All Michael Pifer wanted to do was get on the field. So when his high school coach at Penn Trafford was looking for a volunteer to replace the team’s regular long snapper, Pifer answered the call. Some seven years later, he’s grown into one of the country’s best long snappers at the collegiate level, earning first-team All-America honors from Special Teams University.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? When did you begin playing football and when did you realize that you have a passion for the game of football?
I grew up in a town in Western Pennsylvania called Jeannette and played at Penn Trafford High School in Harrison City. I started playing football in the seventh grade. I had always loved participating in team sports and being able to contribute to a team win has always been a passion for me. My passion for the game grew from the day I started.
When a NFL scout pops in your game film, what type of player should they expect to see?
They will see a consistent and reliable snapper with great velocity on the ball. I also show that I have the ability to block, which is something that a lot of colleges do not ask of their long snapper.
What was your offseason like heading into 2019? What areas of your game did you work on to improve upon?
I predominately worked on my strength and speed in the offseason. I put on weight to better prepare myself. I relentlessly worked on my craft as a snapper to become as consistent as a person can be.
What type of leadership intangibles do you bring to the table? Explain your leadership style.
I believe that actions speak louder than words. Carry yourself with confidence and others will notice. I am not the most vocal person when it comes to leadership, but I am confident in myself and know I am capable of leading in any situation I find myself called upon to do so. I pride myself in leading by example.
Name a point during your college career when you had to overcome adversity. What did you learn from that experience?
Adjusting to the life of a Midshipmen was very difficult in the beginning. I had to learn how to approach life as a member of our nation’s military rather than just be a civilian college student with minimal responsibilities. I spent a lot of time trying to balance my academic, military and football responsibilities. Initially, I did struggle and it hindered my play. This caused me to put a lot of negativity on myself. This helped me to grow, because I did not let this setback define me. I used these challenges to keep me humble and I used them as a point of reference for advancement. Addressing how to deal with the adversity before it becomes a larger shadow than it should came with my training at the academy. It helped me realize that most occurrences in life are not permanent, and that you take everything in stride and use it to better yourself in that moment.
What was it like growing up in your hometown? Did you live any other places?
Growing up in my hometown helped form me into the man I am today. I did not grow up in poverty or wealth. I lived in a situation that most people would consider to be “average.” That basically summed up everything around me, too. I love where I grew up but everything and everyone seemed to be satisfied with being “average” and that is something I am not. It bothered me that most people did not try to excel at things. The area helped me realize that I want more from life. I want to excel and push myself to be the best at everything I want to do.
Until I was 12, I lived in a city called Sanford, in Central Florida, before moving to Jeannette. We did not live in poverty, but there was some poverty in our area. I grew up playing baseball with kids who were less fortunate than me. My parents always taught me that I will always encounter people from different backgrounds and to always be accepting of that. Living in that environment, I learned that how much money you have or the type of home you live in, does not define what kind of person you are. I pride myself in trying to understand people and their different backgrounds to the best of my ability.
Who has been the toughest opponent you have faced thus far in your career, either overall team or an individual? How did you fare?
Notre Dame, overall, is the fastest and most athletic team that I have played. Their guys are fundamentally sound and good at their jobs. I fared well snapping the ball against them. The thing I learned most from playing them is that I needed to work on recognizing when an opponent is rushing the punter or if they are getting in my face to hold me up.
What is something people might not know about you or something that separates you from other players?
As a long snapper, you tend to fall in the shadows of your teammates, so people do not really notice what you do to excel at your craft. Others do not realize how much I have trained to get to the level that I am playing at. In my five years with Navy, I have spent every spring break and what little time we had free in the summer flying to Wisconsin to work with a private coach while most of my friends and teammates went on nice trips. Part of my Christmas gift each year was money to put towards training.
I am very driven but do it privately. I do not like the attention on me. I am aware of what my role is and I do everything in my power to be the best that I can be. While many players in other positions are drawn to the attention, I prefer to stay in the background and contribute to the team when called upon.
If you could bring one teammate with you, who would you bring?
I’d bring Malcolm Perry, Navy’s quarterback. I have been playing with him for five years. We are very similar in the sense that we tend to be quiet and more reserved and that we let our actions speak for us. He is the player that you want on your side, the one you want to go to battle with. He is going to put everything on the line to bring our team success. He is a true competitor and the consummate teammate.
*The ninth annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be held on Saturday, January 18th at the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Be sure to tune in on NFL Network at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST!