John Smallwood: Dorenbos has established a long career with Eagles

Posted: September 06, 2012

IF I ASKED you who are the longest tenured Eagle players, you'd eventually come up with defensive end Trent Cole, offensive tackle Todd Herremans or defensive tackle Mike Patterson as members of the 2005 draft class.

But what if I asked which Eagle has played in 92 consecutive games, including playoffs?

The hint is, he's never started any.

When the Eagles kick off the 2012 season against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, long snapper Jon Dorenbos will begin his 10th season in the NFL and seventh with the Eagles.

By first beating the odds to make the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas-El Paso in 2003 and then sticking around way longer than the average career, Dorenbos, 32, is a testament to how specialization has become so prominent in the league.

"Pretty awesome, isn't it?" Dorenbos said on Monday in the locker room that has been his NFL home for way longer than he expected. "One of my goals when I first got in the league was I wanted to be the oldest guy on a team.

"I figured that if I did that, it would mean that I did everything that I needed to do to be considered a guy who was considered a real professional - someone who always showed up on time and handled his business.

"I'm not the oldest guy, but to be one of the older ones, I look back and am just thankful."

Depending on how you value specialists, Dorenbos, as a player, might be the least recognizable Eagle on the roster. To be honest, even punters and kickers have more name recognition than the guy who snaps the ball to set up their kicks.

But Dorenbos reasoned that his anonymity is likely one of the reasons he's stuck with the Eagles so long.

There aren't a lot of statistics for long snappers. You rarely hear an announcer say, "Boy, that was a great snap that led to that field goal."

The only times snappers get mentioned is when they haven't done their job correctly and caused some kind of screw-up on a punt or kick.

Dorenbos, who was named to the Pro Bowl after the 2009 season, has made a career simply out of consistently doing his job the right way.

"What I learned in my years of being a specialist is that you kind of look at the game from the front office and coach's point of view," said Dorenbos, who has 25 special-team tackles in his 124-game career. "The way I interpret it is that you've got to give them something that they can manage in games.

"Let's say you are a punter who can kick 40-plus yards with a 4.6[-second] hang every time. It's almost better to be consistent in that than to sometimes hit a 60 and then hit a 20.

"A coach can take that product and know that if he puts you out there, he can plan on getting a certain outcome vs. an unknown."

Eagles coach Andy Reid knows exactly what he will get when he puts Dorenbos out there.

"My goal was to minimize my errors so coaches would know what they will get," Dorenbos said, "and even if I have an error, they know the range that error will be in and they can live with it."

Dorenbos said he's never thought about the changes in punters or holders, because it shouldn't affect what he does.

"Another thing I've learned in my career is don't worry about what you can't control and control the things you can," Dorenbos said. "I can't control who is behind me, but I know that if I snap a good ball that is catchable and give the individual behind me a chance to succeed, then I know I'm doing my job."

Because of his friendly, outgoing personality and his skills as a professional-level magician who has performed in Las Vegas and Hollywood, Dorenbos is highly popular Eagle once the pads are off.

His history includes the tragedy of his father killing his mother, and Dorenbos includes the topic when speaking to students about overcoming extreme adversity to still pursue your dreams in life.

His story makes him a popular motivational speaker.

In 2008, he won a Mid-Atlantic Emmy for hosting the "Inside the Eagles" television show.

"I love Philadelphia," said Dorenbos, who grew up in Garden Grove, Calif. "I've come back this year in really good shape. I paid a lot of attention to my diet.

"I feel better now than I did in my 20s. My elbows feel great. My wrists feel great. I want to play another 10 years."

Dorenbos said that more players are focusing on perfecting long snapping in college, and the players coming out are more advanced than he was at that early age.

"It's been really cool," he said. "I got to play with guys I watched when I was growing up and now guys are coming in the league and they know who I am.

"During training camp, a coach came up to me and said something like, "You're one of the grandfathers.' I took it as a compliment. I love my job. I want to play as long as I can."


Contact John Smallwood at smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to philly.com/Smallwood.

 

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