He lives in football-mad Texas and plays for America’s Team, one of pro sports most popular and recognized franchises.
But Canadian L.P. Ladouceur can always enjoy a quiet night out in Dallas with his wife, regardless of whether the Cowboys win or lose. Call it a perk of being a long-snapper in the NFL.
“It’s nice to go out to dinner and go about your business with no one knowing who you are,” Ladouceur said with a chuckle via telephone. “I’m not a guy who wants to be in the limelight anyways.
“I’ll go out and shake some hands but I’d just rather be at home or hanging out with friends.”
On Thursday, the eight-year veteran signed a five-year deal with Dallas, giving him the opportunity to spend his entire NFL career with one team.
There’s a reason why the six-foot-five, 255-pound Ladouceur has managed to live and play in relative anonymity in a city that puts many Cowboys players under a microscope. He’s very good at what he does, having never missed a game (125 regular-season contests, and counting) or a snap on 493 punts, 214 field goals and 302 convert attempts.
Given the inexperience of kicker Dan Bailey (entering third season) and sophomore punter Chris Jones, the Cowboys obviously understood the value of having a reliable veteran consistently get them the ball.
“They wanted him, and he wanted to be there,” said Gil Scott, Ladouceur’s agent. “It’s all good from that standpoint.
“You always wonder if you can get more in free agency. Maybe? Maybe not. When you’ve played in one place and want to remain a Cowboy for your career, that transcends everything else.”
The now defunct Ottawa Renegades selected Ladouceur in the fourth round of the ’04 CFL draft but he returned to school that fall.
Ladouceur turns 32 on March 13 and was slated to become an unrestricted free agent. While he was prepared to look elsewhere if he had to, Ladouceur wanted to stay put for the sake of his wife and two-month-old daughter, Annabelle.
“It was important to stay at home,” he said. “I have a family here . . . and to be going back and forth somewhere else would’ve been kind of a mess.
“But now that we’re here we’re pretty excited.”
Of course, life in the NFL is anything but certain. Contracts aren’t guaranteed and each year teams release veterans to adhere to the salary cap. And the harsh reality for longsnappers is they’re often a miscue or two away from being unemployed.
Ladouceur saw first-hand just how ruthless the business of pro football can be.
After visiting the San Francisco 49ers the third week of the ’05 season, the Cowboys stayed in California to prepare for the Oakland Raiders. Rookie snapper Jon Condo was struggling so Dallas gave Ladouceur, who played at the University of California, Berkeley, and was in the area, a tryout.
Former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells was so impressed with Ladouceur that he cut Condo right off the team bus before practice. Condo resurfaced two seasons later with Oakland and remains their longsnapper.
Ladouceur began longsnapping in high school, where he also punted, kicked and played on the defensive line. He went on to play at Cal as a defensive lineman and didn’t take up longsnapping full-time until his junior season.
But even then he didn’t see it as a means to a pro career.
After being bypassed in the 2005 NFL draft, he signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints. Ladouceur competed for a spot on the defensive line but was released before joining Dallas.
Ladouceur said there are two keys to success for a longsnapper.
“First is practice, you obviously want to do the same thing consistently and have to do it over and over and over again, that’s just the way it is,” he said. “Also, confidence is a key, knowing you’re better than a situation, knowing going in you’re going to make it. That’s how you get good doing this job.
“You can’t go in hoping you’re going to make it. It’s like if you had a seven-iron and there was a bunker on the right and water on the left you’re not going to say, ‘That’s a big bunker,’ or ‘That’s a lot of water,’ and hit it short. You have to go for it and that’s how I approach it.”
Even after eight NFL seasons, Ladouceur still marvels that he earns a handsome living by bending over a football and firing it through his legs. Of course, there’s much more to it than that, but Ladouceur also knows life could be a lot worse.
“It’s kind of crazy to know I bend over a football for five months and get paid for it,” he said. “Yeah, I’m aware of that and it’s a weird deal but also a hell of a deal.”
However, playing for the Cowboys comes with a price. While fans in some football markets are content if their players give maximum effort, that’s not nearly good enough in Dallas.
The expectation there, from owner Jerry Jones on down, is simple: Win.
“I’ve been playing with that pressure for eight years and not many players can handle it,” Ladouceur said. “When we have some free agents come in from other teams, they’re like, ‘Wow you guys do that here?’
“It’s a completely different animal, this team. There’s the Dallas Cowboys and then there’s the other teams in the Dallas area . . . but it’s not really even close. There’s a lot of pressure, especially coming from our ownership and fans, they expect to win so when we can’t win everything kind of reverts back. It takes a toll after a while but the only thing you can do to take care of that is start winning.”
That’s easier said than done, though, in the ultra-competitive NFC East where Dallas finished third with an 8-8 record. The New York Giants (9-7) have won two Super Bowl titles since 2007 and the future looks bright in Washington (10-6) with star quarterback Robert Griffin III.
And Ladouceur expects the Philadelphia Eagles — who fired coach Andy Reid after a 4-12 record — to be improved under former Oregon coach Chip Kelly.
“My expectation every year is to win the NFC East,” Ladouceur said. “Do that and usually you go pretty far because it’s just so competitive.”
Playing for a Super Bowl winner and earning the right to wear that championship ring remains the top goal of every NFL player. But Ladouceur could also live with fulfilling his contract in Dallas.
“When I first started my goal was to make a roster, then it was to play for four years, then eight,” he said. “Now, if I can get to 12 years and play till I’m 36, I think that’s a pretty solid career in the NFL.”