Chris Stoll tries to go through life as unnoticed. As the Penn State long snapper, Stoll knows that his name will only come up if he does something wrong. So when he’s snapping to Barney Amor for a punt or to hold for a Jake Pinegar field goal, Stoll wants to be exact.
“Nobody should know who I am,” Stoll said over Zoom on Tuesday. “That would be ideal.”
So it’s fitting that this season, Penn State coach James Franklin gave Stoll a job that involves him being on center stage. Stoll, a sixth-year senior who was voted a team captain before the season, has been a game captain for all 11 contests this season, along with a rotating cast of three teammates.
And when Franklin was asked about Stoll’s consistent presence at the midfield coin tosses, Franklin revealed that Stoll is the one speaking with the referee to call the toss or make Penn State’s decision every week.
“I’m trying to kind of take that off some of those guys’ plates,” Franklin said during his Tuesday news conference. “If you can have a specialist do it like him, specifically someone not on offense, defense or the kickoff team, those guys can be focused on getting ready for that while he’s out there doing it.
“Then the other thing, I prefer to have the same guy speaking every week. I know it sounds crazy, but there have been bad mistakes that have been made in the past where somebody defers and then they chose to kick it and officials try to talk you out of it: ‘They deferred, you sure you want to kick it?’ ‘Yeah, I want to kick it.’
“So just how we go through that each week, what our philosophy is, what we’re choosing, why. Just having the same guy do it every week I think there is a ton of value in it.”
No. 11 Penn State hosts Michigan State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday (4 p.m., FS1), which provides one last time for Stoll to go out to midfield for a coin toss and speak with a referee.
Franklin values consistency, and his players have lauded the ninth-year coach’s ability to be the same day in and day out, week in and week out and month in and month out during the course of the season. So it makes sense that Franklin’s desire for consistency extends to a detail such as the coin toss, one that might seem small to someone on the outside.
Franklin said it made sense for Stoll to have the role because he won’t be immediately needed on offense, defense or special teams. He didn’t want players who need to be warming up for immediate action to need to have the extra responsibility of calling the toss.
“It’s been a huge honor, and honestly, super cool just to speak out loud,” Stoll said. “But how it kind of came about was, it was right before the Purdue game, and he was just like, ‘Hey, I want you to [be] the speaking captain.’ And I’m like, ‘OK. What does that mean?’ He’s like, ‘I’ll tell you what to say.’ ‘OK, beautiful.’ I was a little nervous, and I think I’ve won only one coin toss.
“So tails has not been favorable to me. But hopefully, my luck continues to get better. But yeah, it’s been super cool, such a huge honor for me, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.”
Penn State’s coin toss strategy under Franklin is similar to many other teams. If the Nittany Lions win the toss, Franklin wants to defer and receive the ball to start the second half. That opens the door for Penn State to potentially steal an extra possession and double-dip going into and coming out of halftime. Franklin has emphasized the “middle eight” — the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half — as a key part of every game.
So Stoll takes his responsibility seriously.
“I haven’t messed up a coin toss because I know Coach Franklin would be speaking very kindly to me,” he deadpanned Tuesday.
But it’s given him a unique opportunity that not many players get to have. On top of that, Stoll has taken a winding journey to this point. He walked on in 2017 and eventually took over the snapping job as a redshirt sophomore in 2019. He earned a scholarship in summer 2020, and after he elected to return for a sixth year this fall, he was voted a team captain for the first time.
Through all of that, Stoll still strove for on-field anonymity. That changed a bit this fall, though, and Stoll has relished that opportunity.
“Probably the coolest one was Ohio State,” Stoll said. “Being from Ohio, you’re walking out there and seeing all the fireworks. That was a super cool experience. And then walking up to the coin toss. They called it and they lost. So technically, I won. I’ll take that. I’ll take that as a ‘W.’ So that was probably my favorite moment of the coin toss.”