MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Life is not necessarily fair for John DePalma, which is an unusual thing to say for a special teams player with a college scholarship.
You might not know his name because his is one you're more likely to curse than to celebrate. He can do a hundred things right to no fanfare and one thing wrong to infuriate the masses.
Don't apologize. DePalma is used to the upside-down view of the world in which he lives. He is West Virginia's long snapper.
"You know you're never really going to be the star," the sophomore said. "You're only going to do something bad to be in the spotlight. It's a lot of pressure. It's one thing if a wide receiver messes up. He's got 15 other chances to make a catch and run for a touchdown. I have one snap."
Normally, it either goes to the holder's right hip before the kicker bots the football through the uprights, or it goes to the punter's hands so he can start his own operation and send the ball into the sky and down the field, hopefully high and far enough to let DePalma pursue a tackle.
If one of the snaps bends and the holder has to reach, the timing is messed up and the kick is doomed. If a snap is at the punter's feet, a TCU player can capitalize and zip in to block the kick and pick up a critical fourth-quarter touchdown.
But that's the life DePalma chose, the one he chased amidst considerable odds as a high school player at a small, private Catholic school. He played at Pinecrest Academy, in Cumming, Ga., and at a level that never featured opponents as fast or as large as the ones DePalma encountered last season.
"That," he said, "was just ridiculous."
He was used to having the size advantage. DePalma was a 6-foot-5 forward/center for the basketball team and scored more than 1,000 points in his career. That earned scholarship offers from schools inside the state at Berry College and Ogelthorpe University.
DePalma liked basketball. He learned to love snapping. Bryce Hanes was about the same size as DePalma in high school, but Hanes was a year older and he was going to snap in college. He was that good, good enough that he finds himself today at Ohio State. When DePalma was a junior, he studied and mimicked Hanes and then took over and took off when it was his time a year later.
In March 2012, a month after national signing day and with the Mountaineers looking to replace perfectionist Cody Nutter, DePalma signed his scholarship papers with WVU. He started every game and took all the reps during the season, save a few in the opener against Marshall.
Life was good, but, again, life is not fair.
"It used to be really easy," DePalma said, "but now we have Coach DeForest coming to us all the time and he really works with us a lot more.
"He gives us a lot more personal attention now and I think we're getting a lot better because of it."