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MUNCIE, Ind. — When Willie Snead IV looks back on why he decided to play football collegiately at Ball State, he points to a conversation he had with then-BSU head coach Pete Lembo.
There was a time, when Snead planned on attending Western Michigan. But then came that discussion with Lembo, who shared his vision for both the program and Snead’s career. And all Snead could think is that he wanted to be a part of it.
Snead spent his three seasons at BSU becoming one of the most prolific wide receivers in school history. Once a prospect who didn’t feel as if he was receiving much interest from colleges, Snead ended up setting records with the Cardinals. Snead’s junior season ahead of the 2014 National Football League draft saw him record the best season to date in a Ball State uniform when it came to receiving yards, receptions Nike Willie Snead Jersey, and touchdowns. He’d leave BSU with 2,991 receiving yards, 223 receptions, 26 touchdowns and 13 different 100-yard games across his 37-game career.
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Snead views his time at Ball State — which included a win against South Florida in 2012 that he still remembers — as a stepping stone for the career he’s been able to have in the NFL. Although he went undrafted in 2014, he was still able to achieve his ultimate goal. After spending varying amounts of time with the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens, he’s heading toward his first season with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Before he plays his first game with the Raiders, though, Snead spent some time with The Star Press to talk about his time at Ball State, career in the NFL and more.
Snead couldn’t be happier for the BSU program after its historic 2020 season, and hopes it can repeat as the Mid-American Conference champion. He brought up Ball State finally having a new indoor practice facility as well, and praised Throwback Willie Snead Jersey, head coach Mike Neu’s efforts.
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In Las Vegas, is an opportunity that Snead believes will allow him to showcase his talent like he was able to at Ball State and with the Saints. With the Ravens, Snead felt he was in a run-heavy offense with a scheme he had to fit into. As a free agent Snead was looking for a one-year deal to prove himself, and he thinks playing for the Raiders and Jon Gruden provides him with that chance.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead IV, left, eludes New England Patriots defensive end John Simon as he runs for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
You’ve spent close to a decade at this point, now, in the NFL. Growing up, did you think that that was possible? Whether it was growing up or when you were at Ball State, that at professional career like this would be possible? And for former Cardinals like an Antonio Phillips or a Caleb Huntley who went undrafted this past year as you did when you came out of college, what would you tell them about what it takes to find the way to earn a role as a rookie?
“I would just say when I was at Ball State I definitely had the vision of playing in the NFL. It’s something I wanted to do. I’ve always dreamed of that as a kid, and I felt Ball State was a great landing spot for me to do that. It was (Division I), and we were playing some good opponents. And that was always in my mind, and that’s what I worked toward. So, when I got the opportunity in the NFL as an undrafted kid, I just tried to maximize every opportunity and that’s what I would tell the young guys coming in … Cheap NFL Jerseys Authentic, Every chance that you get in this league, whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams, you’ve got to maximize every rep. And if coaches are pointing you out in the meetings or getting on you about something, then you’re not doing it right. You have to take this seriously.”
Snead added it can be hard for young guys coming into the NFL, because they may be coming from well-known programs that they started at. But, Snead said, if they aren’t a first or second round pick they have to “get it out the mud.” They have to prove themselves to their coaches and teammates, and play a lot of special teams.
Snead said there are a lot of guys who don’t take coaching well and take things personally, and that the attitude someone has and their work ethic is critical. Snead has learned if a coach is hard on someone that coach wants to see the best from that player, and if a coach stops talking to someone and roster cuts are coming that player has something to think about. He acknowledged it’s tough to make it as an undrafted player, but it’s not impossible and requires stacking days of improvement one after the other.
After entering the league, was there a moment when you felt like you’ve proven that you deserved a spot in the NFL? Is there a moment that stands out in that way?
“Yeah, I mean, I went through a lot my first year when I left Ball State. I left as a junior, and I got cut from Cleveland that first training camp in 2014, and that hit me kind of hard because I’ve always thought I was capable of playing in the NFL and I could compete at a high level like that. So, it kind of humbled me and I bounced around and landed in New Orleans and I got a futures contract with them going into 2015. And I feel like I really saw myself able to play in this league when we practiced against the (New England) Patriots and they just had won a Super Bowl that year. We did a joint practice with the Saints and I shredded them the whole practice, the whole time we practiced together, even in the game I did great.”
Snead said after that preseason camp ended, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton called him to tell him personally that he’d made the team. That’s when Snead knew he could last in the NFL for a long time, as long as he continued to work hard and maximize each opportunity. Snead said coaches like Payton and Gruden give guys like him a chance because they know what it means to someone like Snead, and the effort someone like Snead will exhibit.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead IV (83) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Ron Parker, right, during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Is there anything that you still feel like you have left to prove or accomplish in the NFL? Or do you feel like your career has moved past that sort of mentality at this point?
“I believe I have a lot left in the tank, and I just have to be able to showcase it. I’ve been in offenses where I’ve been stagnant, even though every time I have the ball come my way I make a play. I just feel like I haven’t had enough opportunities to show that, and shoot I feel like this year man it’s — God willing, everything goes right, I can get a great contract, another one. I want to get 1,000 yards this season. I want to have the chance to become a pro-bowler. These are all things that are accomplishable for me and especially in this offense man. It’s like, I mean, I could talk about it now but you won’t be able to understand it until you see it come Monday night against the Ravens.”