LEWISTON — Adorning the walls at Chris Rubio’s nationally renowned long-snapping complex in Lewiston are around 150 felt college pennants.
There’s LSU and Alabama — and just about every Power Five program represented — all the way down to the Rose-Hulman Tech Fightin’ Engineers, a personal favorite of Rubio’s.
“I end up Googling some of them while I’m on the phone with coaches,” said Rubio, who’s carved out a massively successful, albeit niche career as worldwide guru of the football position. He’s the founder of Lewiston-based Rubio Long Snapping, aptly nicknamed “The Factory” because of its annual churn-out of next-level long snappers.
The pennants represent pupils, but “these are just the ones who have sent me stuff.” If each trainee had contributed memorabilia, the walls, floors, ceiling — and probably the entire house next door — would be covered.
Since 2004, Rubio has instructed more than 1,100 collegiate long snappers. A quarter of all contemporary NFL long snappers have learned under him, and approximately 50 Rubio disciples have reached the sport’s top level.
“You’ve changed my life,” can be seen scribbled in black marker on a number of pennants.
“When someone brings it up, it’s crazy to think about. I’d love to see the total number of scholarship dollars,” said Rubio, who’s been profiled by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and even had one of his past students, Kansas’ Tanner Gibas, write and direct a full-length documentary titled “Rubio,” which was released in 2014.
“It’s been amazing to see the end product.”
Early last year, Rubio teamed up with former longtime Chicago Bears long snapper Patrick Mannelly and NFL agent Kevin Gold in introducing the Patrick Mannelly Award, given annually to the Football Bowl Subdivision’s top long snapper. The same honor at the high school level bears Rubio’s name.
“We had a banquet in December in Chicago with 300 people, and the press, and now there’s this national trophy,” Rubio said. “It’s unbelievable, and it’s just gonna get bigger and bigger.
“My friends and family keep me humble, they make fun of me all the time. My wife (Jolie) always says, ‘Are you ever gonna wear anything that doesn’t have your name on it?’ ”
No one really calls Rubio by the name Chris. “Rubio” has “become my brand.”
The name’s status has swelled to a point where coaches at every level of college football seek out “Rubio kids,” who are ranked accordingly by their mentor. Rubio, after his large-scale snapping camps, shares his findings on social media and with interested football parties.
“The kids get the exposure, and coaches get the rankings,” said Rubio, who recently returned from a session in Texas, and will be heading to Indiana next week. “Alabama’s special teams coach has been talking to me recently. They need another one.”
In a typical year, Rubio spends about 100 days on the road — at around 25 long-snapping camps across America — and perhaps as much time sharpening college hopefuls in his shop, which features artificial turf and all the long-snapping amenities imaginable.
“I’m going to try to mold you the right way, and put you out as a perfect product,” said Rubio, who works alongside about 10 national instructors. “Now I’ve started to work smarter and utilize more of what’s out there.”
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Rubio — sporting his go-to bright yellow polo during a recent session here — has adapted, and found new means of meeting with, and developing college prospects in football’s most underappreciated position.
For the past several months, the former UCLA long snapper has kept active via virtual sessions and a blossoming social-media presence. He puts out tips almost daily on Twitter, incorporating his “Rubioisms” and charm. He’s had a wide array of interest in his online training sessions, which his unique style has translated to well.
“Being your own boss is a lot more taxing than people might think,” he said. “You’ve gotta keep grinding. What do you offer that others don’t? For me, I’d say it’s personality.
“In March, I was like, ‘Holy crap, there’s significant time where I won’t have camps.’ But you can still keep it going. They’ll get better (with virtual lessons), and I love how well you get to know the kids and their parents.”
Rubio continues to host snappers who travel with their family members for lessons in the valley. On Wednesday, he conducted a half-hour FaceTime session with class of 2023 Californian Jonathan Tabb. Rubio stood in front of a perched camera in his shop/facility, with a good view of Tabb repping in his backyard. The next day, Rubio met with Oregon State commit Peyton Hogan for some in-person drilling.
Rubio is exceptionally charismatic, and brimming with metaphors and coaching guidance that keeps his pupils grounded. While spectating Tabb’s snaps, Rubio discussed life with the player’s father. One of his methods, unlike most coaches, is to include parents in workshops, because “they pay more attention,” and “they’ll understand how to teach the kid when I’m not around.”
Rubio talked through Tabb’s breakfast, his favorite music, and commented on his hair three or four times while sprinkling in pointed direction on form and snapping technique, much of which is of his own creation.
If Rubio senses any frustration from a trainee, he steers the conversation away from football. Each object or memento in his complex here has a purpose, as either a marker for certain drills or an amusing distraction.
“Whether it’s painting a line on the carpet, using a rope, putter, bricks, a basketball — anything that makes it easier for them,” he said.
After all, mental irritation typically leads to errant snaps, and just one of those can make the difference for a job in a position that’s expected to be 100-percent precise.
“I’m a very visual person. ‘How can I get them to understand? What’s the easiest way?’ ” Rubio said. “... The less they overthink, the better they’re gonna do. I’d rather them be thinking about their girlfriend, or nachos.”
Rubio had come to that conclusion as a Bruin. For instance, he’d often turn to linemate Andy Meyers and inquire what his dinner plans were, mid-game.
“That’d help me, because I was more worried about him wanting to beat me up than I was the actual play,” Rubio said.
Rubio spent eight years as a sixth-grade teacher in Southern California before uncovering his vocation. In turn, that experience has helped him become more engaging. In dealing with mostly teenage boys and young men, Rubio implements analogies and examples that are ... relatable to the group.
“I tell their parents, ‘I’m gonna say some things that are gonna be a little crude, but it’ll work out,’ ” he said.
The ball whisking between the legs and off the turf should come with high pitch and high velocity, or, sound like a “mouse fart.” When a snapper follows through, he should strive to “put his head in his butt.” After release, a player should have his weight situated accordingly, as if he’s “sitting back down on the toilet, not falling in the urinal.”
It’s been effective. Students won’t soon forget the metaphors that induce ideal muscle memory. But it’s not only the wit and a humorous understanding students get.
Rubio’s lessons are thought-out and intricate. It takes only a couple of snaps for him to deduce what needs honed in a trainee’s approach. He could go on about the necessary angles, the exact timing of each movement, and he makes the slightest adjustments, often providing a tip to remember them by.
“Imagine I’m teaching you a free throw, but that’s it. No dunking, dribbling, 3-pointers. It’s getting that motion down,” he said. It’s a rapid sequence, not easily noticeable. The hands should be gentle, and the lower-body explosive.
“It’s just different things I’ve done working with thousands of kids,” he said of his techniques. “Everyone’s different. You can’t just go cookie-cutter.”
Rubio, by virtue of his magnetism and personal branding, also has been sought out for speaking events, many of them high-profile.
He is tall and stout, fitting the football profile. But he isn’t particularly a football diehard. He’ll watch the Seahawks, but otherwise, “I DVR as many college games as I can, and fast-forward to fourth downs to see my guys,” he said.
The Covina, Calif., native grew up in a football family with a football body, yet didn’t get into tackle ball until his teenage years. He was used sparingly as a freshman at Charter Oak High School, then opted not to turn out as a sophomore. It just so happened Rubio learned he was a sound snapper while playing catch with a friend before his junior season.
Three years down the road, the walk-on had prevailed in a long-snapping position battle at UCLA, teaching himself traditional long-snapping form in his dorm room.
“And the funny thing is, I invented most of my drills while I was in college,” said Rubio, whose pro dreams were derailed by a back injury.
He taught school after college, until former Bruins punter/kicker Chris Sailer — who still works camps with Rubio — invited him to assist at a special-teams camp in Vegas, then recommended Rubio follow the profession.
“That was a crazy thing to do at age 28,” said Rubio, who had his watershed moment in 2005, when a reserve high school long snapper he trained was offered by Boston College. “But I was young enough and dumb enough to say, ‘Eh, I’ll make it work.’ Now that same camp in Vegas has about 250 long snappers.”
He settled here because Jolie has roots in the area. Being from a “concrete jungle,” he’s fond of open spaces and peaceful solitude. He says Lewiston is about the biggest town he’d live in.
“I love my location, and I’m able to live the life I like,” he said, then seeming to motion toward a wall of pennants. “Now, I have all these long snappers who are married, and have kids.”
Colton Clark may be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 627-3209.