February 28, 2018

Behind the R | Jeremy Snyder, REDBLACKS Assistant GM

He may have been born and raised in Pennsylvania, but there’s no doubt that REDBLACKS Assistant General Manager Jeremy Snyder has fully embraced Canada as a second home. Since starting out as the club’s Director of Football Administration and Pro/College Scout before the team had even hit the field for its 2014 expansion season, Snyder is entering his second season as AGM in 2018. He sat down with our Chris Hofley to talk about how he ended up in the CFL, what it was like putting an expansion franchise together and explains what, exactly, an assistant general manager does.

We call it the off-season, but this is a busy time of year for you. So let’s get right down to it….Where are you from?

  • I hail from Titusville, a small industrial town in northwestern Pennsylvania. I grew up there in a family of woodsmen, they cut down trees for a living. I’m the only one who doesn’t do that, in my family. My dad took me out into the woods a couple times to show me how it’s all done, but I knew pretty quick that wasn’t for me.

You played for the Allegheny College Gators after a high school career at Titusville High School. Where did your love of the game come from?

  • It goes back to my high school days, back in my hometown there’s a big Friday Night Lights aspect of it. But I didn’t start playing organized football until I was in the seventh grade. I got into it and I ended up being better than most, I guess you could say, in our town. I fell in love with the game from there. Football was a way for me to get out of my hometown and better my career … and (*laughing*) not be a logger.

You were able to turn your collegiate playing career into your first job in the game… how did that come about?

  • When I was done playing, I stayed a couple more years to finish school. The head coach at the time said, hey, why don’t you join the staff and coach for us and that will help offset your school costs and you’ll get to learn the profession. I was all for it. After that, I was getting married and moving to Chicago and I was looking for a job. One of my mentor’s said, let’s just start the top and work our way down, and the top was the Chicago Bears. I talked to their video director and got an internship within a month of being out there. They liked that I had a bit of a coaching background and I really just learned on the fly there.

You must have been an Eagles fan growing up, right?

  • Wasn’t an Eagles fan, wasn’t a Steelers fan, wasn’t a Browns or Bills fan. My home town is two hours from Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, so we had all those fans at home. My parents were huge Bills fans but I gravitated towards the Green Bay Packers, before the Brett Favre era. My uncle was a huge Cowboys fan and I always wanted to go against him.

Getting back to your career trajectory….

  • I did my internship and got to know a lot of the staff with the Bears, like Jerry Angelo (former GM), Bobby DePaul (former director of pro personnel) and guys like that. They were shuffling around the front office and they said, hey, you’re pretty good with numbers and you have a minor in economics, why don’t you try being a cap guy? I didn’t really have any idea what that was all about but it was budgets, spreadsheets and numbers, stuff I was pretty good at. I learned the ropes and was there for five years. We went to the Super Bowl and lost to the Colts. Never going to forget that day. After the ’07 season I wanted to move on and get more into the scouting side and that’s when I took the job in Philly with the Eagles. I was a liaison between the NFL and CFL and ran into Jim Popp (then with the Montreal Alouettes). After my Philly days were done, I reached out to Jim, again good timing on my part, and he brought me up here in 2010. I was there for six weeks when we went on a Grey Cup run and won, it was Montreal’s back-to-back years and I got to be apart of it. That’s when I fell in love with the CFL game.

What is it about the Canadian game versus American football that drew you in?

  • There’s so much more going on, with the motion on offence, the extra man, the wider field, there’s so many more dynamic things happening. It’s just more exciting.

So you were in Montreal before the REDBLACKS existed. How did you find your way to Ottawa?

  • I got to know Marcel very well in Montreal. I reached out a couple days after he was hired by Ottawa. Things aligned and again, the timing was good and he asked me if I wanted to come here. I had to talk it over with my family but everyone was on board. It’s been a blessing to be part of this.

Speaking of being part of something big, what has this ride been like so far when you look back on a going from a tough expansion year to Grey Cup champions in such a short period of time?

  • It’s been great. You take a job like this and you think, how many times is this going to happen? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience taking a team from literally five people sitting in an office, not even a football field in site to where we are as an organization now. It’s challenging but it’s fun. It’s all about thinking outside the box in a job like this. You set the wheels in motion and you work on having the right culture and vision to get where we want to be and I think we’ve been pretty successful.

Marcel is the guy whose name and face is always out there, doing interviews and all of that stuff that comes with the territory of being a GM. How would you describe your role?

  • Our job, the guys that are behind the scenes, is basically to make him look good (*Laughing*). All the work we do is judged according to what ends up on the field. So we’re scouting, we’re watching a lot of tape, evaluating players, maintaining contacts and creating new networks. It’s a meaty job where you really just have to put your head down and work. There are a lot of directions you can be pulled in.

Does it drive you crazy when people talk about the off-season, as if there actually is down time in your line of work?

  • Most people will say the season is the pinnacle of the year. But for us, it’s right now. We’re on the road, scouting, going to all-star games down south. We’ve got the combines in March and we’re looking at the U Sports kids and getting them aligned in our draft order. There’s always a lot of work to be done. The off-season is really when we get down to business. Once the season starts it becomes an animal of its own and you’re in a routine.

In that case, we’ll let you get back to it. Thanks for your time!

Jeremy Snyder lives in Ottawa with his wife, Melissa and their kids Owen, Hazel and Harris.