Hard work — both on the field and in selling himself — has paid off for a North Surry football player.
Carson Todd, a wide receiver and long snapper, has picked James Madison University from a pool of nine suitors.
Todd signed his letter of intent Monday afternoon joined by his girlfriend Mikaela Kraft and parents Angel and Matt Cutler and David and Rhonda Todd.
The Toast resident knew he needed to get his name and game out to coaches in order to draw interest, and he certainly put in the work.
Head Coach Danny Lyons said he provided some video clips from games for Carson to share with colleges. Lyons said he knew of maybe 12 or 13 schools that received the clips, but thought there were even more.
Just how many schools did Carson reach out to?
“That’s a ton, I don’t even know how many,” said the senior, guessing that the total number of coaches he emailed probably topped 100. He searched college websites and sought out acquaintances for school contact information.
Carson had seen YouTube videos of long snappers performing trick shots. He had a friend shoot videos of him doing standard hiking drills, but also some special feats, too.
In one video he offered, Carson is standing near the top of the three-point line on the basketball court. Instead of shooting a basketball toward the hoop, he bends over and hikes a football backward toward the far goal. The ball hits the backboard and goes into the hoop — a shot of about 55 feet, more than twice the distance of an NBA three-pointer.
In high school and even at the Division III college level, teams are looking for a guy who plays a standard position, but can also long snap, explained Coach Lyons. At the Division I and II levels, the game is more specialized, so coaches will recruit someone just to snap the ball.
“Special teams is a third of the game, and you can see that at Division I (with recruiting),” said Lyons.
A bad snap on a punt or field goal can cost a team the game, he said. “That’s something we didn’t have to worry about the past three seasons.”
Looking over at Carson, Lyons said, “I don’t know if you had a bad one.”
There was one snap that was high in his sophomore year, Carson noted with a tone of disappointment.
“I don’t think we had a fumble though,” said Lyons.
No, but the punter had to jump a little to catch it, replied the senior. He still got the punt off.
See, said Lyons, in three years there was not one blocked punt, nor one bad snap on a field goal try.
When it comes to a great snapper, Lyons said, “You don’t know how much you need one until you have it or how much you miss it until you don’t.”
North Surry had been a power running team until just a few years ago when Lyons was intrigued by the run and pass abilities of the “Air Raid” offense.
Under offensive coordinator Patrick Taylor, Carson was a sophomore receiver hoping to have an impact.
At the same time, though, North had just lost its snapper to graduation.
“Coach Tyler Hiatt asked me, ‘Can you long snap?’” said Carson. He admitted he was “a little shabby as a sophomore,” but just kept working at it.
He said he attended one camp to learn more about the position.
And of course YouTube has plenty of footage for those willing to put in the hours to watch it.
He said he got better as a junior, but didn’t let up. Each day after the final bell, he would go to the practice field with a buddy and work on his form.
Lyons said he could just leave Carson to his work and focus on the rest of the team because he knew the young man wouldn’t be slacking off.
“This is something that he’s set his goals to,” said mom Angel Cutler. “And he’s done it all on his own.”
At first snapping was just a little thing to do on the side besides being a wide receiver, said Cutler. Once they started researching the position, a world of possibilities was opened up to them.
As a receiver, Carson was an honorable mention for the Western Piedmont All-Conference team. Lyons said said Carson probably had around 45 career receptions.
For both his roles, Lyons said, looking at his player, “Carson won the team award as most consistent, which describes you to a tee.”
As a WR, Lyons said, “He works hard and catches the ball.”
Still, he wasn’t athletic enough to draw a scholarship at WR, but snapping requires technique and precision.
“He’s a people pleaser, and that’s what his college coaches will love,” said his mom.
“He even beat me to the school some mornings for summer workouts,” said Lyons. “He’s a coach’s dream.”
When Taylor wanted to switch up the offense and bring back some of the power running plays, Carson filled in as an H-back, blocking instead of running routes.
When all-conference linebacker Nic Rodriguez went down with an injury against West Stokes, Carson stepped in at linebacker, a position he hadn’t played since his freshman year, said Lyons.
When offers started coming in, Carson was excited, but he had his fingers crossed for one of his two top choices: James Madison first and then Gardner-Webb second.
Recently, both schools made an offer.
James Madison said its snapper for field goals is graduating, so there is an immediate opening there, said Carson. The team has a different player who snaps for punts, and that guy will return, so Carson will have to compete for the chance to do both.
James Madison is no slouch, either, noted Lyons, having made it to the title game of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) the past two years.
Carson said he wants to thank his parents, coaches, girlfriend and friends for their support over the years and during this recruiting process.
As for what he will study in college, Carson said he has an interest in medicine, so he may try physical therapy or something similar.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.