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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Chattanooga Mocs linebacker Christian Snyder (36) makes a tackle in the Wofford back field during the football game between UTC and the Wofford Terriers at Finley Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

When Christian Snyder found out he had made the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 2019 travel roster, he called his parents, Tom and Linda Snyder, immediately.

Their response was expected.

"I feel like their response was the same as usual," Snyder said. "They're proud of me and happy for me."

But the journey to figure out where he stood wasn't complete.

Snyder had joined the UTC program in 2017, having stood out enough in a walk-on tryout to earn an opportunity to be a member of the scout team for the Mocs. For two seasons, he had done just that, save for making his way onto the participation report against Tennessee Tech and Samford, both in 2018.

But he was still looking for a spot, a job that became that much harder after former head coach Tom Arth left for Akron, which basically restarted the evaluation process once new head coach Rusty Wright and his staff came in.

"It's been a rough journey. Very emotional," Snyder said Tuesday. "My mindset once I did get here was to do everything you can to get on the field, so regardless of what that took; going 100 miles an hour when people didn't want to go 100 miles an hour, it's what I was doing. I was going hard on scout team and sometimes people get annoyed with that, but what I cared about was finding a way on the field and doing whatever was possible to get that done.

"When I got here, I didn't know where I fit in — Division I, Division II, Division III — I didn't know what skill set I had, and I kind of had to figure that out myself and determine where I felt my self-worth was, so I took the chance to walk on here. And even then, the self-worth was the most challenging because I had to decide if I belonged here."

Which is why finding out he made the travel squad in 2019 was so important. It was as though he had arrived, so to speak.

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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Chattanooga Mocs linebacker Christian Snyder (36) makes a hit on Wofford Terriers running back Ryan Lovelace (28) during the football game between UTC and the Wofford Terriers at Finley Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

It's no surprise that Snyder has made his way in the rotation now at inside linebacker for the ninth-ranked Mocs (3-1, 3-0 Southern Conference), who host Mercer this Saturday at noon at Finley Stadium. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder is soon to be a finance and investments major and when asked what he planned on doing with that major, noted he wants to "build a team of people who can help other people with finances, building their own portfolio and helping them build wealth."

So being a leader is the easy part. The more difficult part was the journey to get to where he is now, from walk-on tryout to travel squad to potential starter in a college game.

"There are times you want to make a call, but you're not 100% sure," he said. "In all reality, you need to make the call because even if the call is wrong — which hopefully it isn't — if everybody is on the same page in the wrong way, we'll be fine. So you need to really just have the confidence and not have people confused.

"They need to be working cohesively in that regard."

It's that confidence that's given Wright and the UTC coaching staff the confidence to give Snyder this chance.

"That kid, he's done everything we've asked him to do," Wright said. "Two years ago, he played every snap on every kicking team; did his part behind Ty (Boeck), Marshall (Cooper) and Kam (Jones) and whoever else we had playing linebacker. He's done his due diligence of trying to become a better player, and he deserves an opportunity.

"I've got to find out if we can put him in the game and just leave him there, because he's worked hard to get to that point."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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