Jake Longenecker hopes his high school football coach was watching “SportsCenter” yesterday.
“I said ‘I want to play running back’ because it was the easiest practice, and he said ‘no Jake, you’re too slow for that.'”
The Potomac, Maryland native wound up playing quarterback and outside linebacker for the Churchill High School Bulldogs.
“I wasn’t exactly known for being fast or anything,” Longenecker says.
Now that’s pretty much all he’s known for.
During the first quarter of Auburn’s 45-21 win over Arkansas, SEC Network cameras caught the sophomore Auburn football equipment manager sprinting down the sidelines and actually keeping pace with Auburn wide receiver Melvin Ray for nearly half the length of the field as Ray ran for Auburn’s first touchdown. (Can’t see the video? Try here.)
Within minutes, he was a Twitter MVP.
Longenecker says he only realized his hash mark heroics had their own hashtag during the game’s 4th quarter lightning delay.
“We went into the media room and someone showed me a Vine of it (his run) that had, like, 180,000 loops or something,” Longenecker says. “I was like, ‘that’s pretty funny, that’s interesting.’ Then ‘College GameDay’ retweets it.”
Then Deadspin did something. Then USA Today. Then ESPN tweeted out a video… and then SportsCenter. Not just the website–the broadcast.
Since then, Longenecker’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing with “congrats!” from friends, and rattling with friend requests. Usually after a game, the vibrations are just his grandmother texting him photos of his paused, blurry face somewhere in the background. Now strangers are sending him links to Washington Post stories suggesting he’s the fastest member of Auburn’s football team, and blogs calling him “literally the fastest person alive.”
Longenecker’s taking it all in stride, as it were.
“I never thought me running 45 yards would garner this much attention,” he says.
Longenecker isn’t the first Auburn student equipment manager to steal the spotlight with speed during an Auburn touchdown.
Last year in Knoxville, ESPN color analyst Brian Griese marveled at the speed of Andrew Jarrett, who outran Tennessee’s coverage unit during a Corey Grant punt return. And as for the Kick Six, well, there went Jarrett.
Sure, Longenecker says turning on the jets every chance he, Jarrett, and fellow managers Blair Kenimer and Robert Langhout get is partly for fun. But at the same time, he says Auburn has become Ball Boy U. out of necessity.
“We like to go as fast as possible, just like our offense,” he says. “We have to be ready to give the ball to the refs at all times. If our guy is running 50 yards down the field, we try to keep up with him. Part of it is just having fun, but at the same time our job is to help run the hurry-up the best it can be.”
Longenecker says Auburn ball boys are actually instructed to be, well, Auburn Fast. If they’re not, Auburn’s not fast—or at least maybe not as fast as it could be.
“We have to give them (the officials) a certain amount of buffer room or they’ll yell at us,” he says, “but in order to run the hurry-up we have to be pretty much ready to give them the ball.”
The ball boys aren’t the only non-player personnel that have had to up their gameday game since Gus Malzahn’s arrival. The hurry-up no-huddle offense has also forced to the Auburn University Marching Band to adjust their cheers. But cranking the tempo on the fight song is one thing. Keeping pace with a wide receiver is something else.
So is Longenecker as fast as Melvin Ray? Is he faster?
No, he’s not.
“I mean, obviously Melvin’s much faster than I am,” Longenecker says. “He’s obviously a better athlete.”
But he still enjoys the idea of his old coach second-guessing himself.
“I’ve been trying to find his email to send a link (to the “SportsCenter” video) and say something like ‘how about that running back position now?'”
UPDATE: Jake Longenecker tries to buy Auburn Ball Boy T-shirts without being recognized, fails.
UPDATE: ‘Looks like he’s gotten a little faster’: Jake Longenecker’s former high school coach proud of Auburn ball boy’s newfound fame.
Related: Best Damn Ball Boy in America: Auburn junior Andrew Jarrett had a front-row seat—and played an important role—in Tigers’ amazing 2013 season.
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