NORMAL - A long snapper is not a variety of turtle. Yet the only time a long snapper in football gets noticed is when pulled out of his shell of anonymity by making a mistake. That has long been the case for Illinois State senior Jake Weber.
Weber and much more heralded teammate Laurent Robinson have each accepted invitations to play in the Cornerstone Bancard Hula Bowl on Jan. 14 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
"I was really surprised and really happy," Weber said of the all-star game for seniors. "It will give me an opportunity to get my name out there, face some of the best competition and show what I have to scouts."
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Weber has been a rock of stability since taking over as ISU's snapper on punts, field goals and extra points during the 2003 season.
"I tell you, this guy is good. He'll have a real chance to make a living doing this," ISU coach Denver Johnson said. "In the NFL, if you've got a snapper you don't usually need another one. But if you're looking for one, this is the guy you need to look at.
"He's as good as I've ever been around snapping the ball, and he's athletic enough he can run down and be part of coverage."
A graduate of Dunlap High School, Weber did not play football his first year at ISU.
"I planned on just going to school. But I worked out my freshman year and decided to try to play football," Weber said. "I walked on the team and ended up doing pretty good. I never thought it would result in anything like this, though."
Johnson appreciates the value of a dependable long snapper, especially after snapping woes haunted the Redbirds in the 2-9 season of 2001.
"We lost about four games that year simply because we could not deep snap," said the ISU coach. "It was just awful."
Weber will graduate in May with both a bachelor's and master's degree in accounting.
Robinson has 26 catches for 484 yards this season while battling an ankle injury. He caught the attention of the Hula Bowl committee with 86 receptions for 1,465 yards as a junior.
"Actually, I was kind of shocked. I was on cloud nine the rest of the day," Robinsonsaid. "It's an exciting feeling. I'm ready to go out there, but I've got lot of stuff to do before I make that trip."
Redbirds on television
ISU's 4:35 p.m. game at Northern Iowa on Saturday will be broadcast live on WYZZ, Fox 43 in Central Illinois.
The game also will be shown on tape delay at 2 a.m. Sunday on Fox Sports Midwest.
Second string quarterback Kevin Brockway is doubtful for the Northern Iowa game, according to ISU trainer Joe Whitson. Brockway dislocated his left (non-throwing) shoulder in pregame warmups last Saturday before the Redbirds' 42-20 win over Indiana State.
That means freshman walk-on Preston Earl will be the backup for starter Luke Drone. The third quarterback will be either Jared Dall, a walk-on who had been moved to wide receiver, or starting free safety Tom Nelson, who played quarterback in high school.
Whitson said it was a reasonable goal for Brockway to return on Nov. 25 if the Redbirds are selected to the Division I-AA playoffs.