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Penn State Football: Fuhrman Doesn’t Fumble Chance After 20-Year, 54-Game Wait

by on October 02, 2012 6:00 AM

It didn’t take long snapper Michael Fuhrman forever to get into a Penn State football game. But it was darn close.

Try 20 years, nearly five years of college and 54 consecutive Nittany Lion contests that he watched, but did not play in.

So much for being a legacy.

Fuhrman’s dad Chet was Penn State’s strength and conditioning coach from 1982 to 1992, preceded by an earlier stint as a Nittany Lion assistant and a one-year term at Weber State. When Chet left Happy Valley for a gig with the Pittsburgh Steelers (that lasted 15 years), Michael was just two years old.

The connection may have helped a bit when former defensive coordinator Tommy Bradley urged the younger Fuhrman to walk on from North Allegheny High School back in 2008. But the contacts never helped him get on the field.

Fuhrman did that on his own. It was a long wait.

Fuhrman’s break finally came under Bill O’Brien and his set of new coaches, including special teams chief John Butler. They needed all hands on deck against Navy, and the former conditioning coach’s kid got the call. After the Nittany Lions’ kicking game got off to a poor start in the first two games of the 2012, the coaches made some serious changes. Out was long snapper Emery Etter and in was Fuhrman as punt snapper.

Against Navy in the first appearance of his five-year Penn State non-career, Fuhrman made three clean snaps to punter Alex Butterworth. And followed that up the next week with five good snaps against Temple.

Then came snap No. 9, just 83 seconds into Penn State’s game Saturday at Illinois. We’ll let Fuhrman take it from here:

“The offense had a three and out. It was a regular punt. I tried to get the snap back as fast I could and get down the field as fast as I could. (Michael) Mauti and Ben Kline did a great job tackling the punt returner (Tommy Davis). I watched the ball squirt out and it seemed like forever that it was just laying on the ground.

“When I saw the ball come out, I felt someone on my back – I wasn’t sure if it was somebody from Illinois or it was one of my guys from punt (coverage unit). My eyes got really, really wide, and I jumped on it and held the ball as tight as I could.”

Eight plays later, Penn State’s Zach Zwinak ran off left tackle for one yard and a touchdown. The rout was on.

Fuhrman told that story minutes after the game was over, standing on the Memorial Stadium turf. He didn’t rush his words, as if he wanted to relive it again. And why not?

“It was nice to see everything pay off,” he said. “There’s always been someone older than me, ahead of me. So it was up to me to get better on my own everyday, come out and get better.”

Fuhrman’s dad had a big hand in his son’s Champaign moment, dating back to when the younger Fuhrman was in fifth grade. That’s when he visited his dad at the Steelers’ summer training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe and he was told the opposite of what most dads say to sons of that age: Get your head out of your butt.

Au contraire about the derriere.

“My dad forced me to snap at practice,” recalled Fuhrman. “I didn’t want to. My favorite players were wide receivers and running backs.

“My dad said, ‘Listen, the long snapper here is at practice for 10 minutes every day and he makes a heck of a lot more than I do. So you’re going to long snap.’ ”

And the younger Fuhrman did, through middle school. Then high school. And then four entire seasons at Penn State, but never seeing action in a game from 2008 to 2011.

Then came 2012. Fuhrman, a husky 5-foot-10, 213-pounder, got the call against Navy. It couldn’t have been more storybook. One of his school buddies, defensive end Wes Henderson, played for the Midshipmen.

“It was awesome. I had been at Navy’s graduation in the spring because a friend of mine played basketball there and was graduating. Now he’s training in San Diego to be a Navy Seal,” Fuhrman said. “Playing against Navy meant a lot to me. When they did their alma mater after the game, I was standing next to Wes, who’s going to be a future officer, flying F-18s. It was an amazing experience.”

As has been his three-game, 11-play career.

“It’s been awesome,” said Fuhrman.

Yes, but definitely not a snap. At least not until recently, that is.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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