LARAMIE — Brendan Turelli wears short shorts.
When NFL training camps started up this year, the Wyoming long snapper saw a video of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wearing some shorts cut to about four inches long.
“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s probably really comfortable, and I’m sure he can move faster,’” said Turelli, a senior. “And I want to be faster.”
He asked manager Dan Stinson to find him a pair of shorts he could cut. Instead, Stinson dug up a pair of old running shorts, brown with a dated gold UW logo on the left leg, that fall short of the halfway point between the waist and knee.
They quickly became a staple of Turelli’s practice attire. He has just one pair, and he washes them every day.
“They’re really old, but they’re really, really comfortable,” Turelli said. “And I’ve noticed that my thighs have gotten more tan as a result, which was good. That was one of the main goals.”
Turelli’s previous practice fashion statement was a white visor. He inserts himself into Twitter conversations between elite Mountain West running backs Donnel Pumphrey and teammate Brian Hill — “real recognize real, us three been slept on gotta keep ballin,” he tweeted to two of the country’s top six rushers — and his fellow Cowboys make him sound like a college football version of Jeff Bridges’ character from “The Big Lebowski.”
“He’s probably the chillest dude I’ve ever met,” Wyoming kicker Cooper Rothe said.
At practice, when he’s not snapping or running, Turelli spends time with different position groups to shoot the breeze and keep spirits up.
“He’s just one of the most outgoing, funny, passionate guys I’ve ever met in my entire life,” said fullback Drew Van Maanen, who was Turelli’s roommate for a couple years. “Every time I see him, he’s always smiling, he’s always having a good time. What you see is what you get with him. He’s just that guy.”
Oh, and that guy, the one whose shorts would make Larry Bird blush? He might just have a future in the NFL.
Turelli began training with long-snapping guru Ben Bernard in seventh grade.
Bernard runs Arizona Elite Longsnapping, a training program that has sent more than 60 snappers to college on full-ride scholarships and half a dozen to the NFL.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Coach Bernard,” said Nick Sundberg, long snapper for the Washington Redskins. “I wasn’t big enough to play offensive line. I wasn’t fast enough to play tight end. I wasn’t a good enough athlete to play D-line or linebacker or anything like that, so long snapping was my only ticket to get to college and play at a big school.”
Such was the case for Turelli, who is from Phoenix, where Bernard trains a hodgepodge of professional, collegiate and high school long snappers.
“He’s got a lot of compassion towards the younger kids,” Bernard said of Turelli. “Because he’s come through at a young age, and he understands those kids are kind of intimidated.
“He’s a different kid. He’ll come in and welcome younger kids and help them, and the kids love that. The younger kids will follow him and see that and try to follow in his footsteps.”
Turelli, who started snapping in fourth grade because his father was his coach, began at that bottom rung.
“We all suck at the beginning when we start,” Sundberg said. “But he stuck with it, and he was willing to put in the work and show up every day and compete with all the other kids that are in there.”
Kyle Nelson, the long snapper for the San Francisco 49ers, remembers training alongside Turelli and comparing the future Wyoming Cowboy to himself from that age.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this dude is so much better than I was,’” Nelson said. “It’s unbelievable. It makes you really have to keep coming back and keep working, because these kids — Turelli, I’m going to be worried. Three years or so, I might be competing for a job against him.”
As a southpaw, Turelli is somewhat of an oddity among snappers. But lucky for him, Bernard is not a my-way-or-the-highway type teacher.
“He’s teaching everybody how to do this one way, but then he also knows there’s certain things that work for this guy and certain things that work for this guy,” Nelson said. “So he remembers all this when he goes to coach them.”
Bernard also makes sure his trainees know that when they start working with him, they are making a commitment. He will boot high schoolers from the program if they have a C on their report card or if they show any disrespect to their parents.
He doesn’t give the college snappers any rules about coming back to train during breaks. But, without fail, they do.
“Coach Bernard sat me down pretty early on in my senior year of high school and said, ‘Listen, if you want to play, this is the way you’re going to do it,’” Sundberg said. “’And if you follow me and listen to what I say and trust everything that I’m going to put you through, it’s going to suck.’
“You’re going to miss out on a lot of time with your friends and family and things like that, but it’s going to be worth it.”
Turelli made the commitment, and as a senior at Arcadia High School, he was an Under Armour All-American.
“It’s not that I’m a freaking miracle worker,” Bernard said. “It’s that he put in the time.”
Turelli is probably the only member of the Wyoming football team whose one-liners are complimented by head coach Craig Bohl without provocation.
But Turelli’s penchant for laughs doesn’t detract from his craft.
“He’s always got a clicker,” Van Maanen said. “And I always ask him, ‘Where are you going?’ He’s like, ‘I’m going to watch film,’ and he’s going to see his times.”
College football practices are not designed with specialists’ attention spans in mind. So when Turelli isn’t taking part in a special teams drill or studying other drills as a “third party,” as he puts it, he’s going through a running regimen given to him each day by strength and conditioning coach Russell Dennison.
In the summer, Turelli worked out with the linebackers and nickel backs, getting pushed physically by athletes like Lucas Wacha and D.J. May.
Speed is a key component to Turelli’s role in punt coverage. Wyoming’s current punt scheme doesn’t ask Turelli to be an additional tackler so much as to prevent returners from cutting back across the field.
“He’s been doing a really good job about that,” punter Ethan Wood said. “Especially (with) him running, his feet are a little quicker, so he can make more moves, and I trust him fully to make that tackle.”
Strength will come more into play when Turelli tries to catch on with a professional team. Turelli practices blocking on his own, but it’s not a skill he gets to use on Wyoming’s punt team.
“The biggest transition for a lot of guys is having to learn how to block because they haven’t done it for the last four years,” Sundberg said. “It’s not like you just start moving your feet back and you can block anybody.”
The prototypical NFL long snapper is about 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, Turelli said. He’s currently listed at 6-2, 230 on Wyoming’s roster.
But he’ll have a chance to add that weight after his Wyoming career comes to a close. Turelli graduates in December with a finance degree, and plans to move back to Phoenix, find a job in finance and resume training with Bernard.
Turelli will then have to hone his blocking skill and add that 10 to 15 pounds.
“I don’t think for an instant that he can’t do that,” Bernard said.
Taking the step from college to professional football is a tricky one for long snappers, even more so than for players at traditional positions.
“You’re talking about only a certain amount of jobs that will ever come open during your time that you’ve got available to do this,” Bernard said. “I tell all the guys that are in college and have that desire to move forward: You’ve got to spend two or three years trying get in.”
It took three stints with San Francisco before Nelson finally got a four-year extension.
“Whether there’s somebody competing here against me or not, I always know that there’s a lot of guys who aren’t on teams that are looking to find jobs,” he said. “So every day, if I’m not getting better, somebody else is.”
It took Sundberg over a year and a half before he finally latched on with the Redskins.
“A lot of times there’s a lot of pressure from family or friends or whatever to go get a job and use the degree that you just spent four years getting,” he said. “But this is one of those things where if you don’t put 100 percent of your effort into it when you have the opportunity, then the opportunity fades fast.”
Turelli will have to get better at protection, find a team that needs a snapper and prove himself to that team, perhaps beating out an NFL veteran in the process.
But the most crucial part of the job? He’s got that down pat.
“The first thing that you have to be able to do is snap a football,” Sundberg said. “And Brendan can absolutely do that at an NFL level.”
If anyone knows what an NFL long snapper looks like, it’s Bernard.
“He’s fast enough right now to snap in the NFL,” he said of Turelli. “... He’s got a great chance, I’ll be honest with you. He’s got a great chance. He’s a good athlete, he snaps NFL speed now, and so if he can pick up the blocking and go to some camps and land a job, he can do this.”
Either Turelli is lying or Bohl is.
Turelli said the Wyoming head coach loves his short shorts.
“Coach Bohl says that they remind them of his coaching shorts,” he said. “Every coach on the coaching staff, from Coach (Steve) Stanard down to Coach (Jacob) Claborn, who I think might be the youngest, thinks that they are the funniest thing and they love them and they remind them of old-school coaching shorts.”
Bohl admits that that last part is true. But when asked whether he’s a fan of the shorts, he paused, chuckled and denied the accusation.
There is no dispute, however, over whether Bohl is a fan of Turelli’s play on the field.
In his four years at Wyoming, Turelli has started all 41 games. There are just two snaps from that time he would like to take back: a high snap on an extra point against Hawaii in 2013, and a snap against Appalachian State last year that forced Wood to punt left-footed.
“You don’t realize you have a good snapper until one snap goes bad,” Rothe said.
Turelli knows that going unnoticed is part of the job.
“I like that guys like Brian, Josh, Tanner, Lucas, Marcus, guys like that get all the attention,” he said, referring to Hill, Allen, Gentry, Wacha and Epps, respectively. “People talk about them playing in the NFL, and I’m just hanging out.”
Hanging out, shooting the breeze, readying his craft for professional football. All in a pair of decades-old short shorts.
Maybe Cam Newton can lend him a pair.
Follow University of Wyoming athletics reporter Brandon Foster on Twitter @BFoster91
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!