Utah State senior LS Brandon Pada has made most of his chance to play D-I football

LOGAN, Utah – Brandon Pada will forever be grateful for Utah State.

After all, it was the only school that took a chance on the 5-foot-10, 200-pound long snapper from Glendale, Ariz.

“Playing for the Aggies has meant everything to me,” Pada said. “This is my home; they were the only program to take a chance on me. They were the only one to give me the opportunity to compete and achieve my dream to play at the Division I level.”

Pada’s path to Utah State was certainly not ordinary. It involved a lot of twists and turns, but the journey was worth it.

Despite the fact he was a two-year letterwinner in football at Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Pada did not play a single down as a long snapper during his varsity career. That’s because he backed up Turner Bernard, who was a two-time all-state long snapper and received a five-star rating from Kohl’s Kicking, and is now a senior at San Diego State.

Pada, though, was ranked 13th in the nation by Kohl’s Kicking, and performed well at several kicking camps, which helped get his name out there.

“By the time it came down to recruiting, I didn’t have any film to show to college coaches,” Pada said. “Being ranked nationally helped to get my name out there, but to get an opportunity you need film. The next best thing was to compete at college specialist camps in front of the coaches and other kids at my position, so that’s what I did in the summer of 2016.

“Winning camps at Portland State and San Jose State, with the help in networking from my coaches Ben Bernard and Matt Wigley, allowed college coaches to recognize me. The networking allowed for (Utah State co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Stacy) Collins to hear about me and reach out to me. He gave me the opportunity to walk-on at Utah State and compete for a roster spot.”

That is exactly what Pada did.

Pada walked on and redshirted his first season at Utah State in 2016, then appeared in one game as a redshirt freshman in 2017.

During the spring of his sophomore campaign in 2018, Pada was put on scholarship and he made his first-career start at long snapper in the season opener at Michigan State.

“I went from being told I would never play college football to earning the starting job at Utah State,” Pada said. “I put all my heart and energy into just getting a school to give me the chance to walk-on, so playing on that field was the culmination of all my hard work that I put into my dream and it becoming a reality.”

Pada hasn’t relinquished his starting spot since making his debut against the Spartans. He has appeared in 30 career games for the Aggies and proven to be a valuable leader not only for the special teams group, but the entire team.

“The thing that Brandon does best is he’s very reliable,” said first-year Utah State special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Roc Bellantoni. “You know that snap is going to be pretty darn good every time. It’s going to hit the guy where you want it to hit him. He is very reliable, and the other thing is, he is a really good leader.

“He gives feedback on the sideline for what he might see on certain units while he’s standing and watching the game. He gives feedback for what’s happening out in the game, guys yelling out calls that they’re making while our punt team is out there, and then just being a mentor to all the other players in our position group, putting his arm around them and coaching them up. He’s seen a lot of football and been around a lot of things.”

Former Utah State placekicker Dominik Eberle, who set numerous records during his illustrious career as an Aggie, knows how valuable Pada is to the team.

“Pada is a great teammate,” said Eberle, who is now on the Las Vegas Raiders’ practice squad. “He is always willing to help someone out who asks him, which is exactly what makes up his leadership characteristics. He’s also worked incredibly hard to win the starting job and earn a scholarship, while always striving to perform to the best of his ability.

“He’s a great guy to be around and one of the best friends one can ask for. Without him, the field goal/punt unit wouldn’t be where they are because he takes pride in what he does. His name should be in all the record books as everything starts with him.”

Which is quite remarkable when you consider how Pada even became a long snapper.

“There are many ways to become a long snapper,” Pada said. “Usually, you know someone who does it and they teach you, or you get thrown into it by a coach so you can find some way to get on the field. I was thrown into it. My sophomore year of high school, my JV coach knew I trained with coach Bernard, who trains long snappers in Arizona, but at that time I was only catching footballs from them so I could improve my catching abilities.

“Well, my coach said, ‘That’s good enough for me,’ and told me I was the long snapper for the JV team. After that practice, I walked up to coach Bernard and asked him, ‘Can you teach me to long snap, because I am now the long snapper of the JV team?’ Ever since that day, I devoted my time and energy into becoming a long snapper.”

Pada recorded his first-career tackle at New Mexico last season, and had a tackle in the 2020 season opener at Boise State.

“I honestly was so excited that I got a tackle that I didn’t even realize I actually got one,” Pada said. “After the play was over I ran to the sideline and asked Jesse Vasquez, ‘Did I actually get a tackle, and he responded, ‘Bro, you definitely just got a tackle.’ So, it wasn’t until after the play was over and I was on the sidelines when it really hit that I got a tackle and I started to celebrate.”

His hustle is just one of the traits that make Pada a special teams weapon for the Aggies.

“A good long snapper is a guy that can get the ball back there fast,” Bellantoni said. “But, more than fast, it’s location. If the punter wants it to hit him right in the middle of his chest, it’s got to hit him in the middle of his chest, or his rhythm is messed up. You’ve got to be able to hit the target. It’s like a pitcher in baseball. He can throw 100 miles an hour, but if he doesn’t know where it’s going, it doesn’t help. And then consistency is a big one with him.

“The other thing is, in coverage, the long snappers are not the most athletic guys, but he made a tackle against a really good returner at Boise State, and then the next week against San Diego State, they had guys blocking him because they were afraid he would be the first one down to make a tackle, so that says a lot about him.”

Pada doesn’t just get it done on the field for the Aggies, he is equally impressive in the classroom. The son of Ben and Tiffani Pada, who garnered academic all-Mountain West and MW Scholar-Athlete honors in 2018 and 2019, is dual majoring in political science and criminal justice. He is on track to graduate this semester, but plans on walking next spring with his friends.

“I will be the first person out of my family to graduate from a four-year university with a degree,” Pada said. “My father never went to college and my mom went to junior college, so to be able to get my degree means the world to me and my family.”

Pada wore the number 79 during his redshirt year, then changed to 57 for the next three seasons. He is now wearing number 44.

“I wore 57 after Nick Sundberg, who is the long snapper for The Washington Football team and is a mentor of mine who helped my progression as a long snapper,” Pada explained. “I then switched to 44 for my senior year as a clean slate for my final year. It was also the closest I could get to wearing a number to praise Kobe Bryant – 4+4 = 8, and 8 is for Kobe.”

Outside of football and schooling, Pada enjoys working on his computer and developing photoshop projects. Spending time outdoors is also one of his loves.

Pada will never forget his time as an Aggie and the school that gave him a chance.

“The people here have made my time here the best,” Pada said. “The memories that I share with my friends here are ones that I will continue to share throughout my life. Many of the people that I call friends are as close to family to me.”

He hopes Aggie fans remember him, too, as the guy that got his job done every time he stepped onto the field.

“Usually, long snappers are only remembered for messing up, so I don’t want that,” Pada said. “I just want Aggie Nation to remember me for the guy that got his job done. My job as a long snapper is to make my kicker’s and my punter’s job easier. We have a saying on the team and that is ‘to do your 1-11th,’ and that’s me. I’m the guy that does his 1-11th for the team.”

Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.

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