Roughriders long snapper Jorgen Hus goes from 'awful' to outstanding

Life isn't easy for a CFL long snapper. If you do your job perfectly every time, very few people will ever notice you. But if you make one mistake, it could cost you a job.

Saskatoon's Jorgen Hus knows that reality well. The 29-year-old is in his fourth season as the Saskatchewan Roughriders long snapper and you'd be hard-pressed to think of a time he made a mistake snapping the football.

Before joining the Riders, Hus' ability to master the craft of long snapping was noticed by multiple NFL teams.

For more on his journey from Saskatoon to Regina to the NFL and back to Saskatchewan, Jorgen Hus spoke to CBC's Peter Mills:

Most players I've interviewed recently are from places like Bessemer, Alabama or Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but you're just down the road in Saskatoon. What was it like growing up?

Yeah, just up the number 11 [highway]. It's always been a dream to be a Roughrider, of course, growing up in the province and being from here. So just worked hard and coaches always said growing up, "If you want to have a long career, learn how to snap." It's something I always took seriously, along with playing linebacker. I always worked hard on snapping on the side and eventually it just panned out for me.

I try and tell every young kid, "Learn how to snap." If you learn how to snap, you can still do your regular position but it's something that will always help you make that next team.

Peter Mills/CBC

I heard you say once that you started as an 'awful' football player. Is that true?

Oh yeah. I started late. Grade 9 was when I first started playing football and I was awful. I was scared to be on the field. I didn't want any part of it. But I loved the team aspect of it and that's kind of what kept me through it and eventually I just fell in love with the game, worked hard, got in the weight room, got a little bigger, and then the game became more fun.

What do you think was the biggest thing to get you to the next level?

I think it's a combination of a few things. Working hard, doing all the things around the clock right and then just thinking outside the box. I went to a couple of [NFL] camps down south to get some exposure and that's kind of what got my career kick started: spending time with the [St. Louis] Rams, and the [Seattle] Seahawks, and the [Kansas City] Chiefs, and then coming here and being here the past four years, which has nothing but a dream come true.

You said you started in Grade 9. St. Joe's?

St. Joseph High School, yup, represent. Guardians, let's go!

You played with the Saskatoon Hilltops first. How did you end up going to the University of Regina?

I never really ended up talking with the [University of Saskatchewan] Huskies. It was just kind of something that never really happened. The [Regina] Rams ended up calling me one Sunday morning and I had a good chat with [former Rams head coach] Frank [McCrystal]. I came down for a visit and I really liked it. Me and [former Hilltops and Rams punter] Chris Bodnar ... we were best buddies and we both came down at the same time and we had a fun career together.

How influential was going to the U of R in terms of setting you up to got to the NFL and your professional career?

It helped a lot. Frank was really, really well at helping get guys out there, getting you noticed, and doing everything he can to support a pro career. I gotta thank Frank a lot for what's happened in my career. He's certainly been a huge help.

So you graduate from the U of R and the NFL comes calling. What will you remember most from your time with NFL teams?

Probably just the guys in the locker room. Of course, some coaching. Playing against Peyton Manning, that was the highlight I'd say. [Manning was] playing in Denver, you know, that year he broke all those records in 2013, it was just the coolest thing. I don't think I sat down at all once during that game. When their offense was on the field, my toes were right on the edge of the sideline watching because I was a huge Peyton Manning fan growing up.

You had a Peyton Manning jersey, didn't you?

Yeah, yeah. Huge fan, got his jersey. I thought that was pretty cool and I snapped a really good game that game as well so it was probably the highlight.

The last time I interviewed you was in 2013 and I asked if you thought your time in the NFL would help U of R and U of S players get more exposure, And you said 'I think Brett Jones can certainly play. Along with Ben Heenan.' Well, both ended up going to the NFL. How big is that for Saskatchewan football?

It's huge. And there are certainly more guys who can play. It's one of those things where I think every year Canadians are getting more exposure. Teams are coming up here, their scouts are coming up here now. The pipeline is established. There's guys that can play. Jon Ryan helped, [Jordan] Sisco, those guys all had a major impact on it. The pipeline for Canadians going down there is better than it's ever been and it's just going to continue to grow.

Do former Regina Rams guys have a bit of a chip on their shoulder when they talk to other Canadian university veterans? Do you say, 'Hey, we have more NFL players than you do'?

Yeah, I've definitely had that conversation a few times. Any time we got a shot on someone we'll take it.

Peter Mills/CBC

You've said you don't like it necessarily when people are talking about you because it means you made a mistake. But it's the opposite when you're making big tackles downfield like you have this season. Is it a good thing for people to be talking about you now?

Like you said, I hate being talked about, I just want to be kind of under the radar and not talked about at all. But if you're making tackles it's a good thing. We've had a lot of success on our punt team this year and hopefully we can keep it up and get a few more tackles in. 

That's something you always did with the Regina Rams but it seems like you have an extra chip on your shoulder this season.

Yeah, you know, it's my fourth year, I feel like my body is at a better composition than it's ever been, and I'm feeling better. I've felt younger this year. A lot of things have been going right and I just feel faster and it's been a healthy year so knock on wood, hopefully it keeps up.

Off the field, tell me about the work you do with Red Cross.

I'm part of the Imagine No Bullying campaign with the Red Cross. Me and a few other guys on the team — Spencer Moore, Eddie Steele, and Dan Clark — we travel around to schools all over the province and we talk about healthy relationships and respect and some anti-bullying stuff. We've pretty much covered ever inch of this province, we've even gone as far as Nunavut to talk to kids up there. It's something we really look forward to and enjoy doing in the off-season and it also works well with training.

Were you bullied growing up?

I was not. I've had really close friends that were [bullied]. I mean, I've heard things I wish I hadn't, as I think everybody has at some point in time in their life but nothing consistently. But I've seen the impacts of it up close and bullying effects everybody in some shape or form, so it's something that we certainly enjoy and take seriously.

Are you a mortgage professional as well?

Yes, I just started doing that a few months ago, so I'm licensed and everything ... I'm with TMG, The Mortgage Group, so I'm really looking forward to tackling that this off-season as well.

How did you get into that?

I was just kind of looking for careers that work well with football and I thought mortgage broking would do that. You can travel around, you can be on the go, and you can get stuff done. I thought it works hand-in-hand with football and I thought the exposure might help a little bit too. 

Are you making a pitch to some of your new teammates that you'll help them find a place?

Absolutely. Yeah, I talked to a couple guys on the plane last week [laughs]. So I'll try and keep that up.

Before I let you go, you're of course playing the Calgary Stampeders this week. Do you have words for Calgary's running backs coach?

Oh, Marc Mueller! Marc is a great friend of mine and him and his dad, we talk a lot. Larry [Mueller] always comes over. It's going to be a good game. Both teams are going to be really fired up and us coming off that Winnipeg game, we're fired up to show that was just, that's not us. I feel like we're prepared and it's been a good week of practice that I've noticed so I think we're up for it. 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

The Roughriders (10-6) take on the Calgary Stampeders (7-7) in Calgary on Saturday, Oct. 20. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. CST.

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