The Broncos have a winner in their long-snapping competition
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Dwayne Stukes cranked up the pressure on his two practice-squad long snappers. And by the end of Friday’s practice, the Broncos’ special-teams coordinator had his man: former USFL long-snapper Mitchell Fraboni.
Denver released Joe Fortunato from its practice squad Saturday. That decision cleared the way for Fraboni to fill in for the injured Jacob Bobenmoyer on Monday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Broncos can keep Fraboni on the practice squad and simply elevate him to the active roster for Monday’s game. Therefore, they do not have to clear a 53-player roster spot for him.
Fraboni, a Arizona State alumnus, snapped for the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL in that league’s spring season. This opportunity represents the culmination of a meandering path that included five years of tryouts, a brief offseason stint with the Houston Texans and two separate hitches (2020 and 2021) in The Spring League, a developmental circuit.
One aspect of play on which Fraboni prides himself is his aggression. As the ex-linebacker said Friday, “I love to hit.”
“When I grew up, my mom told me, ‘You’re either the hammer or the nail,'” Fraboni said. “So, you’re either hitting or getting hit. For me, I like to keep that defensive mentality. I’ve always loved football. This is my passion.”
Further, long snapping is a passion, too.
“I’ve been long-snapping since Pop Warner,” Fraboni said. “Originally, I was just the one who could snap it the furthest. Then, obviously, it’s worth more points when you’re younger, because kids can’t kick. And then I got into high school and transitioned to college.”
Stukes was not the only coach who watched snaps with a critical eye. Head coach Nathaniel Hackett did, as well.
He possesses long-snapping experience, dating back when he hung around Chiefs practice when his father, Paul Hackett, served as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator from 1993-97.
“When I was a kid at the Kansas City Chiefs, [then-punter Louie Aguilar] would have me come over and snap to him when Joe Valerio had to go to goal line and do different things,” Hackett said. “When I was about 12, I was the snapper. That’s how I learned. I had to do it a bunch. We would do it for tryouts and stuff.”
Between Hackett’s background and Stukes’ special-teams experience, they knew what they wanted.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Hackett said. “It’s accuracy, timing, blocking ability, coverage ability. There’s so many different things. After being a long snapper in my past, there’s a lot of things that go into it.”
But the one thing they don’t know is how Fraboni will handle the pressure of game day.
“A very, very intelligent man that coached for a long time named Richard Mann used to always tell me, ‘A guy looks good, but once you get in front of 80,000 people with the cameras on him, things change,'” Hackett said. “I don’t think we will ever know 100 percent.”
And that is the variable that lingers. Fraboni did well in the USFL. But most of that league’s games were played in front of crowds generously estimated in the lower three digits.
“Again, we won’t know until we go into that game day,” Hackett said. “That’s the exciting thing about this game.