Episode 7 — My Fault: The Trey Junkin Story

My Fault: The Trey Junkin Story

New York Giants fans-and almost no one else-remember Trey Junkin. He was a long-snapper in the NFL longer than anyone, ever. For 19 years he was an anonymous perfectionist working in the game’s trenches. Until his very last snap. In the playoffs. As host King Kaufman reports, Junkin’s been living with that bad snap for 15 years.

Trey JunkinTrey Junkin was a long-snapper in the NFL longer than anyone else, ever. He can count on his fingers the number of bad snaps he made in 20 seasons in the NFL. But if you remember him, you remember him because of his very last snap. And it was a bad one. Also: You are a New York Giants fan.

Junkin played in the NFL for 19 seasons — “it kinda pisses me off” that it wasn’t 20, he says.

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But he did play in a 20th season. He’d already submitted retirement papers when Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi called him and asked if he could snap for punts in a wild-card playoff game in San Francisco. Junkin, 41 and with a bad knee among other ailments, hesitated, but agreed.

Trey Junkin with the Arizona Cardinals
In an image tacked to his wall: Trey Junkin after a happier finish, with the Arizona Cardinals in 2001.

Junkin practiced with the Giants for only a couple of days, but head coach Jim Fassel asked him to add placekick snapping to his duties. Again, Junkin hesitated. He had barely practiced with the unit, and while it looks simple, the process of snapping on placekicks, and “that triangle: snapper, holder, kicker,” is complex.

“There’s a million things that can go wrong,” he says. “And there’s only one thing that can go right.”

Fassel insisted, and Junkin agreed.

Things went well in San Francisco until they didn’t. The Giants built a 38-14 lead late in the third quarter, with all punts and kicks going smoothly, but the 49ers launched a furious comeback to take a 39-38 with just over a minute to play. Along the way, a first disaster: A bad snap on a field goal attempt that would have extended the Giants’ lead to 41-33.

And then, with six seconds to go, the Giants lined up for what would have been the game-winning kick.

“My fault,” Junkin says about those two snaps. Not the whole game. Not the second-half collapse or the officiating mistake that ended the game rather than properly giving the Giants one more snap. But that last bad snap? “That’s mine.”

Giants fans still cringe at the mention of Trey Junkin’s name. His career was the 16th longest in NFL history, the sixth longest among non-kickers/punters. The names above him on that list: Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green and Jim Marshall. Four Hall of Famers and one (Marshall) who should be.

For most of his 19-plus years in the league, he was anonymous, a perfectionist working in the game’s trenches. But all anyone remembers about him now is that one snap, his last.

He’s well aware of this. He’s thought about it a lot. He’s talked about it a lot. And he welcomed me to his home in Winnfield, Louisiana, to talk about it for Can’t Win 4 Losing.

In the barn he used as a home gym when he was still physically able to do so, Trey Junkin has a collection of helmets from all the teams he played for. The only exception: The New York Giants.

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Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

In order of appearance:

In the West” by Kevin McLeod (Creative Commons 4.0)
“Room With a View” by Jahzzar (Creative Commons 3.0)
“Horses to Water” by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
“Call to Statesmanship” by U.S. Army Herald Trumpets
“Bravura” by U.S. Army Band
Except as noted: public domain or Creative Commons non-attribution license.

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