How Thomas Fletcher found a way into Alabama football leadership as a long snapper
Thomas Fletcher became much more than Alabama football’s long snapper after a loss in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Fletcher’s sophomore season ended with a 44-16 loss to Clemson, one in which Fletcher felt helpless.
“I can’t go on the field and do something miraculous or put points on the board, sack somebody for a loss, that kind of thing that somebody else can do,” Fletcher said. “I realized in the days following that game that the best thing I could do for myself and for the organization was to have a positive impact on the guys that could make a difference, guys that could do something miraculous. I took that idea to Coach (Nick) Saban and asked for his blessing a little bit to take a little more of a leadership role in the organization.”
A case can be made that Fletcher has done enough for UA, perfect on all snapping opportunities in his career and now one of three finalists for the Mannelly Long Snapper Award during his senior season. As he enters Friday’s College Football Playoff Semifinal against Notre Dame, he is the only specialist to be named to Saban’s leadership council twice.
“Not everybody is going to take to leadership, certainly if it’s coming from a long snapper, but the guys that I have rapport with and the guys that I can help, I think absolutely respect and appreciate it,” Fletcher said. “I’d like to think it has an impact.”
Fletcher had to learn what his own form of leadership would look like. After that conversation with Saban, the two grew closer, talking about leadership, life and golf, which Fletcher loves. Thomas Fletcher’s father, Tom, estimates 75% of their conversations are about golf; he knows Thomas and Saban talk about golf, and Thomas has even befriended players and coaches on Alabama’s golf team.
Tom Fletcher used connections from his time working in collegiate athletics to connect Thomas with UA Director of Athletics Greg Byrne, who Thomas said has taught him valuable tenets of leadership, chief among them: a good leader cannot ask someone to do what he is not willing to do or help them accomplish.
Thomas Fletcher was trying to do more than lead from a relatively anonymous position. He was trying to lead a massive program, one filled with the best talent in the nation. Fletcher started seeking out those competitive environments as soon as he seriously dedicated himself to long snapping — with help from his dad.
Tom Fletcher was a long snapper at San Diego State, playing briefly for the Raiders and Seahawks. He always told Thomas he would teach him long snapping, but only if Thomas came to him asking for it. Thomas did around age 12.
As Thomas Fletcher started experiencing success at long snapping camps around the nation, top opportunities started coming his way. He transferred to IMG Academy for his senior year of high school and started searching for the same hyper competitive environment in a college program.
“The thing I think he fell in love with at Bama was he was the No. 1 long snapper in the country and every other school kissed his tail, played up to that. Saban did not,” Tom Fletcher said. “Saban, all the way through, was like, ‘You’re going to have to come here, the job’s not yours, you’re going to have to come here and earn it. This is what our expectations are.’ Period, point blank. He loved that. It was the first coach who treated him like someone who had to fight for the opportunity.”
In that competitive environment, Fletcher thrived, earning playing time as a freshman before full-on starting duties as a sophomore. Now he is more than a starter at his position — he's a prominent figure for the entire locker room. His plan is to do the same whenever he stops snapping, albeit in a field to be determined.
He came to school with interest in business, but his father’s marketing background — Tom Fletcher is the Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships for the Phoenix Suns — has drawn Thomas’ interest, as has football coaching.
In any of those paths, he has an Alabama experience he crafted for himself as the foundation.
"That was a decision largely based on Coach Saban, what he could do for me, what I knew he could create for me and the person he could build me into," Thomas Fletcher said. "He's done everything he said he would do as far as building me as a football player and also as a human being. The decision was based largely on what I thought he could create for me and he did exactly that."
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