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Saints' Houser knows outcome of a game can rest in his hands

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Saints' Houser knows outcome of a game can rest in his hands Haslett says N.O. deep snapper is among the best in the league Monday, August 08, 2005 By Benjamin Hochman Staff writer Kevin Houser is on the field about ...

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Old 08-08-2005, 07:57 AM   #1
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Saints' Houser knows outcome of a game can rest in his hands

Saints' Houser knows outcome of a game can rest in his hands
Haslett says N.O. deep snapper is among the best in the league
Monday, August 08, 2005
By Benjamin Hochman
Staff writer
Kevin Houser is on the field about as often as the Saintsations, but the handful of moments he plays are crucial.

Life as a long snapper is fickle, and the Saints' Houser knows that an errant snap could change the course of a game, and a few bad snaps could be career ending. So Houser has embraced his no-glory duty with extreme confidence, backed up by countless hours of preparation.

Teammates call Houser "The Jugs Machine," after the trigger mechanism designed to spit out up to 600 footballs an hour, because he constantly is snapping at practice. His meticulous work ethic is like that of a chef, perfecting his or her craft while experimenting different methods to optimize the final product.

The Superdome, it seems, is Houser's Commander's Palace.

"I think he's the best in the league, and if not, he's in the top two or three," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "He's always on the money, he's reliable, and he makes tackles on the punt team. For a guy that's not real big (6 feet 2, 252 pounds), he does our short snapping, and he hangs in there pretty good."

Said Saints Pro Bowl punter Mitch Berger: "I wouldn't want to have any other snapper."

Houser's route to becoming a long snapper began in his back yard in Ohio, where he helped his older brother, Bob, perfect his punting. Kevin and Bob Houser later became Ohio State Buckeyes, the younger brother excelling as a tight end and, of course, long snapper.

Kevin Houser was drafted by the Saints in the seventh round in 2000 and has been embedded in the NFL's trenches ever since.

Houser has been a mainstay of the Haslett era, snapping for field goals and punts in every game the past five seasons.

"If you can't come out here and have fun, there's something wrong with you," said Houser, 27, who signed a five-year contract extension following the 2003 season. "But along with living the dream, you also recognize that you have responsibility, and we treat it as a serious occupation."

Houser jokes to friends that his job is "just throwing a ball between your legs," but the science of long snapping is something he worked diligently to master.

His hand placement is imperative -- he makes sure his right hand is gripped on the ball like he was going to throw it; his left hand's middle finger is strategically on the center seam opposite of the laces, while his left hand guides the football when it is snapped.

When he snaps for a punt, the ball must get to Berger in .8 seconds or less -- Houser averages between .7 and .75 -- but he can't throw it too fast because it could disrupt his accuracy.

"Curveballs and sinkers, those aren't intentional," Houser said, comparing his rare mistakes to baseball pitches. "When that happens, Coach Haslett gets that red face, Mitch gets in my face, and I just say, 'We'll work on throwing the 'No. 1' (fastball) again.' "

"I don't like it low, and he won't almost ever throw me a low ball," said Berger, who invited Houser as his guest to the Pro Bowl after last season. "He makes my job much easier.

"He's a strong guy and believe it or not, and I hate to say it, he's a quick, fast guy, too. . . . He's a great blocker, and he knows his job running down the field. And he's good at knocking the defense off of our guards, so they can cover ahead of him."

The Saints brought in a second deep snapper this preseason -- rookie L.P. Ladouceur, who played at California. Ladouceur also has doubled as a defensive lineman.

Saints special teams coach Al Everest said the team will carry one deep snapper this year.

"I think (Ladouceur) has a chance at being a good snapper," Everest said. "He's not quite ready yet, but he has really made a lot of progress in training camp. Hopefully, in the next three or four weeks, he might develop. We're going to play him some in the preseason games."

"L.P. is an excellent snapper, and he's going to find a job in this league," Houser said. "I just hope it's not with New Orleans."

When Houser ultimately loses his job -- the way things are going, it could be when he retires -- he still will be employed; he is a registered financial broker. In fact, he currently is working two jobs.

"He's my financial planner," Berger said. "I actually fired my guy, and I hired Houser. He's a big reason why I can make some money, and he's hopefully a big reason why I keep it for a long time, too."

. . . . . . .

Benjamin Hochman can be reached at bhochman@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3405.

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