PROVO — One of the best compliments BYU senior John Pace could receive is this — few outside the football program know his name.
Pace has been the Cougars' deep-snapper for the past three seasons. He's snapped all points-after-touchdown, field goals and punts. Even more impressively, he's done it without incident.
Deep-snapping is an anonymous job that is often overlooked. Unless, of course, the snap is executed poorly.
"I don't remember a bad snap," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Pace's efforts.
"Typically, if anyone is saying my name, it means I did something wrong. All people want to hear is that (placekicker) Mitch Payne made the field goal or (punter) Riley Stephenson had a great punt," Pace said. "That's OK. I understand that."
Mendenhall is grateful that deep-snapping has been one thing he hasn't had to worry about.
"When you line up for a field goal or an extra point and you know at least that part of it is going to be good, that's a nice situation to be in," Mendenhall said. "John, like many others, came as a walk-on and has done an excellent job."
Pace has deep roots in deep-snapping. His father, Corey, played center and was the Cougars' deep-snapper three decades ago. In fact, Corey Pace snapped the most famous extra point in BYU football history — when Kurt Gunther's PAT capped the Cougars' 46-45 comeback victory over Southern Methodist in the 1980 "Miracle Bowl."
"It's funny, because when I was younger, every time that play would be shown on TV, we'd try to find him," said John Pace. "We never could see him, but we knew it was a great snap. I guess that's all that mattered."
When Pace first arrived at BYU, though, he wasn't thinking about following in his dad's footsteps. He came to Provo from Yorba Linda, Calif., to play baseball. After redshirting, he served an LDS mission to Honduras (where Corey Pace also served) and returned in 2006.
At that point, Pace, who was a tight end, linebacker and deep-snapper in high school, decided to play football instead of baseball. He talked to kickers coach Paul Tidwell about walking on and became BYU's deep-snapper at the start the 2007 season.
"I've played in every game since," Pace said. "When I first started here, I was a little shaky. It's a big adjustment to come to the college level and snap in front of 60,000-plus. It's a little nerve-wracking the first few times. But I've been perfect, knock on wood. It's my job."
For Pace, the entire experience at BYU has been quite unexpected.
"When I got back from my mission, I had thought about walking on, but I also thought about trying to graduate as quick as possible," Pace said. "After walking on, I was able to earn a scholarship. It's been absolutely amazing. . . . I'll always remember the first game of this year at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium against Oklahoma. We've played in the Rose Bowl. I've played in a lot of great places. It's been a great ride."
When his career comes to a close after facing Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22, Pace said it will be bittersweet.
"I've made some great friendships on this team. It's going to be tough to say goodbye to them," he said. "I can't ask for anything more than playing at BYU. It's been one of the best things I've done."20 comments on this story
As for his future, Pace said he will look into making it in the NFL as a deep-snapper. But if that doesn't work out, he has a solid backup plan — he has a job waiting for him with the Los Angeles Sherriff's Department.
To Mendenhall, it makes sense for Pace to pursue a career in law enforcement.
"He's diligent, he's conscientious and very productive, regardless of how stressful the circumstance," the coach said. "I'm not sure what situation could rattle him."
And that's one of the best compliments Pace could receive.
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas
BYU (10-2) vs. Oregon State (8-4)
Dec. 22, 6 p.m.
Sam Boyd Stadium
Radio: 102.7 FM, 1160 AM