Panthers' Jansen earns respect for 'specialists everywhere'

jjones@charlotteobserver.comJune 9, 2014 

The long snapper position isn’t one that lends itself to a lot of statistics.

There’s the subjective “perfect snaps” number, but other than special teams tackles, a long snapper like Carolina Panthers’ J.J. Jansen won’t see his name on the stat sheet at the end of the game.

Monday night with nearly two dozen teammates, Jansen won the pseudo-home run derby at BB&T BallPark by belting seven home runs at the “Monday ‘Knight’ Football” event.

“This may be my best stat in the history of my time here in Charlotte,” the seventh-year long snapper joked.

Jansen hit the seven homers in two separate batting practice sessions. He smashed three over the left-field fence before quarterback Joe Webb threatened him with one homer in his first session. They were the only two Panthers to hit home runs Monday.

“I could hit more than one out,” said Webb, soaked in sweat after his first session.

Webb, who signed this offseason with Carolina after playing four years in Minnesota, went back to the plate and hit one more home run that bounced and hit the videoboard in left center field. Jansen still had Webb beaten, but he decided to go for an encore.

In his second session, the right-handed Jansen hit four homers, all to the left part of the field, to register the highest home run total in Monday ‘Knight’ Football in at least four years.

Jansen fell to former Panthers tight end Gary Barnidge in 2011 and 2012. Barnidge belted three to Jansen’s two in 2011, and the following year Barnidge was the only player to hit one home run on a windy day at the Knights’ old stadium in Fort Mill.

Last year, linebacker Chase Blackburn led the way with three home runs to Jansen’s one.

“He’s upping the respect game for specialists everywhere,” said punter Brad Nortman, who did not hit a home run. “The fact that we can come out here and prove we’re athletes… well, at least J.J. has proven he’s an athlete.”

Jansen was a catcher and first baseman at Phoenix’s Brophy College Prepatory Academy. He felt he could have been a walk-on baseball player at a Division-I school, but Jansen was already a walk-on for Notre Dame football.

“I probably could have had a chance there, but more than likely some other schools in the Big East. Notre Dame was pretty decent when I was there,” Jansen said. “It would have been purely a walk-on situation, but I would have felt comfortable trying out.”

Among the biggest disappointments on Monday were tight end Brandon Williams and Blackburn. Williams, whose nickname is “Swole Bones” for his muscular physique, drew the most eyes and yells. He took two hits to deep center but couldn’t effort them over the wall.

Blackburn, last year’s champion, had some of the highest expectations of the group. After he didn’t hit a home run, Blackburn joked that the sun, which was behind home plate, was in his eyes.

Blackburn signed a two-year deal with the Panthers last offseason, so there may not be a “better luck next year” for him.

“They’ll have to bring me back for this next year if nothing else,” Blackburn said.

A smiling Jansen exchanged high-fives with teammates after his second session, and his kept his post-session comments modest and brief.

“Joe Webb challenged, and I’m just glad I could meet that challenge,” Jansen said.

Jansen finished with five more home runs than Webb.

“It went well,” Jansen said.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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