JSU OVC Champions

Jacksonville State kicker Cade Stinnett and Jacksonville State long snapper Josh Brady celebrate their fifth OVC Championship in a row in the locker room after the Tennessee State football game in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

JACKSONVILLE — How does a long-snapper wind up on the team leadership committee for a five-time defending conference champion?

“I was wondering the same thing,” Jacksonville State’s Josh Brady said with a smile recently.

Brady is a senior for the Gamecocks’ football team, and he’s best known for his sense of humor, friendliness, and ability to deliver a football where it’s supposed to go on time, every time.

He has served as the team’s primary long-snapper since he was a freshman and has snapped the ball to punters and place-kick holders about 300 times in JSU games, and he’s so good at it that HERO Sports named him second-team All-American last season.

As an eighth-grader playing center and defensive end for his school football team, Brady never could’ve imagined himself as a potential four-year starter in Division I athletics, a team leader, an All-American, a long-snapper, or playing for Jacksonville State. He didn’t expect any of that.

“I played center and defensive end in high school as well as long snapping, but in eighth grade, my dad just kind of knew I was never going to get big enough to be an offensive lineman at the top level, never going to be big enough to play defensive end at the top level,” said Brady, who measures 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds. “He told me, ‘You need to get better at long-snapping.’ So I started getting better at it. I knew that was my ticket if I wanted to play D-I ball. I focused on it, and here I am.”

Still, even with his mind pointed toward long-snapping, Jacksonville State wasn’t in the picture for him. Heck, he barely knew where the school was.

By the time he was old enough to be recruited, he already had built a reputation as a dependable long-snapper. Kornblue Kicking ranked him No. 1 in his class as a long-snapper. Kohl’s Professional Camps listed him No. 6 in the nation.

Auburn offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on. That was his dream school, so he figured that’s where he would go. A Chattanooga native, he then heard from UT-Chattanooga, which offered him a scholarship. So, he figured that was his destination.

“I came to camp here at Jacksonville State,” Brady said. “First time I’d ever been on campus, and they offered me a full scholarship. I committed on the spot. I never had heard of Jacksonville State that much, but I felt in my heart that God was leading me here. Meeting Coach (John) Grass, I automatically knew this was the man I wanted to play for and guide me, not only on the field but spiritually.”

Grass said he and Brady had an “instant bond.”

“He’s a leader,” Grass said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a snapper that’s a better team leader than he is. He’s on the leadership committee. Just solid guy. Gets along with everybody on the team. Everybody knows who he is. Proud of him and what he’s accomplished so far.”

As for getting along with all of his teammates, Brady said, “What I love, I love hard. I love these boys, and they’re all my brothers.”

And as for the spot on the leadership committee, he added, “I don’t know why I’m on it, but I’m thankful for the position, for sure. Coach Grass has put a lot of trust in me, and I appreciate that. I try to do everything I can to help out my guys.”

Grass said that when Brady graduates, the team will miss him and the job he’s done. As for Brady, he’s still amazed at how well it has worked out for him at JSU.

“It’s been an absolute dream,” he said. “I don’t regret a single decision, a single day. It’s been awesome.”

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.