The long snapper is one of the most under-appreciated positions in all of sports, let alone football.
Flying under the radar most of the time, the long snapper is the key to every field goal, punt, and extra-point play.
With 32 teams in the NFL, most fans can name every starter on their squad, except for one — the long snapper.
The same is likely with college teams.
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Only when the ball goes into the ground or over the punter’s head does the snapper’s name come to the forefront.
The Dallas Cowboys have two on their roster, veteran L.P. Ladouceur and rookie Casey Kreiter. When the team gathers in Oxnard, Calif., for the start of training camp July 22, the snappers will likely go unnoticed by the fans.
But not by the team.
“L.P. makes it look easy, all the guys in the league make it look easy, but it’s definitely not an easy job,” Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey said. “There’s definitely a level of respect for what they do.”
The position requires a level of toughness, too. Punters must be able to block in addition to snap the football. They also must be able to tackle. Ladouceur has 24 career tackles on special teams.
“They basically have to be a linebacker, but backward. Be able to snap the ball like the quarterback throws. Put all that together and you get a pretty good long snapper,” special teams coach Rich Bisaccia said.
There’s also a high level of trust involved.
“It’s a tremendous battery that has to be in sync all the time,” Bisaccia said of snapper and holder or punter. “The expectation is it’s going to be right all the time, but they have to have a tremendous amount of respect for one another by the way they prepare and by way in which they work, and when there’s usually something a little off, it’s not a problem, because someone’s going to fix it.”
Kreiter is trying to learn and compete with one of the game’s best in Ladouceur. Since signing with Dallas in 2005, Ladouceur has been mistake-free on 639 punts, 275 field goals and 388 point-after-touchdown attempts.
“It’s mainly blocking. It’s not about the snap. You have to be able to block the guy in front of you. It’s really about timing and being athletic enough to block,” Ladouceur said.
Bailey and punter Chris Jones have benefited the most from Ladouceur’s play. Jones is also the holder.
“LP, he does a third of my job, it all starts with him and he’s been doing it for a long time. I’m real lucky to have him,” Bailey said. “I put him up there with some of the best in the league and I have a lot of respect for what he does. He makes my job easier.”
While Ladouceur says the position comes natural to him, Andrew Bachelier, a senior at Northern Arizona, says it has taken him years to get it down.
Bachelier has been a long snapper since the seventh grade and just like in the pros, it goes relatively unnoticed in college.
“It’s not a glorious job. It is no different than most offensive linemen or any other specialist,” Bachelier said. “For the most part, there are many more unnoticed unsung heroes on the field than the ones that get the love. That is the nature of the beast.”
Bachelier, a former high school linebacker, says he loves his role.
“It wasn’t until I tried out for the NAU team that I really became consistent and it’s still a work in progress,” Bachelier said. “It’s a skill, just like anything else, where you need to practice every day and constantly be striving for perfection.”
For long snappers, going unnoticed usually means perfection.
“It’s one of those thankless jobs. It’s not as easy as you think and that’s the reason there’s only 32 in the league, one for each team,” Bailey said.