Commentary: UCLA long snapper Jack Landherr is a quiet star and role model for the Bruins
A tall, ruggedly handsome young man, proudly wearing his Bruins blues, stood up this week and told us that all is not lost in college football.
His name, Jack Landherr, won’t be familiar, even though he will be playing in his 42nd game for UCLA in Friday’s Sun Bowl in El Paso. Long snappers don’t make headlines, unless they screw up. In four seasons, Landherr never screwed up. His snaps to the holder or punter were always on target, some perhaps a hundredth of a second slower than he wanted, maybe six inches higher than the previous one. No harm, no foul.
He caused a fumble in punt coverage in a Nov. 25 game against Cal. That led to a Bruins recovery, probably the game’s winning points, joyful slaps on the helmet from his teammates along the sidelines and praise from his coach, Chip Kelly, in the postgame news conference. He even got his name in the paper. Those things, of course, happen to quarterbacks and wide receivers and running backs about every 10 minutes. For Landherr, never before and no matter. He was a student-athlete.
Yes, Virginia, they do still exist.
UCLA safety Stephan Blaylock will be playing in his 56th and final game as a Bruin in Friday’s Sun Bowl and sees it as an opportunity for future success for the program.
In his time in Westwood, Landherr, 21, got his bachelor’s degree in three years with a major in political science and a minor in entrepreneurship. His GPA was 3.7. He also did an internship and now is working on a master’s degree in transformative leadership, a program based at least partly on John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.
Because COVID-19 gave all players an extra year of eligibility, Landherr could have played a fifth season. Earlier this week, he announced on social media that he will forgo that. He said he will make himself eligible for the NFL draft. Long snappers are a sought-after commodity in the pros. He received preseason All-American mention and has usually been listed in the top five in the country at his position.
But what he said in his announcement was more significant than anything about the pros. He thanked his parents, his two sisters and his coaches, and said he was constantly motivated by the “quality of individuals that surrounded me.” He added: “The student-athlete experience at UCLA is second to none. I’m humbled and excited to represent UCLA in my future endeavors.”
Landherr is a chip off the old block. Several old blocks, actually.
His maternal grandfather was John Rountree, who starred as a prep athlete in Pomona, went on to West Point where he was a pole vaulter, a fine student and somebody who would end up serving his country in Vietnam. He returned to Pomona and family, ran several successful businesses, raised millions of dollars for local charities and even served for a while as a vice president of Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare. The hospital has a courtyard with a huge mural that includes a collage of many important people in its history. There is Rountree, vintage baseball cap in place, standing out bigger than life. Which he was.
On Oct. 17, 2011, Rountree died of ALS. When the funeral home van came to gather his body from his home, he was carried out by one of his sons-in-law, Jack Landherr’s father, John, and a sportswriter, this one. Rountree had been a 220-pound rock. Now he weighed only what skin and bones do. A few weeks later, an 11-year old Jack Landherr sat in the front row of a huge church in Pomona, packed into its balcony, as his grandfather was memorialized.
UCLA defensive coordinator Bill McGovern, who missed the last five games with “health problems,” is set to return against Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl.
John Landherr is also a military veteran, reaching the rank of pilot major in the Marines. In April 2000, piloting one of four V-22 Ospreys in a training mission near Tucson, Landherr was 100 miles behind a disaster. One of the Ospreys in front of him crashed and all 19 on board died. Landherr landed and took command of the scene. He is now CEO of A-Z Bus Sales in Colton, which is an industry leader in all-electric buses.
Landherr married Allison Rountree, the daughter of John and Dottie Rountree. They live in Chino Hills. Allison has undergone 13 breast cancer-related surgeries and has not missed a UCLA football game involving her son.
When Jack Landherr takes the field for the Sun Bowl game against Pittsburgh, he will be surrounded by many of the “quality individuals” he referenced in his departure note. It will be an ending, but a happy one.
At home, we will watch as we have the last four years, rooting for touchdowns that bring extra points, field-goal attempts, even punts, if we aren’t getting to see much of Jack. A glance or two will be enough.
No. 51. Student-athlete.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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