When Gophers long snapper Brady Weeks first started snapping footballs, it felt like the world rested in his hands. Weeks, a Missouri native, developed a deep sense of responsibility while playing center and long snapper for Fort Zumwalt West High School.
“[My dad] always wanted me to have my hands on the ball,” Weeks said. “He wanted every play to start with me and brought the mindset that I have to be on my best work and I always have to be doing the best.”
Brady’s father, Kent Weeks, a former running back and defensive back at Northwestern and Southeast Missouri State, encouraged his son to explore long snapping in middle school.
“He played center and long snapper, so his hand was on the football every single play on offense and special teams,” Kent Weeks said. “I wanted him to have his hand on the ball to get used to it, so when he went in to snap, he wasn’t nervous about going in and holding on to the ball.”
Brady quickly became enthralled with the details of long snapping. During middle and high school, Weeks and his father traveled nearly 16,000 total miles for football camps. Weeks worked with top coaches, learned new techniques and played alongside older specialists. At that point, Brady knew he wanted to be a college long snapper.
“There were guys maybe two or three years older than me and I was throwing the same ball as them [at a camp]. I was like, hey, I can do something with this,” Brady said. “So I just really started committing to it, working every day on it and it just took off from there.”
“The Heart of the Dog”
Even though Weeks was often 80 to 100 pounds lighter than most high school defensive tackles, he didn’t make any excuses. The young center and long snapper instead used it as additional motivation.
“It’s not about the size of the dog, it’s about the heart in the dog. I don’t care about size. It’s about who is going to play the hardest every single play. And that’s something I try to bring now,” Weeks said. “I’ve gone against Micah Parsons from Penn State, Derrick Brown from Auburn. I’ve gone against guys that are way more talented, athletic and stronger than me, but I’m going to give it my all, so that’s going to match what they’re doing.”
Brady credits his parents, a pair of former college athletes, for fueling his competitive drive. Weeks’ father played for head coach Dennis Green at Northwestern until a serious knee injury sent his football career in another direction. After recovering, Kent transferred to Southeast Missouri State and met his future wife, Leslie, a defensive specialist on the volleyball team.
“[My dad} got the more athletic traits. He has the running back in him, but I got my mom’s traits. You can’t beat that,” Brady said. “I can’t even put into words how much time, energy and money that my parents have put into what I’m doing. I would be nowhere without them.”
A Selfless Position
In high school, Weeks attended the Kohl’s National Scholarship camp and won the snapping competition with a .64-second snap time. The big win earned Weeks a spot in the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game. Brady accepted the invitation and played on Team Flash, which was led by former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci. To this day, Weeks vividly remembers a 15-minute conversation he had with Mariucci while picking up his game jersey. The longtime coach’s words of wisdom stuck with him.
“He just wanted to tell me how important the long snapper position is. He told me that you’re not going to get any recognition unless you mess up,” Brady said. “So he said one of the big things is you have to be really big about your teammates and their success. I think about that now. I don’t care about how good I do. I care about how good our kickers do, how our punters do, because what I do impacts how they perform. It’s a very selfless position.”
Weeks was ranked as the No. 1 long snapper in the 2019 recruiting class by Kohl’s Kicking Camp. He received interest from Minnesota and attended a Junior Day event in early 2018. Weeks immediately connected with the program’s culture and committed during the visit.
One year later, when Weeks arrived in Minneapolis as an early enrollee, he focused on transforming his body in the Gophers’ strength program.
“I give all of the credit to [Dan Nichol] and those guys because I came in at probably 240 pounds. It was not good weight either because I had to play offensive line in high school, so I was trying to get that weight up,” Weeks said. “The way that they’re able to get that extra little bit out of you is unlike anything I’ve ever had before. My body is at the best condition I’ve ever been in before. I started at 240 pounds and I dropped back to 210 and then I built myself back up to like 230 pounds right now.”
Do Whatever It Takes
Weeks, who is entering his fifth season with the Gophers, was named the team’s primary long snapper as a true freshman. Since then, he has logged 46 starts and 390 total snaps.
The Gophers’ specialist takes pride in having the versatility to do whatever the team needs. For example, Weeks has snapped the ball from varying distances and target areas during his Gophers career. He also utilized a mix of different snapping styles while working with left and right-footed punters.
“Straight barrel is just when the punter is lined up straight behind me,” Brady said. “Off-set can go from one to three steps left or right, so then you’re having to tilt your body and if you think about the angle, it’s going to add an extra yard or two on to the snap.”
Weeks said he now looks at the game through a different lens after working with special teams coordinator Rob Wenger.
“My high school didn’t really talk special teams ever. I just snapped the ball back there and just ran downfield. [Coach Wenger] really helped me focus in on the details of every inch of the snap, the height and everything about it,” Brady said. “And then different coverage aspects. He’s incredible when it comes to strategy. He’s easily the best coordinator.”
This offseason, Weeks was one of 25 long snappers named to the Patrick Mannelly Award Preseason Watch List (presented to the best long snapper in the FBS). The Gophers’ specialist doesn’t worry about all of the attention though. He is instead focused on lifting up his teammates, including punter Mark Crawford and kicker Dragan Kesich.
“I really don’t like attention. I’ve never been an attention guy. I just like to do my thing and if I don’t get talked about, that’s perfect, because it means I’m doing something pretty good,” Weeks said. “We know how good of a group we have and we’re going to showcase it because of how confident we are in each other. Just showing that all the work we put in is for a really good reason and we’re going to show why we’re one of the best.”
Change Your Best
Weeks often thinks about his first year on the University of Minnesota campus. He faced many new challenges as he adjusted to college life. However, looking back, Weeks said his teammates, coaches and Minnesota’s Row the Boat culture helped him through all of the difficult days.
“What I say [Coach Wenger has] helped me with even more is outside of football. Just becoming a better man, holding myself accountable and doing the right thing all the time. You can ask a lot of people here about who I was my freshman year. I was not focused on any small details,” Brady said. “I didn’t really follow a religion of any sort, but then Coach Fleck really helped me with that.”
Brady’s mother, Leslie, noticed similar growth and development from her son after he joined the Gophers’ program.
“[He is] unrecognizable. I mean, from where he started to where he is now. He realizes what a blessing and a gift this program is, even though he’s worked for it. And I think he then extends that out to other people,” Weeks said. “Coach Fleck talks about them being a family and just raising good men. He’s serious about it. He’s not making up some line, it is real. And just watching it happen and being a part of it is just amazing.”
Minnesota’s football program even opened a professional door for Brady. This summer, Weeks interned with the YMCA’s human resources department. The Gophers’ long snapper was tasked with mentoring athletes and teaching them life lessons through sports.
“My whole role was to work with kids and teach them the way of sports and how sports can further impact them throughout their whole entitle life,” Brady said. “And that’s why the Y wanted to hire me because I have the background of college athletics and I can show them how it’s progressed me through life and how you can truly build brotherhoods throughout sports.
Weeks grew up in O’Fallon, Missouri, which is located just 37 miles northwest of St. Louis.
One day, when Brady was back in O’Fallon during the COVID-19 pandemic, he stopped by a local Kohl’s department store. The Gophers’ long snapper strapped on his Minnesota mask and went inside. He found what he needed, walked up to the checkout and was greeted by an excited cashier.
“She was like, ‘Hey, my daughter is going to Minnesota.’ I asked her if she was going up there to swim. She was like, ‘No, she’s a hockey player.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know anything about hockey. I’ve never done anything with hockey,’” Weeks recalled.
Brady then pulled out his phone and typed “Josey Dunne” into the Instagram search bar. He looked through the Gopher women’s hockey player’s profile and pressed the follow button.
Despite the fact Brady and Josey’s childhood homes were just three miles apart, they never knew each other growing up. Dunne played hockey in Chicago, so the two of them didn’t end up attending the same high school.
“I had been getting different Minnesota sports followers, so I clicked on his profile because I saw the notification. It said Brady Weeks – O’Fallon, Missouri. I was like, that’s where I’m from, what in the world?” Dunne said. “And then I read long snapper. I was like, what is a long snapper? Who is this guy? I was out and about too, so I was like, did this guy just see me and follow me?”
Not long after she received the Instagram notification, Dunne’s phone lit up. It was her mother, Tammy.
“Then I got a call from my mom and she said, ‘Josey, I just met your husband.’ I said, ‘OK, mom, that’s funny. Goodbye,’” Dunne said.
After Josey processed everything that happened, she and her friend made the next move. Dunne sent a direct message to Brady
“Brady likes to say he made the first move. My friend actually sent the message, I did not,” Dunne said. “Just because [she thought] I should have a friend there, so I was like, OK, I guess so.”
Weeks and Dunne started talking, but couldn’t see each in person due to the pandemic. However, once restrictions eventually eased up, Weeks and Dunne had one of their first dates at Minnesota’s indoor football facility.
“I had to make sure he had a good smile because I couldn’t tell under a mask,” Dunne said. “He took me to the facility that day and we threw the football and we kicked. I just had ankle surgery, so I was just doing light moves around him. That was the first day where I kind of new that I really liked him and I think he felt the same way.”
Two years later, when Brady was planning to propose, he remembered the couple’s special day at the football facility.
“I wanted something sentimental when it came to the proposal and doing it at the facility was the first thing that came to mind,” Weeks said. “I remembered how much fun we were having just tossing the football around and I was teaching her how to snap a football.”
A local sign company delivered a lighted “Marry Me?” sign and Weeks’ mother positioned all of the candles and flowers. Soon after, Weeks got down on one knee, Dunne said yes and the couple officially redeemed their own form of Kohl’s Cash.
“That’s the best Kohl’s Cash you can get right there,” Weeks said.
As the Gophers’ long snapper prepares for another season, he begins each day by looking in the mirror. Weeks stares at all of the goals and dreams that he personally inscribed on the glass. The quick moment of reflection provides Weeks with additional perspective and motivation as he pursues his childhood dream.
“We had a team meeting where we would write stuff on the mirrors. It’s something that when you write it down, it’s looking you back in the face. So when you have to look at it every single day, you have to accept that and you have to work for it every day,” Weeks said. “[Making it to the NFL] is one of the things I have written on my mirror. It’s my number one goal to make it to the NFL. And I’m going to do it any way possible.”
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Photos Provided by the Weeks Family