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Ohio University long snapper, Devin King (#33), placekicker, Louie Zervos (#2), punter, Michael Farkas (#5), pose for a portrait in Walter Fieldhouse.

Football: How Ohio's trio of specialists ascended into one of its most reliable groups

Louie Zervos glanced at the spot where Michael Farkas laid his left hand on the turf, and then looked at the field goal post 20 yards away. Farkas, the place holder, peered back at his kicker, then focused on the football between the legs of long snapper Devin King seven yards ahead.

It was arguably the biggest moment of Ohio’s season thus far — an overtime extra point that would give the Bobcats a win in their first Mid-American Conference game against Buffalo — but none of the three specialists were nervous.

To them, it was only another routine kick. That’s why Zervos had a blank stare and kept his arms at his hips as he watched the kick split the uprights to secure a 21-20 win.

Then, Farkas lifted him among the throng of teammates rushing the field in front of the silenced crowd at UB Stadium. Seconds later, King joined them.

“I didn’t expect everyone to freak out like that,” Zervos said. “For me, it was just another extra point.”

That’s usually how it feels for Zervos, Farkas and King, who have ascended into one of the most consistent special teams units in Ohio history. 

Zervos and Farkas, Ohio’s punter, started that path together as redshirt freshmen in 2016. After three full seasons, both are scattered throughout Ohio’s record book for kicking and punting accolades — Zervos is second all-time with 367 career points, and Farkas is second all-time with a 41.4 career punting average.

The two originally met after Farkas texted Zervos during their official visits before joining the program. Both were staying in the Ohio University Inn, and Zervos was nearly asleep when he felt his phone vibrate with a text message from Farkas.

King didn’t join the football program until last season after spending his first three years with the wrestling team, but he met Farkas and Zervos as a freshman, too.

He lived in a separate room from Farkas and Zervos on the second floor in Sargent Hall, and King mistakenly stumbled into their room when he was playfully chasing one of his wrestling teammates. The exchange was as awkward as it seemed.

So, when King trotted out with Farkas during a tryout in the spring of 2018, his future teammate was a little surprised.

“Farkas was like, ‘You’re snapping?’” King said with a laugh. “I was just like, ‘Yeah.’”

Now, the group, which includes backup long snapper Justin Holloway, couldn’t be tighter. They nicknamed themselves the “Big City Slam Boys” after King jokingly muttered the phrase during a golf outing at the OU golf course with strength coach Dak Notestine and special teams coordinator Brian Haines.

“I needed something to rally us,” King said. “So I just started calling us the ‘Big City Slam Boys.’”

The phrase has stuck ever since, and they even gave themselves an official song: “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)” by The Hollies.

“That’s our war anthem,” King said with a straight face.

Their chemistry is on full display each practice. Specialists aren’t needed for most drills, so they kill time on the sidelines performing tricks with a football or taking turns snapping the ball to each other.

They’re attitude on the field, though, is the exact opposite. They normally don’t say anything to each other when the field goal team receives the call, and the only words come from Farkas, who shouts “black black, left left!” to King before he looks back at Zervos to ensure he’s ready to kick.

The cadence feels so routine that the hardest part might be what Farkas does before he kneels down to hold each kick.

He locates the yardage marker closest to the ball, then counts seven hashes back to position Zervos for the kick. He still counts the lines with his finger when he jogs onto the field.

“I look stupid, but whatever,” Farkas said. “The last thing I want to do is get blocked.”

The routine has been nearly perfect this season. Zervos is 6-of-8 on field goal attempts with deep misses from 43 and 52 yards. The latter came last Saturday against Buffalo when the ball clanked off the bottom goal post and came inches away from splitting the uprights.

It didn’t matter, though. The specialists have been best on extra points, which Zervos hasn’t missed since 2017, so when they took the field for the game-winning kick in overtime Saturday, coach Frank Solich took his headset off before a game for the first time since he became Ohio’s coach in 2005.

“Across the board, they could very, very well be,” Solich said when asked if the group was the best specialists group he’s ever coached, which includes six years at Nebraska. “I think these guys would measure up.”

So when Farkas lifted Zervos after the game-winning kick against Buffalo, all Zervos could do was laugh.

Not because he made the kick, but because it all felt too easy for him.

And that’s the only way the specialists know how to do it. 


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