In 13 years with Cowboys, L.P. Ladouceur has sprouted a snapper tree

FRISCO, Texas -- As L.P. Ladouceur watched the Monday Night Football opener between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings, he nudged his wife, Brooke.

"Look, Zach is snapping," he said.

"What?" his wife replied.

Zach is Zach Wood. The Saints picked him up after the long-snapper they traded for, Jon Dorenbos, was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm that required heart surgery. Wood was among the Dallas Cowboys' cuts after spending the past two training camps as Ladouceur's understudy.

We know about coaching trees. Andy Reid has five former assistants as current head coaches in the NFL: John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Todd Bowles, Doug Pederson and Sean McDermott.

We don't know much about long-snapper trees.

Wood is the third long-snapper who has spent a summer or two with the Cowboys and become a regular long-snapper in the league.

He had just a few practices with the Saints before he was forced into action.

"What L.P. was able to teach me was how simple it is and how easy it is to get caught up mentally," he said. "And that's when I feel like snappers screw up is when they think too much and all that. So he kind of helped me get in a routine, get in a mentality of, 'I can do this. I've been doing it my whole life. And I should be confident in this.'"

Before last week's game, Ladouceur spent time talking with Casey Kreiter, whom he helped tutor in 2014-15 before becoming the Denver Broncos long-snapper last season.

Charley Hughlett spent two summers with the Cowboys (2012-13) before Kreiter. After bouncing around with three teams in 2014, he landed with the Cleveland Browns. In February, he became the NFL's highest-paid long-snapper with a six-year deal that averages $1.9 million a year.

"L.P. was a great influence," Hughlett said. "He was a long-time vet when I came in. I think when I came in he was in his eighth or ninth year. The first thing I realized about him was just how talented he was as a snapper. He's probably one of the best I've ever had to go in and compete against."

Ladouceur is in his 13th season with the Cowboys and has never had a bad snap on a field goal attempt or punt in his career. That's 1,747 snaps -- 842 on punts, 526 on PATs, 379 on FGs. He has helped kickers Nick Folk and Dan Bailey and punter Mat McBriar make Pro Bowls. Only Jason Witten has been with the Cowboys longer than Ladouceur.

"It's really cool to see these kids getting a chance," Ladouceur said.

He said special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia deserves most of the credit because of how he runs practices. Bisaccia has three punt teams working in the offseason program and training camp. Having two snappers is a requirement.

"I couldn't take 15 reps in a row," Ladouceur said. "I mean I could but you'd rather not, right? But that means the other guys that come in get a lot of work. It's not like some places where they don't really do that much in the preseason, but we do a lot here."

The competition for roster spots can be cutthroat in the NFL. Teams only keep one long-snapper, but that never stopped Ladouceur from offering tips.

"He was so good to me," Kreiter said. "He helped me out if I had questions. And in my role now, when younger guys come in here and being the veteran per se, I think back, 'How did L.P. handle that?' And I can take that from him and it was a really, really good experience."

The evolution of college football to spread offenses has affected how teams evaluate almost every position -- that includes long-snappers.

"At our position, it's gotten a lot harder for kids out of college because a lot of the spread formations that they use now," said Ladouceur, who was a defensive lineman at California. "They get here and they haven't had to block anybody, so you kind of try to teach that. You've got to still move your feet and get those blocks. You will get turned a couple of times. It happens. You're going to get behind, but it's when you do get behind, what do you do? What's the technique? There are certain things you can do, and that's what I try and teach them and tell them."

Ladouceur is 36 and set to be a free agent after the season. As much as he has enjoyed his mentor role, he is not ready to give up his job just yet.

"It's cool to see some of the guys that have been here move on and actually play," Ladouceur said. "It's kind of cool. But it also means that they're getting guys in here that are good too and they're trying to push me.

"And I won't let them push me."

NFL Nation reporters Mike Triplett, Pat McManamon and Jeff Legwold contributed to this story.