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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Toledo at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Notre Dame Fighting Irish long snapper Michael Vinson (65) looks on during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Toledo Rockets on September 11, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium, in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Listed measurements: 6-foot-2, 230 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: A fifth-year veteran, Vinson has two seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver voiding the cost of his 12 appearances in 2020.Depth Chart: The former walk-on will start for Notre Dame, so much as a long snapper can unofficially start.Recruiting: Though a former walk-on in South Bend, Vinson could have enjoyed a scholarship at Army or had an easier, preferred walk-on path at Mississippi State or Northwestern. Instead, he took his time at Notre Dame, thus earning a scholarship before the Irish played in the Fiesta Bowl to end last season.

Vinson won the starting long snapper job in 2020, appearing in all 12 games that season after debuting in two blowouts in 2019. His first-string status remained unchanged in 2021, despite scholarship long snapper Alex Peitsch no longer being a green freshman.

Former Irish punter Tyler Newsome coined the nickname “Milk” for Vinson, an aspect of Newsome’s own quirky personality as he themed the entire specialists unit after cheese. A few years later, that nickname has worked out rather well for Vinson, not only as it has become so ubiquitous that he uses it to introduce himself to anyone around the football program, but also because it created this opportunity this past weekend ...

Receiving that scholarship will not change Vinson’s work ethic. After all, he received it only after he informed head coach Marcus Freeman he wanted to return for a fifth season as a walk-on.

If anything, Vinson views the scholarship as incentive to work harder. He needs to prove the investment worthwhile.

“It has made me want to work even harder, because coming in here as a walk-on, you definitely have to prove something,” he said in mid-January. “Just because you get that check doesn’t mean that the work stops. It means you have to work harder, because you have to keep proving to yourself and the coaching staff why you deserve the spot and the scholarship.”

“Very simply, aside from perhaps a punt tackle or two, Notre Dame would rather you never think about “Milk” again. Thus is the nature of the long snapper position.

“That is the moral of this story. In 2020, long snapper debacles became a weekly occurrence. The national laughter was matched only by cringes as games devolved after the first bad snap led to a hesitant second snap and then an anxiety-riddled third.

“Vinson proving himself capable, let alone the starter, made it so the Irish could survive the pandemic without any long snapper panic.”

Not much has changed from last year’s projection. Vinson has not been noticed during a game in two years as a starter. All Notre Dame really wants from him is for that streak to reach three full seasons.

Long snappers are a lot like pilot lights; you only think of them when the wind has blown something awry.

Maybe that’s a forced analogy, but any analysis of a long snapper is forced. Unless he is picking a fight just before the halftime whistle, the job is rather straightforward.

Vinson has handled that job well for a couple years now.

Could he be named a captain in 2022? It is not outlandish, only because he was in charge of one of the winter conditioning groups, always a subset of likely captains, but with two captains returning in fifth-year center Jarrett Patterson and sixth-year receiver Avery Davis — not that either is necessarily guaranteed that status for a second season, though it seems rather likely — there will be only a few other slots afloat. Vinson is not likely one of those two or three names.

RELATED READING: Michael ‘Milk’ Vinson keeps proving people right

At some point, the roster crunch of holding two scholarship long snappers comes to a breaking point, and that will likely end any conversation of Vinson returning for a sixth season in 2023 even if he has that eligibility remaining.

But he will exit Notre Dame with a diploma and a few monograms. Not too shabby for a guy once nicknamed “Milk” because he was not aged enough to be lumped in with cheese honorifics.

NFL possibilities are slim simply because that level is not as particular about protecting long snappers. They have more blocking duties than they do at the college level, and in that regard, Vinson may be undersized.

From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 89 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77* Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man

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