do everything you need to do to make an impression on the strength coaches,” he said. “They then go and converse with the actual coaches on the staff, which sets you up for camp. If you have a good reputation going into camp, then the higher up on the depth chart you'll be. I just need to work as hard as I can, and do everything I’m told to do. In the summer, it’s all about the workouts.”
Mawhirter entered last season as a preferred walk-on, which came on the heels of a banner senior season for the Pirates in both football and track. He is officially on the roster that gets to travel with the team, and goes through the same strenuous schedule during the week with classes and workouts.
Preferred walk-ons are generally the 20 extra players that fall within the NCAA-mandated 105-players roster limit, which can include a maximum of 85 scholarship players for Division I teams.
After going through a grueling season that he admitted at times was an intimidating and lonely place, Mawhirter talked about how he feels after one full year as a student-athlete at the school is about to wrap up.
“Since I’ve been here for a year and know all the players and coaches, I feel comfortable with the position I’m in,” he said. “Especially with being a valuable part to the team, now actually being in the talks of getting legitimate playing time. It also puts a lot more pressure on yourself, but it's still about surviving the day, and showing coaches I have the ability to play and do what I need to do to be here.”
Still though, whether it's getting chewed out by one of the most famous coaches in college football, or dealing with the struggles of every day life as a walk-on at a major powerhouse, Mawhirter still has a simple explanation for his motivation to keep fighting.
“I’ve thought about it a lot, what it will be like to play in a game at the Horseshoe,” he said. “In the position I’m in, all I have to do is snap the ball and run down the field, or snap it and stand there for field goals or extra points.
“But it will be surreal, and my mind will be blank and out of it,” Mawhirter added. “It’s been a dream of mine to play at the 'Shoe since I knew what football was. When that day comes, and I do my job for team, it will be a surreal experience. Then again, I still have a job to do, and I can’t let the bright lights get to me.”