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New Cardinals long snapper Canaday wants ‘to be nails out there’

Long snapper Kameron Canaday during training camp July 30. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s not likely many people noticed Kameron Canaday during training camp.

Wearing No. 86, he stands in at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, and was locked into one of the few actual battles that would determine a starter.

The relative anonymity he worked under comes with the territory of being a long snapper, and on Monday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians announced that the undrafted rookie out of Portland State had won the battle to replace longtime starter Mike Leach by simply saying, “It’s Kam’s job.”

“I’m just really excited,” Canaday said of his reaction to the news. “I feel super blessed to be in the position that I’m in. I’m just going to work my hardest to be the best long snapper I can be and help the team out, help Cat (Chandler Catanzaro) and Drew (Butler) and B.A. (Bruce Arians) and what he stands for.

“I’m excited to be part of the team and part of this organization. I think it’s really a blessing and an honor.”

The 23-year-old will be taking over for Leach, who held the long snapper job from 2009 to 2015. In camp he competed with Daniel Dillon, another undrafted rookie free agent. For the most part, both candidates seemed to do well, with nary an errant snap.

But the Cardinals had their reasons for making the choice they did.

“It was just the speed and the accuracy,” Arians said of why they went with Canaday. “They both battled it out extremely hard. We’re really confident in both of them.”

But of course, teams do not keep more than one long snapper on the roster, and in the event of an emergency both Troy Niklas and Earl Watford spent some time working on the craft during camp.

Canaday said he and Dillon, roommates in camp, were friends throughout the entire process, adding competing with the Campbell product made him a better long snapper.

What also helped was getting to work with Leach, who spent some time around the team during camp lending his experience and expertise.

Canaday said Leach shined light on things he and Dillon never would have though of, including some pre-game routines as well as things to do pre-snap. He added Leach also provided ideas for getting warmed up before the game.

“It’s not a huge difference between college, but there’s a lot more stuff going on in an NFL sideline, and so especially where Danny and I are from — we were from smaller schools, didn’t have a lot of media,” he said. “It was just a blessing having Mike out there for the first couple weeks — OTAs as well — he’s a great guy, has a ton of knowledge about long snapping. I couldn’t be more happy to pick his mind, pick his brain.”

While there was and is plenty Canaday can learn, he did not arrive in Arizona with a lack of experience. Named to the FCS All-America third team as a senior, he said he’s been playing the position since his Pop Warner days.

“My dad long snapped towards the end of his career in college, and then when they needed a long snapper in Pop Warner I was the guy, so I just started snapping, and here I am now,” he said. “It’s been something I’ve had to work on and take more seriously throughout the years, and something I kind of became obsessed about a little bit.”

That mindset probably will not hurt his chances of sticking, not only this year but for a long time. Leach, for example, spent 16 seasons in the NFL before calling it quits.

Canaday, however, is not thinking about the long-term impact of winning the job now. Instead, he is choosing to focus on doing his job every day, one snap at a time.

With those snaps his hope is to provide consistency at his position.

“I want to be nails out there; I want to help out the team, I want to help out Cat and Drew, and have everything go smoothly and hopefully you all never notice me,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there and do my job.”

And therein lies the rub with regards to his role with the team. If he does well, you won’t see him in the highlights or hear of how great a season he is having. As a long snapper, pretty much the only time anyone ever thinks of him is if a snap sails over someone’s head, bounces on the turf or misses its mark by a considerable margin.

Assuming none of that happens, Canaday’s name will stay out of the headlines, and he will remain out of the limelight.

“That’s how I like it,” he said. “I don’t need any attention. I just want to be a team guy and help out Drew and Cat and the rest of the squad here. I’m just truly blessed to have this opportunity.”

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