Notre Dame’s Shannon named top long snapper

Former Loyola standout to pursue career in law enforcement while keeping NFL options open

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Notre Dame v Stanford

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

For John Shannon, the whole night was a bit surreal.

Not only did the Notre Dame senior collect the inaugural Patrick Mannelly Award as the nation’s top senior long snapper, but Shannon did so last Saturday night at Bernie’s Book Bank in Lake Bluff, a few miles up the road from where he starred at Wilmette’s Loyola Academy.

His fellow finalists at the 300-person dinner were Ohio State’s Liam McCullough and Iowa State’s Steven Wirtel, two of his best friends from the long-snapping circuit and fellow pupils of former UCLA long snapper Chris Rubio, one of the event’s co-founders.

And the guest speakers, in addition to Mannelly himself, were two of the ex-long snapper’s former Bears teammates, Olin Kreutz and Charles “Peanut” Tillman.

“I grew up a Bears fan, so hearing those guys talk is awesome,” Shannon said. “Just getting to meet them in person and talk with them was great.”

Walking away with the award proved a bonus, even if at 55 pounds the impressive bronze creation of California sculptor Patrick Rees was a tough lift. Shannon joked that he almost threw out his back hoisting it for photos with a large group of extended family members.

Those included his father Gerard, a walk-on cornerback for the Irish in the early 1980s. Dan Shannon, John’s late grandfather, was a four-year starter (1951-54) at linebacker and an All-American for legendary Irish coach Frank Leahy.

Next up for Shannon is a career-ending showdown with Wirtel and the Cyclones in the Dec. 28 Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Florida. They got their start in the discipline department as eighth graders, attending the same specialists camp at Sandburg High School run by former Northern Illinois long snapper Nolan Owen.

“John’s a good guy, and I respect his game,” said Wirtel, who grew up in Orland Park and attended Mount Carmel. “We got to have a rivalry through high school. He’s a really good friend of mine now. I’m just happy for both of us for what we’ve done to this point.”

Shannon, who will graduate with an economics degree, had another year of college eligibility after redshirting as a freshman due to shoulder surgery. Instead, he plans to pursue a career in law enforcement while keeping an eye on potential NFL opportunities.

Last fall he drove up to Evanston during a bye week to take the physical fitness portion of the FBI exam. He remains in the early stages of an 18-month FBI process while going through the application steps with the Department of Homeland Security and the Chicago Police Department.

“Once you get in there the possibilities are endless,” Shannon said.

Ultimately, Shannon’s dream is to work in the Secret Service, his father said. Interning with the Notre Dame Police Department last spring, which included ridealongs and shifts with the dispatcher, gave Shannon more insight into his career choice.

“We got to do a bunch of cool stuff,” he said.

Shannon credited Notre Dame police chief Keri Kei Shibata as an inspiration.

“She’s awesome,” Shannon said. “Everyone loves her. She’s done a great job there.”

A three-year starter with 38 consecutive starts, Shannon earned the game ball on Nov. 30 in a 45-24 win at Stanford. His fumble recovery on a punt and another downed punt deep in Cardinal territory gave him one final chance to impress the 16-member selection committee for the Mannelly Award.

Shannon also graded out near the top of the analytics compiled by Pro Football Focus’ college division, which contracts with Notre Dame. Rubio, who was part of the voting panel, credited Shannon’s overall excellence and athleticism as deciding factors.

“He looked like an athlete that could also snap a hell of a ball,” Rubio said. “They were all freaks. Shannon was just a little bit more athletic, and he had some huge plays.”

Now that he has made history at the long-overlooked position, Shannon hopes he’s the first in a long line of Mannelly Award winners. Where does he plan to display the trophy?

“Somewhere I can see it every day to remind myself of the hard work and the things that I’ve accomplished,” he said, “but also the things I can keep working on to get better every day.”

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