Thaddeus Snodgrass sprinted under a deep pass from Jake Kennedy on Monday in practice, caught it in stride and raced toward the end zone, showing the talent that made him a four-star recruit in 2013.
This play didn’t count, but the Springfield High School graduate Snodgrass made two big plays Saturday for the Wittenberg in the season opener when it did count — and they were moments he had long awaited. They were his first scores since his senior season with the Wildcats in 2013.
“It was a blessing to be back,” Snodgrass said. “I’ve been out for a long time. I’m just glad I got the opportunity to play for the home team and get a win.”
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Snodgrass caught four passes for 117 yards in a 20-14 victory at Westminster College. He grabbed a 10-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and then a 59-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
“Thad is obviously a very talented football player,” Fincham said. “He’s been hurt. He practiced some (last week) week, but in previous weeks in camp, he was out with a groin. The little bit we’ve seen of him, we knew he was a talented guy. He’s bright, too. He learned the offense. I had no idea how many snaps we’d get out of him (Saturday).”
Second quarter: Tigers 7, Titans 0. First career TD for Thaddeus Snodgrass. pic.twitter.com/6JAa7HwSix— Michael Cooper (@ByMichaelCooper) September 2, 2017
Snodgrass, who had six touchdown receptions as a senior at Springfield, was one of the top recruits in Ohio in the class of 2014, earning a four-star rating from 247Sports.com. He picked the University of Kentucky over Ohio State, Notre Dame, South Carolina and others.
After redshirting as a freshman in 2014, Snodgrass earned limited playing time in 2015, appearing in games against Eastern Kentucky, South Carolina and Missouri but not making a catch. He left the program that October and tried to find a new home. He planned to transfer to Lackawanna College, a junior college, but said the “money situation” didn’t work out.
Then Snodgrass decided to transfer to Akron. That didn’t work out, he said. Last fall, he was out of school, working at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Huber Heights.
“I had those times where I was down,” Snodgrass said. “I didn’t know if I was going to play again. I got tired of sitting around. I need to be playing football.”
Snodgrass called a former high school teacher, Michael Cooper, who is the fifth-leading receiver in Wittenberg history (162 receptions) and also a Wittenberg wide receivers coach. Snodgrass was a sophomore in high school when Cooper was a senior at Wittenberg in 2011 but knew all about his exploits with the Tigers.
“I’m really close with coach Cooper,” Snodgrass said. “I just him up one day and said, ‘Hey, you think you’ve got room for me on the roster.’ The next day coach Fincham called me with the opportunity.”
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Snodgrass enrolled at Wittenberg in the spring and spent all summer working with his new teammates to get back in game shape.
“I was in pretty good shape,” Snodgrass said, “but you can’t really simulate games until you’re playing.”
The speed of the game at the Division III level may not match what Snodgrass saw in the Southeastern Conference, but in other ways, it’s just as competitive.
“They play really hard here,” Snodgrass said. “That’s what I was surprised by: how hard they work and how hard they coach the team.”
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Snodgrass joins a growing list of local graduates who have returned to the game with Wittenberg after a spell away.
Jon Daniels, who is back with the program this season as an assistant coach, played one season at Wittenberg in 2004 before leaving school to enlist in the National Guard. He returned to Wittenberg in 2010 and earned first-team all-conference honors as a senior in 2012.
Tecumseh graduate Dustin Holmes was the North Coast Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year last season as a senior. He started his career at Wittenberg in 2010, left school and returned in 2014.
Jeff Tiffner graduated from Kenton Ridge in 2011 and enrolled at Wittenberg in 2015. He’s in his second season and caught four passes for 25 yards in the opener.
Snodgrass has one season of eligibility remaining after this season. He plans to make the most of his time.
“You cherish it that much more,” Snodgrass said. “You know what it’s like to be without football. You don’t want to go back to that until you actually graduate and your time is up.”