Paul Sakuma, Associated Press
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Brian Jennings turned to social media to share the story of how he shaved off his right eyebrow during the bye week before taking a razor to the other side for the sake of staying balanced.
A long snapper in the limelight, you don't see that every day.
"Long snapper is one of those positions that if your name ever gets said it's a bad thing," quarterback Alex Smith said Wednesday. "You're just expected to do your job out there and that's it, and he does that. He takes so much pride in doing his job and how he goes about it. A model of consistency."
Jennings is an outspoken NFL specialist with some serious longevity — and he is having a ball being part of a winner again this season for San Francisco (10-2). The 49ers clinched the NFC West with last Sunday's 26-0 win against St. Louis.
"Everything," Jennings said of how much it means to get back to the playoffs. "That's what makes losing so hard. When you have losing seasons, they're dog years — you know, 7-1. It just ages you back. It's miserable. It's hard. Fortunately we've been able to get back on the winning track."
Jennings is the only one in the locker room who can remember when things were last rolling like this, because he is the lone player still around from the franchise's last playoff run in 2002.
"In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago, absolutely," Jennings said, reflecting in the locker room before a recent practice. "We had a lot of veteran guys. We had a lot of fun. We worked hard in practice. We goofed off a lot but then on game day we were serious and won football games. A lot of laughing. A very confident group."
An unassuming veteran who has made his living under the radar for more than a decade with the 49ers, Jennings has survived through five head coaches and years of failure and frustration.
He survived that silly shaving mishap a couple of months back, too.
"I had the clippers and some straggly eyebrows and went voom, just shaved it off," Jennings explained. "I had to quickly figure out what I was going to do, so I shaved off the other one to make them symmetrical, the outside two-thirds. It worked out. I decided to put a picture of it on Twitter as a character test in not taking myself too seriously.
"If you ever want to challenge yourself, shave off your eyebrows, post it on Facebook and Twitter and find out what you're made of."
First-year coach Jim Harbaugh didn't need the eyebrow incident to form a strong opinion about Jennings. The two share an affinity for reading — preferably books dealing in history, war, or anything else they might be able to relate to their hard-nosed sport.
"He's not a Padawan learner. He's not an apprentice. He's a full-fledged Jedi Knight," Harbaugh said. "He's like a Jedi Knight of snapping the football. He brings a leadership, too. An experience, a calmness, a guy that understands making good decisions. Cool under pressure. He's somebody with a lot of dynamic perspective on football. I think that guys are showered with those kinds of virtues around here. I know I am. So many things."
A 12th-year pro out of Arizona State, the fact Jennings has generated a comparison from Harbaugh is really saying something. Harbaugh hates making comparisons.
"I'm flattered to be considered a Jedi Knight," Jennings said. "High praise."
For everything the franchise has endured since Jennings arrived, the success this season is all the more rewarding for San Francisco's longest-tenured player. And he has 13-month-old son Jackson — named after Jennings' grandfather who died after his rookie year of 2000 — to share this with.
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