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How New Bengals Long Snapper Cal Adomitis Is Already Well Connected With Kevin Huber

Kevin Huber has a connection with new long snapper Cal Adomitis.
Kevin Huber has a connection with new long snapper Cal Adomitis.

The Bengals' new long snapping duties are in the hands of someone not quite as familiar as Clark Harris, the rock of release for the previous 13 seasons.

But when rookie Cal Adomitis prepares to drill his first NFL snap Sunday in Dallas (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) to Kevin Huber, there's a connection that goes back even longer than that.

"You're taking me back a few years," said Ryan Manalac, the University of Pittsburgh linebackers coach who opened his drills to the long snapper.

Manalac and Huber were not only fellow walk-ons at the University of Cincinnati, they were in the business school together and housemates while winning scholarships and games.

Small world? As small as the mail slot through which Adomitis, playing his first NFL game, has to deliver the ball to Huber punting and holding in his 209th game and adding to his Bengals record.

"Two guys years a part but very similar in nature," said Manalac Tuesday during a brief break from Pitt's preparation for Western Michigan. "Both of them have got a professional approach to things."

That's one of the reasons Adomitis came out of his hometown college this year as the nation's top long snapper. He brought a laundry list of other intangibles that included a captaincy.

"He's a football player and he wanted to work with the linebackers after he was done with his technical duties and he was in our drills," Manalac said. "He did everything. Bag drills, fighting through blocks, tackling, he did it all. He was able to really work on his agility, getting side to side. The guy was a bright light. For a long snapper to be named a captain, that says a lot and how much of an influence he had."

As Monday unfolded and the Bengals sent Harris to injured reserve for what looks to be the rest of the season, the media swarmed Adomitis as he ascended from the practice squad. At one point he invoked Manalac.

"He just said, you know, in the biggest games, you don't rise to the occasion, you fall to the level of your training," Adomitis said. "And that's something I'm just going to carry with me this week. Just going to train the way I always have and just prepare and know that when the game comes, you know, I'm just going to I'm going to do what I'm trying to do."

It was no surprise to Manalac that on Tuesday, the players' off day, Adomitis was at his locker in the back room reserved for the practice squad looking at tape on his iPad. Adomitis' work as a student raising $135,000 for "Cal's Kids," at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, still resonates.

"What he did raising that money was unbelievable," Manalac said. "He's incredibly selfless and he's a hard worker who cares about the people around him. I'm excited to see what he does with this opportunity."

Adomitis is taking the same approach here that he did during his five seasons at Pitt playing 64 games.

Study and trust.

"Certainly I have a little bit of homework and some things I want to start getting a feel for before practice on Wednesday," Adomitis said. "Kick off the week the right way and be real, real crisp because at this point in time my biggest concern is just showing my teammates that I'm capable and they can trust me because that's what it's about.

"And we're going to play our best if we all trust each other. So that's just my goal for this week, to show the guys that they can trust me and I can get the job done."

This isn't your typical rush job to replace a long snapper in midseason. It's not what Harris went through 13 years ago, cut from the Texans practice squad two weeks before he was snapping against them for the Bengals. Adomitis has been here since the first day of spring ball, snapped in all three preseason games and, according to special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, held up well against Harris head-to-head. But 13 years without an unplayable snap is 13 years.

"I think it was pretty close. I think it was pretty tight," Simmons said. "(Harris) came in in better shape. He lost some weight. He was in what I felt was good condition to really compete and compete hard for that spot, and he did. There is a certain level of trust and for however many years it's been now, I can take that position and put it aside and not have to think about it.

"It was close. It was tight. Cal competed hard. It was just he was in the spot where I felt like we felt like the Clark was still in good, physical and mental condition."

Harris, never shy or lacking for words, likes how Adomitis has handled himself.

"He's got confidence. He's got the demeanor. When he was the guy for the preseason games, he never really looked nervous," Harris said. "He didn't give off any nervous energy. He was real calm, collected, and he went out and did a great job. So I've got all the confidence in the world in him."

Harris, who says even if he's done for the year, he'll try to stay in the league next year. One of his goals is, at 202 games, to catch Huber.

"I've got to see how long I can last now," Harris said. "A few more years now I guess."

He says he'll stick around this season as rehabs and helps Adomitis. He can help with deciphering looks and blocking, a skill not required for college long snappers. The rookie's ability to get the ball back there is not debated.

"(Blocking is) what we've worked on with them all since camp. He's always been able to snap since he's came in," Harris said. "He's been fine snapping. But now like you said, Darren just worked on his blocking mainly. That was the whole thing and still even up to you know, Friday, last week, he was still working on the blocking and getting his head up and doing everything but he's come a long way. I think he will be great."

Adomitis hasn't let Harris out of his sight and says he's showed him the NFL standard.

"I think he's the best ever to do it as long snapper," Adomitis said. "I feel amply prepared to step in and get the job done … the standard in general. You kind of come in with what you did in college thinking, okay, that's what's going to get it done. And you've got to learn real quickly. There's a whole different standard at this level.

"Clark, I don't think he gets enough credit for the standard and the level he's played at for as long as he has. And just the level of consistency. Not only just how you snap, but you know how you practice and just how you behave in meetings and how you just have to be a consistent person because all coaches just want a sense of stability from a position like that. And that's something Clark's provided for a very long time. So it's been great to learn from him."

Adomitis is also learning from Huber, which figures because Manalac did, too.

"Kevin is an unbelievable person. Great family. Great character guy," Manalac said. "He can crack a joke and smile and have a good time and as a student he always buckled down and took care of his school work. Always handled his business. Always on time for everything. Very professional.

"Iron sharpens iron. The professional approach and maturity is something where Kevin made me a better person, made me a better player and even a better coach today."

Sunday is a busy day in the college coaching ranks. But usually the NFL is humming on screens in the background.

"I always check on how the Bengals and Huber are doing," Manalac said. "Now I'll checking on Cal."

How small? That small.

"I think it's just habits that I built throughout my college career," said Adomitis, hunkering down for game one.