NFL anything but a snap for Matt Overton
Matt Overton's story, the way he finally broke into the NFL, reads more like a baseball tale.
Overton toiled in the minors for years after college, looking for places to ply his trade. He went from league to league, tryout to tryout, camp to camp, hoping he'd finally be able to hook on.
When he was signed to the Indianapolis Colts' training camp roster in the spring, he had already decided it would be his last go-round.
If it didn't work out, the 27-year-old Tracy, Calif., native decided, it would be time to move on.
And then something funny happened. He went to camp, and he stayed. Week after week, rounds of cuts came and went, and he was still there.
On the last day, when veteran long-snapper Justin Snow was waived and his teammates began to congratulate him, Overton thought he might be OK.
Turns out he was more than OK. Overton just wrapped up the first NFL season of a career that has led him from Seattle to Florida to Omaha and now to Indianapolis, the Colts falling in the first round of the playoffs last Sunday in Baltimore.
It took me six years to get here. It's definitely a road less traveled for a typical NFL player, with all the leagues and the trials and the tribulations, but that's made it totally worth it.Matt Overton, Colts long-snapper
"It took me six years to get here," Overton said. "It's definitely a road less traveled for a typical NFL player, with all the leagues and the trials and the tribulations, but that's made it totally worth it."
Overton's odyssey began in 2007, in the months after he finished his collegiate career at Western Washington. He went to camp with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent but was cut.
He spent 2008 playing for the Indoor Football League, the feeder league for the Arena Football League. He ended up with the Tri-Cities Fever, an eastern Washington team fairly close to college, and he was able to finish school and earn his degree in general studies with an emphasis in health and fitness 2008.
The United Football League was Overton's next stop, in 2009. He had sent film to punter Todd Sauerbrun, who played in the NFL for 13 years and conducted kicking clinics that Overton had attended. Sauerbrun forwarded him the phone number of the special teams coach for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL, Al Roberts.
Overton did his research.
"Al Roberts played at the University of Puget Sound, which was the school where my grandfather was the head coach," Overton explained. "I called my grandfather and he remembered him, so when I called Coach Roberts, I mentioned my grandfather and he said, 'I haven't heard his name in 40 years.'"
Overton called it a crazy coincidence, but one that ended up being an unexpected break.
"It got me exposure," said Overton, who was named one of the league's top 10 players in 2010. "Kind of crazy how things work out."
Overton signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, but he was injured. He was released, re-signed and released again.
Overton moved on to the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL for the next two years, trying to stay as close to the highest level of the professional game as possible.
In 2011, he signed in the spring with the Houston Texans, participated in the team's offseason workouts and was released just before camp began.
"That one was tough for him to take," said his father, Tom Overton. "I thought maybe that was the end at that point."
But Overton kept at it with the encouragement of coaches and former NFL players who worked with him during offseason training. Last spring, he was in Arizona training when Indianapolis assistant Brant Boyer asked him to come for a workout with the Colts.
He signed with the team in April. He had already decided it would be his last shot at an NFL roster.
"I remember him telling us he was going to give it one more try. We encouraged him to continue," said Tom Overton. "But it was more him, his drive to keep going. He was so focused on trying to keep his name out there and in the mix with everything."
Matt Overton spent the offseason with the Colts and competed in camp against Snow, who had been with the team for more than a decade. He eventually beat out Snow for the roster spot.
"I could easily have given up two years into it, but something was telling me to keep going," Overton said. "I always had scouts tell me that I could do it. When it comes to long-snapping, you are the only guy on the team who does what you do. If you are good, you can be with a team for a substantial amount of time. There are only 32 positions in the world as an NFL long-snapper, so I had to be patient, I guess."
Colts special teams coordinator Marwan Maloof said Overton is both a hungry and a humble player.
"He appreciates the opportunity, and so far, he's made the most of it," the coach said. "The special-teams specialists, sometimes it takes them a little longer to perfect their craft."
Maloof praised Overton's performance on the field.
"The less we notice him, the better he's doing," Maloof said. "He's snapping for a future Hall of Famer in Adam Vinateri. I know our guys appreciate him."
Overton has been warmly welcomed by the community in Indianapolis and said it has been a thrilling ride for him and his family.
Overton's family, like many NFL extended families, watched and cheered his season from afar, gathering at a local bar in Dublin, Calif., on Sundays to watch the games around a small TV. Uncles and aunts and friends seemed to get unusually excited every time the Colts punted or lined up for a field goal.
"I'm an NFL rookie at 27. A lot of the rookies are 21, 22 years old," Overton said. "If nothing had happened this time, I wanted to know I had given it my all. I just feel so blessed by the opportunity."
Tom Overton said he will never forget finding out his son's dream had come true.
He was on a Bay Area golf course with a friend, keeping his cellphone close by. He was about to putt at the fifth hole when his phone rang on the golf cart. Tom's friend ran to the phone and brought it back to him.
He answered with a "What's going on?"
Matt Overton explained that he hadn't heard from team officials, but that Snow, an 11-year veteran, had been waived and teammates were congratulating him.
"I'm not sure," Matt said.
"There's nobody else left," Tom Overton told his son. "My friend Johnny and I started jumping around, high-fiving. The guys in the group behind us asked what was going on and Johnny said, 'My friend's son just made the Colts!' I had to putt after that and I couldn't grab the club, my hands were shaking.
"That was a great day."