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Oct. 29, 2013

By Melissa Dudek

The recruitment of college student-athletes is a long, drawn-out process. In the case of senior defensive end Jake Snyder, it was even longer than most. Snyder began making unofficial visits to Scott Stadium when he was eight years old. The Snyder family, who lived in the Short Pump-proximate town of Glen Allen, Va., were season ticket holders for Virginia football.

“I can remember coming to games when I was eight-years-old and beginning to understand and appreciate what was going on because that’s when I started playing youth league football,” Snyder said. “I remember the Matt Schaub years and the Heath Miller years. Those guys were the best. My favorite thing, tough, was the atmosphere. It may seem like a mature answer for a little kid, but you walk in through the tunnel as a fan and it just opens up and is almost larger than life. You look down at the players and they are huge in their pads. With all of the sights and smells, it was just an exciting event.”

It takes Snyder no time whatsoever to rattle off his favorite player.

“I really always liked Chris Long, especially later on,” Snyder said. “I mean, everyone’s favorite player was Chris Long. Early on for me, it was Heath Miller, since I played tight end as well back then. There was a game I can remember going to when he had a one-handed catch. Our seats were close to field, over towards the end zone on the closed half of the stadium, and I remember he caught a one-handed catch going toward the sideline and scored right ahead of us. I had been watching him because he was my favorite player, so it was really exciting and really fun.”

His brother, Will, two years’ Snyder’s junior, had a different favorite player for a very different reason.

“In 2005, when UVa beat Florida State and everyone rushed the field, my little brother Will disappeared into the crowd of people and he came back with a Jason Snelling glove,” Snyder said. “He didn’t know who Snelling was, but looked him up in the program afterwards. Then Snelling became his favorite player.”

Later, in 2008, brothers Will and Jake, along with their parents, Jeff and Sarah, had a new favorite player when the eldest Snyder boy, Matt, joined the Cavaliers as a wide receiver.

“Because we both redshirted, I was on this team with Matt for three years,” Snyder said. “He played five years and I was with him for his final three, which were my first three. That last year together was really special with the team making it to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Even though his season was cut short with an injury, he was still around as a captain and a team leader. I don’t think he would trade that for anything. Neither would I.”

Despite having three overlapping seasons, Jake, the defender, never had to tackle his brother, the wide receiver.

“I have never had a chance to put a hit on him,” Snyder laughed. “Maybe once or twice my first year, when I was running on the scout special teams, I had to block him or he had to block me. Fortunately, it was never a big hit. Later on in my career, I was starting defense and he was starting offense, so we never crossed paths like that.”

Even in their youth, he never really took out his older brother.

“Growing up, there was a lot of rough housing but really not a lot of fighting,” Snyder recalled. “For three bothers, we fought less than most brothers do. We definitely enjoyed our time together and we gave each other a hard time, but enjoyed our time together.”

Ranked nationally as Rival’s No. 20 weak-side defensive end and rated as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s No. 12 high school player by the Roanoke Times during his senior year at Deep Run High School, Jake Snyder had numerous collegiate offers to consider. His life-long familiarity with Virginia and his brother’s presence on the roster were some of the factors he weighed when he was deciding where to go to school.

“The recruiting process is different for every person and there were a lot of factors that went into my decision, but coming to UVa games and knowing what they were all about was a big part of it,” Snyder said. “Matt being here was a big part of it. Being close to home was as well, but the whole UVa experience with the academics and the athletic success we have had here, it was really impossible to give up.”

The academic piece was a very big one for Snyder. A member of the 2012-13 ACC Academic Honor Roll, Snyder graduated last May after majoring in environmental science and is currently working on his master’s degree in education.

“I was always interested in environmental science, especially after I took AP environmental science in high school,” Snyder said. “I was always an outdoorsy kid, enjoyed animals and the outdoors side of science, so I got in the class and really enjoyed what I learned, especially since it seemed relevant today. When I got here, I tried out a few classes and liked them as much as I liked the class in high school, so I just kept going.”

His favorite class at Virginia was an environmental science offering taught by Professor Swap.

“Bob Swap teaches a really good class,” Snyder said. “He is actually a former football player, so it is fun. He attracts other football players and a lot of athletes to his class and it is not just majors in that class, so there are a lot of students from the general population. He does a great job keeping it interesting and relevant, talking about current stuff going on today, policy and issues.”

Snyder shies away from answering questions about the future, but he knows that no matter what path life takes him, there is a core of people he needs to thank for helping him to get there.

“My parents, Jeff and Sarah, I definitely want to thank them,” Snyder said. “They have been unbelievably supportive to my brothers and me, no matter what we have wanted to do. They have always been there, supporting us every step of the way. I want them to know how thankful I am and how thankful Matt and Will are.

“I want to thank them Matt and Will as well. I think it is rare that three brothers would be three best friends, but I think that is really what we have.

“And I would like to thank my high school coach, Lenny Pritchard. He was really the one who got me started with the recruiting process and walked me through it. He is a former UVa football player as well and I want him to know I love him and appreciate everything he has done for me.”

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