Listed at 6-2 and 240 pounds on the roster, Rob Snyder has the classic makeup of an inside linebacker, but his size was not entirely expected.
“My mom is 5-2 and my dad is 5-6, I grew up playing soccer,” Snyder said. “I had a weird growth spurt – maybe I am adopted, they haven’t told me yet – but I was just bigger than most other kids and some of my neighbors said he needs to play football, so I started playing when I was in the second grade and ever since then I stayed with it.
Growing up in Georgia, Snyder decided he wanted to go out of state for college to experience something different. It just so happened that his best friend was going to another school in Virginia and Snyder was recruited by the Cavaliers and loved it.
“Virginia was somewhere different,” Snyder said. “I wanted to get away from home and go somewhere new. Here, with the academics and the opportunity to play in the ACC, was the best of both worlds. My best friend, Emmanuel Belmar, he plays defensive end at Virginia Tech. I have known him since third grade, so I thought that would be fun to come up and get to compete with him every year.”
That competitive drive with his friends is something that Snyder has brought with him to UVA. When he first arrived on Grounds, he had to redshirt as a first year and then suffered an injury heading into his second year and had to sit out again.
“I came in with high hopes of playing right away, but when reality hits, you just have to take it for what it is and learn from the older guys,” Snyder said. “You just have to control your role and keep a positive attitude. Second year, I come out of redshirt and was like I can’t wait to make a name for myself, then I tore my pectoral muscle in the summer before I even got to show anyone what I can do. That is challenging. Some of my buddies were also hurt at that time so we had six months of rehab together. That really builds your will, so coming out of that, it really makes you hungry to play football and be grateful for your opportunities.”
That doesn’t mean the process was easy for Snyder, but with that competitive spirit he still found a way to enjoy that time.
“There are some dark times because you aren’t around all the guys,” Snyder said. “You are by yourself doing rehab sometimes, you are not really in the meetings as much so it is nice to have good friends that stick with you and you can still compete with. We competed with ping pong rather than competing on the field because we couldn’t really do that.”
Who came out ahead in those battles?
“I’m going to say me,” Snyder said. “Alex Shaffer was a close second, we played with all the specialists. I haven’t played ping pong as much since being healthy, but when I do, I make sure they know who still has it.”
Snyder did not take those times for granted and his motivation to continue to work hard and get back on the field is simple.
“My why, that’s cheesy, but I’m here because of football and I need to make a name for myself,” Snyder said. “Just the opportunity to go out there and play with my brothers. Once you are hurt, you can go either way, you can say I don’t really want to do this and fall through the cracks and never come back fully or you can push yourself every day and come back and make a name for yourself and I feel like I have been able to do that.”
Now he has risen to the starting rotation with a solid ground of linebackers on a defense that has found its chemistry.
“We are healthy, we can actually rotate defensive linemen that are healthy, and we have a lot more guys than the four guys we had at the bowl game last year,” Snyder said. “It is just a nice feeling having a whole defense that we can run around and rotate. Then on the offensive side, we have tons of talent all around the ball, so it is an exciting year and I am very excited for the opportunity.”
Virginia has started the season 2-0, including its first win in program history at Pitt.
“That was the first time we have beaten them since I have been here so that shows us the opportunity we have for this season and we can do anything we want,” Snyder said.
Whether it is against his friends in ping pong, or in a friendly rivalry with his best friend at a rival school, Snyder is always out there to win.