Jason Snelling didn't have an easy road to the NFL. He wasn't the kind of guy whose natural talent earned him a first round pick and some nice endorsement deals. He was never looked at as a potential starter or a star.
By the time Snelling arrived in Atlanta as a fresh-faced seventh rounder in 2007, he had already battled epilepsy. He had taken a medical redshirt his sophomore year and still managed to have an impressive, productive career at Virgina. He was, in other words, used to facing challenges and obstacles.
Consider this: The average seventh-rounder isn't long for an NFL roster. Teams draft anew every year, and the numbers crunch means if you're not supremely useful, you're probably out. The Falcons from 2008-2012 used five seventh round draft picks, and only two of those guys are still on the roster today. It's an uphill battle, and Snelling had to know it would be for him.
Yet he stayed. Now in his seventh season with the Falcons, Snelling has managed to get 321 carries for 1,275 yards, a 4.0 average, alongside eight rushing touchdowns. He's caught 145 passes for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns. He's only fumbled five times and lost two of them. In between, he's mixed in a handful of spectacular blocks and one of the greatest plays I've ever seen:
We're guilty of not appreciating that enough. I wondered aloud if Big Snell might be released to make way for younger, cheaper options this offseason. Some have simply rooted for an upgrade. What we're missing when we think these things is how critically important Snelling is to this team, as a quiet leader, as a reserve back with some power and blocking ability and as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He's everything you could possibly ask for in a backup running back, and he is by all accounts a good, gracious man on top of it.
Yesterday, he had a typical Jason Snelling day, taking over at fullback for an injured Bradie Ewing on several snaps, running twice for 19 yards (more than the rest of the team COMBINED) and pulling in four catches for 41 yards. No matter what the Falcons ask him to do, he does it, and it's remarkable that after seven seasons with this team he can still step up and surprise when called upon.
Many seventh rounders just struggle to hang on, but Big Snell will go down as one of my favorite Falcons of the Mike Smith era. He deserves a little extra recognition for what he brings to this team.