Kevin Snead is not a big-time receiver from a college football powerhouse. In fact, he totaled only six receptions in two seasons while playing wide receiver for Carson-Newman, a Division II program in Jefferson City, Tennessee.
This past week, however, Snead found himself on the same practice field as Brandon Marshall, Eli Manning and some of the most pedigreed players in the game as he participated in the Giants’ OTA practices at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
“It’s just an amazing feeling being out there,” said Snead, who was dubbed “The Fastest Man in College Football” by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association last year.
Snead caught the attention of a lot of NFL clubs when he ran a hand-timed 4.22 40-yard dash — which ties the NFL Scouting Combine record set by now-Bengals wideout Jon Ross this year — at Tennessee’s pro day before the draft. Snead also had a vertical jump of 37.5 inches and a broad jump of 10-11 at the pro day. He had been on the team’s radar even before that as longtime Giants scout Jeremiah Davis, who has roots in Tennessee, brought him to their attention.
So a week before OTAs, the Giants decided to squeeze the sprinter on to their 90-man roster. After their first OTA session, it became clear that Snead is a project, albeit an intriguing one.
“He’s fast enough, but he’s got a long way to go,” coach Ben McAdoo said when asked if the track star could make the transition. “When it’s clean and he’s confident, he catches the ball well. When it’s not and he’s learning, it’s hard for him to catch the ball. He’s a project.”
That may be so, but Snead has fought his way through adversity before. He attended junior college in Arizona and spent a year at Eastern Michigan before landing a track scholarship to Carson-Newman. Though he also played football for the school, it was as an All-American sprinter when he really excelled.
“He’s not one of those spindly little track guys. He has some muscle mass,” said Carson-Newman track coach David Needs, who also has served as an assistant on the school’s football team. “There was some talk of him turning professional in track, but to be honest, football is really his first love.”
Snead grew up playing football in Virginia and went to Mesa Community College to play the sport. Needs said his catches at Carson-Newman were limited by the fact that he had some nagging injuries his senior year and wasn’t completely healthy until late in the season.
It’s one thing, however, to play Division II ball and quite another to line up next to some of the best football players in the world, even if you are one of the fastest people on the field.
“It’s definitely a learning curve for me coming from a small school and stepping it up to the NFL,” Snead said. “Right now, I’m just trying to adjust to the speed of things and basically trying to learn a playbook. It’s a big change, and I try to make the most of my opportunities. I love football and I’m thankful just to be here.”