Rick Lovato thought it was strange when he received a phone call from Doug Pederson on Tuesday evening. Believe it or not, the head coach doesn’t call to chat with the long snapper very frequently.
Pederson had some good news, though.
Lovato, the 27-year-old who was working in his family’s New Jersey sandwich shop before the Eagles signed him in 2017, had been named to his first Pro Bowl.
“It was pretty cool to hear it from him,” Lovato said.
It meant even more to Lovato because this was the first year in which players and coaches were permitted to vote for the Pro Bowl long snappers. Previously, that duty fell to the head coaches of Pro Bowl teams. So Lovato is a Pro Bowler because his peers think he’s the best at the job. Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox is the AFC representative.
The idea to allow voting for long snappers began earlier this season in a group text among NFL long snapper — yes, that exists — and it came to fruition sooner than anyone expected. Lovato credited Giants long snapper and NFLPA vice president Zak DeOssie for helping to get voting on the table for this season.
Still, Lovato initially thought it wouldn’t be in place until 2020. But it happened for this season and he’s heading to the Pro Bowl in a few weeks as one of five representatives from the Eagles, along with Brandon Brooks, Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce and Zach Ertz.
As you heard those names on Tuesday night, you probably weren’t surprised by Brooks or Cox or Kelce or Ertz … and then there was Lovato.
What the heck?
It seems strange to have a long snapper from a 7-7 team make it to the Pro Bowl, but Lovato said he had been keeping track of how well other long snappers from around the league had been performing and he thought he had a chance.
Lovato actually has five special teams tackles this season. That’s more than just four other Eagles.
That’s the stuff guys in the know notice.
“It’s other specialists around the league and coaches who break down film,” Lovato said. “It’s not just how fast you throw the ball or how accurate you throw the ball. Those two things are definitely factors in how well guys do around the league but there’s blocking, there’s tackles, there’s protection, there’s how well your punter and kicker are doing. Cam and Jake had a great year this year as well. All those things matter when you’re talking about long snapping and considering a long snapper for the Pro Bowl.”
Lovato is now the third consecutive Eagles’ long snapper to make the Pro Bowl, following in the footsteps of Mike Bartrum (2005) and Jon Dorenbos (2009, 2014). Eventually, he’ll get his photo on the Pro Bowl wall inside the NovaCare Complex.
“It was just a shot in the dark,” Lovato said, “but I had a great year and people thought that as well, which is awesome.”