Ragin' Cajuns long snapper Paul Boudreaux all about making an impact
For Paul Boudreaux, chasing down a punt is as much of a thrill as a perfect pitch backward between the legs.
Ditto for when the unit comes up with a turnover.
“It’s a big adrenaline rush, for sure,” he said.
Which is why Boudreaux, UL’s redshirt junior long snapper from Brother Martin High in New Orleans, loves a good race.
To the winner goes a touch, maybe even a tough tackle.
“It’s one of the things I work on every week,” Boudreaux said.
“I just love getting down the field, trying to impact a play. It’s obvious snap first, but (I) have to get down there, help out the flyers.”
More:420 pounds in eighth grade, Cajuns guard O'Cyrus Torrence didn't wait to stand out
With standout Ragin’ Cajuns safety Percy Butler typically out ahead, being first to the finish is no easy task.
“Percy is amazing down there, to be honest,” said Boudreaux, who’ll be back at it when the No. 24 Cajuns (7-1, 5-1 Sun Belt) visit UL Monroe on Saturday (2 p.m., ESPN3).
“Sometimes I feel like I get in his way, he’s flying down there so fast. But as long as I can … make an impact down there, that’s all that matters.”
Suffice it to say it’s noticed.
“Sometimes we don’t value the long-snapper, or think about the long-snapper, until you’ve got a potential issue there,” coach Billy Napier said.
“He’s not only got great velocity and accuracy on the snap, but he is a viable coverage player. … He’s in position, and he’s done a nice job there of being a factor.
“So I think anytime your snapper has athletic ability and can impact coverage,” Napier added, “it’s a weapon for your team. … We have a lot of respect for the pride he takes in his role.”
More:Ragin' Cajuns coach Billy Napier tests positive for COVID-19 with ULM game looming
'A rough day-and-a-half':Ragin' Cajuns coach Billy Napier details his COVID-19 experience
First-year UL special teams coordinator Robby Discher calls Boudreaux “a blue collar guy” whose “job is really important to him.”
But it also can be argued Boudreaux is an artisan whose craft takes time to perfect.
Only with reps upon reps upon reps is the final product ready for show, and it takes years to produce a pretty picture – especially painting backward.
'I was pretty good at it'
Boudreaux caught the snapping bug around the time he was in ninth grade, and with time decided it was a worthwhile pursuit.
“It really took a while to get used to it, for sure,” he said. “I had known I could throw the ball pretty good, though, so that always gave me hope I could do it.”
He soon learned he could.
Boudreaux, who started at center as senior and played on two state-semifinalist teams at Brother Martin, also figured out he probably wouldn’t make it as a college offensive lineman.
So the 5-foot-10, 183-pounder started going to snapping camps and wound up coming to UL as a preferred walk-on.
“I realized I was really good at it,” Boudreaux said, “and the rest is history.”
More:Cajuns football game vs. Central Arkansas canceled due to COVID-19
Relationships take time to develop
Boudreaux played one game, against Grambling, as a redshirt freshman in 2018, then began starting the next year.
Last season he worked regularly with second team All-Sun Belt Conference punter Rhys Byrns, third team All-SBC kicker Stevie Artigue and holder Bam Jackson.
Byrns is back, but with Artigue and Jackson both having been seniors last year Boudreaux and new holder Dalen Cambre now work with two kickers, Kenneth Almendares and Nate Snyder.
The relationships aren’t perfected overnight.
“It takes a few months to get a routine down,” Boudreaux said.
Limited with what could be done this past summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, things didn’t start coming together until preseason camp.
“From August until now has been major improvement,” he said.
“Dalan’s done a very good job. Kenny’s stepped up the last couple weeks to come in and do a very good job. Nate obviously is working very hard, doing a very good job on kickoffs.”
Almendares replaced Snyder, a graduate transfer from Indiana who hit a 53-yarder as time expired beat Georgia Southern in late September, during UL’s Nov. 7 win over Arkansas State.
The Texan took over as the starter during a Nov. 14 victory over South Alabama.
More:Secondary was a primary force in No. 25 Ragin' Cajuns' win over South Alabama
Related:Balanced offense helps No. 25 Ragin' Cajuns run away from South Alabama
Bonds are tight between snapper, punter
Boudreaux’s relationship with Byrns, meanwhile, is something the two have had more time to build.
They’ve been teammates for three seasons, and Byrns – who hails from Australia – holds his snapper in particularly high regard.
“Paul Boudreaux snaps unbelievable,” he said.
“I seriously think he’s the best snapper in the country. If you watch him … it’s crazy how accurate he is and how quick he gets it back.”
Byrns might be biased.
“We’re really best friends here at the (practice) facility,” Boudreaux said. “We room together, we do a lot of stuff together, we’re friends outside of football.
“We’ve formed good chemistry, and he’s unbelievable, obviously. Always reliable, always comes up in big moments. I can’t be thankful enough to have a partner like him.”
But Discher – at UL after stops at Sam Houston State, Oklahoma State and most recently Toledo – backs up Byrns’ boast.
“Paul is one of the best snappers in the country, as far as I am concerned,” he said. “When you see it live, it’s different. He can fling it back. It’s accurate. It’s a tight spiral.”
Yet only after it’s delivered does the real fun begin.
Levi Lewis:A look at the Cajuns quarterback