RENTON, Wash. – What was an already nomadic NFL path for Tyler Ott took a particularly unexpected turn in January 2017.
Five days before the Seahawks were to host a playoff game against Detroit, Ott signed on as a replacement for injured long snapper Nolan Frese.
That meant Ott – who had played in only four NFL games to that point – would suddenly be in position where one big mistake, or one great snap, could decide the season for a bunch of other players he barely knew. He’d had a workout with the Seahawks a few months prior, but otherwise had had no real contact with the team until he was called and told he was needed.
“It was a weird time (to get signed), you can say that,” said Ott, who to that point had already been signed and then released six different times by four other NFL teams. “They were going to the playoffs and they brought me in and signed me off the street.”
But upon stepping foot in the Seahawks’ locker room, Ott also set a goal.
“Once I got here, I knew I didn’t want to leave,” he said. “So I made that my mission.”
Call it, finally, a mission accomplished.
Ott not only has held on to the job since taking over for the Detroit playoff game following the 2016 season – that many Seahawks fans may still barely know who he is speaks to how consistent he has been – but two weeks ago he signed a contract extension with the Seahawks keeping him with the team through the 2022 season.
The contract is worth roughly $4 million total, with three years added to the one-year deal he had for the 2019 season paying him the minimum of $720,000.
It’s the first time in his career that the 27-year-old Ott has had more than a one-year contract. Prior to signing the extension, Ott was on track to be a restricted free agent at the end of this season, facing more potential uncertainty.
Now he and his wife, Ashley, can think about making plans that last beyond the length of the current football season.
“They (the Seahawks) did me a solid taking care of this contract early,” Ott said. “They didn’t have to do this.”
The Seahawks did it not just to reward Ott, but also to bring some long-term security to a kicking battery that has been something of a roller-coaster affair the past three seasons.
Seattle had one of the most stable kicking batteries in the NFL from 2011-15 with the trio of kicker Stephen Hauschka, punter/holder Jon Ryan and snapper Clint Gresham.
That ended with the surprising release of Gresham in the spring of 2016, followed by the loss of Hauschka via free agency following the 2016 season, then the drafting of Michael Dickson to take the place of Ryan a year ago.
But three kickers, two snappers and one punter later, the Seahawks feel they’ve finally found a lasting special-teams battery in Ott, Dickson and kicker Jason Myers.
A year ago at this time, Seattle had two players at each position battling through the first two games of the preseason – Ott had to fend off former Oregon standout snapper Tanner Carew, who had been signed as an undrafted free agent.
But now, Myers, Dickson and Ott are all under contract through at least the 2021 season.
“It’s nice when they are set, and they can just focus on all three of them getting better,” special teams coach Brian Schneider said earlier in camp.
For Ott, it’s validation of work that began when he was in grade school in Jenks, Oklahoma, and was first encouraged to try snapping by a little league football coach named David Alexander, who was an offensive lineman with the Jets and Eagles from 1987-96.
Ott continued snapping through a high school career at Jenks High in which he was also named an All-State tight end.
One day, he said, he got a scholarship offer “out of the blue” from Dartmouth. Ott thought if one Ivy League school might be interested, maybe others would be as well, and he sent his film to each of the other seven schools in the league.
Harvard was the only other one to show serious interest.
“But once Harvard comes knocking you can’t say no,” said Ott, who is only the second Harvard grad to play in a regular season game for the Seahawks, the other being linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski from 2000-06.
Ott played both tight end (catching 15 passes in his career) and snapper at Harvard, then set his sights on the NFL, where he was signed and then released by the Patriots, Giants, Rams and Bengals from May 2014 to November 2016, playing in four games along the way as an injury replacement (one with the Giants and three with the Bengals).
Ott was watching Seattle’s regular-season finale against the 49ers on New Year’s Day in 2017 back in Boston (actually, he was at a restaurant that had every game on) when he saw Frese suffer an ankle injury.
Ott, who remembered that after the earlier workout the Seahawks had told him they’d be in touch if they ever needed another snapper, had a feeling that maybe the misfortune for Frese – a rookie whose hold on the job had already seemed tenuous – might be the chance he needed.
“In the specialist world, a lot of times it is luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time,” he said.
A few hours later, a call came from the Seahawks with a plane ticket to Seattle.
Now, he might never have to leave. Tyler and Ashley Ott, herself a Harvard grad who is a financial analyst and a partner at Vantage Point Financial in Brighton, Massachusetts, are debating whether to buy a house in Seattle.
It’s a tough call, given the heated Seattle housing market, and the fact that they already have a home in Boston, which the couple has considered as their long-term residence. Ashley Ott has spent the past two seasons flying in on game weekends, but this year she hopes to do more of her work remotely from Seattle.
That it’s even something worth thinking about is victory enough.
“Now I can just relax about the contract thoughts and go play football the way I know how,” he said. “I could be here for 10-plus years, hopefully. That’s the way I’m approaching it.”
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