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Huskies chase the NFL dream

Storrs - Next month, UConn's Anthony Sherman, Jordan Todman and Zach Hurd of Waterford will be waiting to be selected in the NFL draft.

Derek Chard, the Huskies' long snapper, knows it's unlikely he'll be picked. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. won't be dissecting his game.

"He doesn't even know who I am," Chard laughed.

Chard was one of 10 UConn seniors who participated in the school's pro day Tuesday at the Shenkman Training Center. Approximately 25 NFL teams were represented at the event.

Players lifted, jumped and ran for the scouts. Quarterback Zach Frazer zipped passes to receivers. Fullback Bret Manning banged against a blocking sled.

Chard, meanwhile, was on the opposite side of Shenkman practicing his snaps.

"Just doing my own thing," Chard said. "It's just how it is. I'm a long snapper. ... Everyone is looking at the quarterback, the running backs, the big guys. You just have one little shot in there and that's it. I don't mind at all."

Chard later ran through a series of snaps to John Dorsey, a former UConn player and the Green Bay Packers' director of college scouting.

"I had one bad (snap)," Chard said. "I reached down and I knew I didn't have a good grip, but I didn't want to reset. It kind of hit the ground, so I was a little upset, but whatever. All the others were good."

Chard was raised in Burlington and played football at St. Paul of Bristol. He got into long snapping on a whim.

"I saw this kid doing it," Chard said. "You always want to see if you can do something different, something that other people can't do. I said, 'I can do that. ... I'll show you I can do it, too,' that kind of thing, which is weird."

He laughed and added, "It worked."

Chard began as a walk-on tight end at UConn and was its long snapper the last two seasons.

"It's all in the hips," Chard said. "(It's) consistency. You have to put it in the same place every time. You have to put speed on it, that's where the hips and legs come in, and just give it (the ball) a chuck.

"It's like throwing the ball overhand, except you're bent down looking through your legs."

Chard attended a "specialists combine" in February at Arizona run by Gary Zauner, a longtime kicking and special teams coach. Chard talked to some NFL long snappers while he was there.

"One said it took eight years (to get in the NFL)," Chard said. "The other one said it took three. They said if you want to do it, it's going to take that long. If it's something you really want to do, you have to keep getting lessons, keeping tweaking it, keep going to camps, keep going at it.

"That was a little tough to hear. Everyone wants to boom (be drafted). It takes a little while and it takes some hard work."

Chard said long snappers rarely get drafted and instead sign as free agents. Dorsey said a team will invite Chard to its camp.

"I think about it every once and a while, but it's not everything for me," Chard said. "It's something I'll give a shot and see what happens."

Hurd got a chance to lift for scouts, which he didn't do at February's NFL combine because he was sick. He benched 225 pounds 25 times Wednesday.

"I was happy with that," Hurd said. "(Tuesday) was awesome. I've been working for this for a long time. It's just another step, another chapter in this ride."

n.griffen@theday.com

BLOG

Read Zach Hurd's blog, CHASING A DREAM, about his preparations for the NFL Combine and draft.

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