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Today's the day JJ Jansen breaks the record

JJ Jansen

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Panthers long snapper JJ Jansen tied John Kasay for the franchise record with his 221st game played. And we documented their relationship and the way their two years together impacted Jansen here.

But just like Thanksgiving, there are always too many sides when you start talking about Jansen, and you never know what to do with all the leftovers. So here's the best of the rest, a to-go box, if you will, of things that make him such a unique character in franchise history, in addition to, as of today, the longest-tenured one.

SEATTLE — It's probably kind of appropriate that when JJ Jansen breaks the Panthers franchise record for games played, that he's doing it in this place. Not only is that where his mentor John Kasay began his own NFL career before joining the Panthers in 1995, but Jansen will also get a chance to walk across the field and shake the hand of the man who set him on a path to the Panthers to begin with.

During the offseason of 2009, Jansen was coming off a season-ending injury the previous year with the Packers. They changed special teams coaches, and they also found a new long snapper while he was hurt.

So as players were beginning to return to Green Bay to work out, a young John Schneider, now the Seahawks general manager but then a young lieutenant to Packers GM Ted Thompson, called Jansen into his office.

"Schneider calls me into his office, says we're going to release you or trade you by the end of the day," Jansen recalled. "And I'm sad, but I knew what was going on. They could have easily just discarded me."

But as with a lot of Jansen stories, this one takes a minute to develop.

"That night, I didn't hear anything," he said. "One night turned into two, two into three. I called the team, said should I come back to workouts? They said no, you can go home."

So he returned to Phoenix, while the rest of the Packers were working out in Wisconsin, to see where he was heading next. His agent heard the Chiefs or Seahawks could be interested and the most likely destinations. But Jansen was still an undrafted rookie long snapper, so it wasn't like there was a land rush for him, or a hurry.

So on a Friday afternoon the next week, his agent asked if he had talked to Panthers long snapper Jason Kyle (a free agent who also lived in the Phoenix area), but Jansen said he hadn't.

The following Monday morning, April 13, 2009, he walked into the gym he trained at and happened to run into Kyle. The veteran long snapper told Jansen the Panthers were apparently moving on from him, and it didn't look like he'd be returning to Charlotte. Kyle figured they were looking for someone younger.

That night, then-Panthers GM Marty Hurney and Thompson worked out the deal; the trade paperwork was filed and signed by both GMs on Monday, but they weren't scanned into the Panthers system until after midnight (which you can see on the time stamps), and since it was late enough, the word didn't get to Jansen immediately.

"The next morning, about 5 in the morning on a Tuesday, I got a call from my agent that Marty traded for me," Jansen said with a laugh. "I didn't know where Carolina was, didn't know anything about Charlotte at all.

"So on a Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. local Phoenix time, I'm laying in bed. The next morning, I was on a flight and doing workouts in Bank of America Stadium with Jerry Simmons and Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad and all those guys were running around, and I didn't know where I was."

— About that trade.

Jansen joked that it was for "slightly more than a bag of balls," but it was specifically for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2011.

The condition was that he had to be on the 53-man roster for at least five games, or the game-day active list (which was 45 players then) for at least three games.

He'll pass that active games mark by 219 when he suits up today.


— Of course, since we're talking history, we have to consider the cost of the deal.

"Once I made the team, and the trade was consummated, I followed the pick," Jansen said. "Naturally, I was hoping it would turn into a Tom Brady."

Not quite, but the return wasn't bad.

Since the Panthers went 2-14 in 2010, that became the first overall pick of the seventh round, a truly valuable choice (at least, as valuable as a seventh-round pick can be), 204th overall.

Of course, it wasn't so valuable that the Packers weren't willing to part with it.

Green Bay sent it to the Broncos along with a fourth-round pick (129th overall) for a fifth and a sixth that year (141st and 186th).

The Broncos took Portland State tight end Julius Thomas at 129, and he made a couple of Pro Bowls during a seven-year career. The Packers took Arkansas tight end DJ Williams at 141 and Appalachian State linebacker DJ Smith at 186. (That's right, the Packers effectively traded one JJ for two DJs).

With the 204th pick, the Broncos took Nevada tight end Virgil Green, a blocker who caught 102 passes in 10 years in the league. Jansen and the Panthers would see him in Super Bowl 50 (when you hang around the league for as long as Jansen has, every story crosses paths with another).

JJ Jansen

— Once Jansen established himself, he became the sixth long snapper to play in a game in franchise history.

His mentor Kasay first worked with Mark Rodenhauser (1995-97), while 1998 brought Jerry Jensen and Danny Villa, followed by Brian Kinchen (1999-2000), and then Kyle (2001-2008).

Long snappers are usually kind of tweeners, some former linebackers and some former linemen, and some part-time tight ends. But when a 23-year-old Jansen rolled in, he mostly looked like a former baseball player. (Suffice it to say he's in better shape now than he was then).

"You know, when JJ got here, if you'd have cut his head off, he looked just like Mark Rodenhauser," Kasay said with a laugh. "Their builds and dimensions were pretty similar." (That's kind of a weird way to say it, but specialists have a weird way of thinking about the world sometimes. And that's also a roundabout way of suggesting they weren't necessarily going to be confused with a Julius Peppers or anything).


— Aside from the perhaps gruesome comparisons, Kasay saw a lot of potential in Jansen, so then he tried to teach him how to snap.

"He continued to refine his game every day," Kasay said. "He was always a player, from a young age, that you could tell it meant a lot to him to get it right."

A lot of college snappers are found because, at some specialist camp along the way, they showed someone they can fling a ball between their legs at a high velocity. That's not necessarily what a punter or a holder (generally the same person) in the NFL is looking for.

"What gets you into the league is you snap it really hard, and then you get to the pros, none of that matters," Jansen said. "We need good laces; we need to be accurate. You need to protect. All the things that get you to the league are irrelevant once you get to the league.

"I talk with young long snappers all the time. The things that make you good no longer matter."

LS J.J. Jansen

— Speaking of Baker, he and Kasay had worked together for four years before Jansen arrived, so they knew each other pretty well, and coach John Fox had them the entire time. Then they had to get to know the new guy.

So especially early in his time here, Jansen remembers the time they spent together the nights before games.

The ritual in the special teams meetings, according to Fox, was to play "the candy game."

As games go, it was fairly simple. You grab a fistful of hard candies that hotels tend to have lying around, and you tried to throw them in a coffee cup. Stories are told. Bonds are built.

Occasionally, small and friendly wagers were placed on this game of dexterity and (let's face it) luck.

"You can really find out who the athletes are when you see how they throw candy in a coffee cup," Fox said with a laugh. "Those guys were seriously competitive about it, though."

J.J. Jansen, John Kasay, Jason Baker

While the debates about relative athleticism are for another day, the one thing that's clear is that Jansen is the nerd of the room. (In a good way. You'd let him do your taxes.)

"We were always competing during breaks in practice, trying to hit crossbars and stuff like that," Jansen said. "So all the little bets and fines through the week started to add up.

"By my second year, I was in charge of building the Excel spreadsheets to keep track of who was winning and losing."

All to keep an accurate and specific record of who was best at throwing candy into a coffee cup.

J.J. Jansen

— Speaking of coffee cups, if you ever see Jansen at the Panthers facility (other than on the practice field), he probably has one in his hand.

"I don't think anybody in the world drinks more coffee than JJ Jansen," current punter Johnny Hekker said. "He drinks a lot of coffee. I mean, a lot.

"I don't know; I think it's a social thing."

(Special teamers do have a lot of time to kill. And Jansen has a lot of stories. This is a confirmed fact.)

Jansen said he probably cuts himself off at four or five cups a day. Never decaf, though (he has thoughts about the decaffeination process).

"It's not really about the caffeine," he said. "Yeah, it probably is a socializing thing."

So today, here in Seattle, the home of the GM who sent him to Charlotte (eventually), which happens to be the home of a large and popular coffee chain, the guy who drinks more coffee than any Panthers player will officially play more games than any of the rest of them.

For JJ Jansen, the 222 games come with nearly as many stories. Grab a cup of coffee, and he'll probably tell you a few more.

View photos of long snapper J.J. Jansen throughout his career in Carolina. Jansen came to Carolina in 2009 and is set to go down as the longest-tenured Panther in history.

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