They are the kind of players Mike Rowe could hang out with on his show popular show “Dirty Jobs.”
For those not in the know, Rowe goes around the country and joins the work force of some of the most underappreciated jobs – and in most cases disgusting – in America.
He immerses himself right in while usually donning gloves, boots and goggles. He gets dirty – hence the name – and makes some sarcastic jokes along the way.
A football version of Dirty Jobs would include the gunner on punts, the wedge buster on kickoffs, the long snapper and the guy on the bottom of the pile scrapping for a fumble.
The difference being none of this is a laughing matter; not when each of the positions , while not as glamorous as most, play a vital role between winning and losing.
Just ask Chandler Dowell.
He has done his job over and over again this year without much of a hiccup other than one time.
The miscue happened to come against Desert Vista’s top rival in front of more than 10,000 fans last week when Dowell’s long snap on a Thunder punt was too high. It led to a safety and the final margin of victory.
In the team’s four games Dowell has been nearly flawless other than that one time.
“It was a mistake and it happens to everyone and unfortunately it happened in a big game,” Dowell said. “I’m glad we were able to bounce back (Friday night against Westwood).”
Dowell, who also plays on other special team units, understands that he will probably never be truly appreciated but takes pride in what he does.
“It’s a very precise role and not a lot of guys are able to do it,” Dowell said. “I appreciate (special teams coach Ken Olson) working with me every day.”
Olson said the respect for players who do the little things that lead to big things is understood within a team and the key to a complete team.
“Long snappers should be the first person on the bus because the whole kicking game revolves around the snap,” Olson said. “The hard cover guys might not make the tackle, but they’ll take on two blockers to free someone up or the guys who form the wedge disassemble the coverage and the return guy gets all of the glory when he goes the distance. They are the backbone of a team.”
It’s not always fair, but those type of players languish in anonymity until they don’t.
“The thing about these guys is no one pays attention to them until they do something wrong,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “We can’t do what we want each Friday night without the help of everyone we have on the field. They are just as important as anyone else.”
While most of the ‘dirty job’ players have defined positions, anyone can be thrust into such a role when that oblong ball is bouncing free and possession of it can be the difference between a win and a loss.
The pile up after a fumble can be a place where all kinds of craziness happen and until they are separated anything goes.
“I’m not sure I can tell you,” Thunder defensive line coach Andy Arredondo said. “What happens in the pile stays in the pile.”
It can be that shameful and fun.
Austin Hicks knows about having fun as both a kick returner and gunner on punt coverage, along with starting cornerback, so he gets both the glory and guts.
A gunner is positioned one-on-one on the outside and it is up to him to get past the guy in front of him knowing there is probably someone else waiting for him just before he gets to the returner.
“I love being out there where I can make a move and get past them,” he said. “I want to get down there and make the play as fast as I can. It’s a lot like being a cornerback because you are out there by yourself.
“I look at all the positions as just as important. Some of them might not be in the spotlight as much but someone has to do them.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.