How Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football kicker Nate Snyder has handled job's ups and downs

UL kicker Nate Snyder makes an extra point during a Nov. 7, 2020, homecoming win over Arkansas State at Cajun Field.
Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Not long after making a 53-yard field goal to beat Georgia Southern last season and being hoisted skyward in a wild postgame locker room celebration, kicker Nate Snyder dropped a spot on UL’s depth chart.

He still handled kickoffs, but Snyder was reduced to Kenneth Almendares’ backup.

A first-year graduate transfer at the time, Snyder could have hung it up after the season – even though he had eligibility remaining.

He never considered that, though.

“I’ve played football since I was 7 years old,” said Snyder, a product of Center Grove High in Greenwood, Indiana, who transferred after graduating from Indiana, where after dealing with injury he handled kickoffs in 2019.

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“Besides kicking, I played every position all the way up through high school. So I’ve had a passion for football – being around the guys, the coaches, the atmosphere. So it wasn’t a question of, ‘Oh, if I don’t start I’m not gonna play,’ you know? Being a part of this program, it’s a huge honor. So (that) is enough to keep me around.”

Now, however, Snyder is no small part of things.

On Sept. 25, almost a year to the day of Snyder’s 53-yard game-winner at Cajun Field, Almendares sustained a season-ending hip injury in UL’s 28-20 win at Georgia Southern.

The job again belonged to Snyder, who’ll make his fourth straight start when UL (6-1, 4-0 Sun Belt) plays host Saturday (11 a.m., ESPNU) to Texas State (2-5, 1-2).

Billy Napier backs Snyder

UL coach Billy Napier backs his new, and former, starter.

“It’s important to him,” he said.

But not all has gone smoothly.

In his first game after Almendares was injured, a 28-20 win at South Alabama, Snyder missed 1-of-3 extra points and field goal tries from 42 and 43 yards.

Consistency issues on shorter-range kicks was why he lost the job initially, so Napier spent the next week-and-a-half closely monitoring Snyder’s practice battle with walk-on Logan Klotz.

UL kicker Nate Snyder (36) reacts after making an extra point during a 2020 game against Coastal Carolina at Cajun FIeld.

Snyder prevailed.

He made 5-of-6 extra points in UL’s 41-13 win over Appalachian State, then 4 of 4 in a 28-27 win last week at Arkansas State.

“That game shows that every point matters,” Snyder said.

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Napier play-calling impacted

Since the South Alabama game, however, Snyder hasn’t attempted a field goal.

His uncertain range has impacted how Napier calls games, seemingly making him even more willing to go for it when warranted.

Rather than try a 48-yarder on fourth-and-4 against App State, UL passed for a first down.

At Arkansas State, the Ragin’ Cajuns unsuccessfully went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and later sealed their win behind Montrell Johnson Jr.’s 5-yard run on fourth-and-1 at the Red Wolves 7.

UL kicker Nate Snyder (36) warms up before the Ragin' Cajuns' Sept. 11 win over Nicholls at Cajun Field.

“He’s aggressive,” Snyder said.

“I love it. I like winning games. Just so we win the game, I don’t care if I kick zero kicks. If it’s go for 2 every time and kick no field goals, that’s fine with me.”

Similarly, he didn’t take the benching personally.

“This is my sixth year playing college football,” Snyder said, “so I know how things are, and I know how you compete.

“Shoot, I was the starter coming in last year and then ended up a missing a few kicks. Kenny was automatic in practice and he got his shot. So who’s to say that couldn’t happen this year? I knew I’d get a chance, or could eventually get a chance.”

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Snyder welcomes advice

Snyder doesn’t dwell on misses during games.

“By the time I’m on the sideline,” he said, “I’ve flushed it.”

But he’s adopted a regimented daily approach to regain consistency and confidence.

“You’ve got to watch film, and figure things out,” he said.

Napier said the Cajuns contacted kicking gurus nationwide to determine what Snyder was doing wrong, especially because he’s had issues with distance and placement on kickoffs.

Ragin' Cajuns kicker Nate Snyder, shown during the first practice of fall camp on Aug. 6, is starting again for UL.

“It’s just some technical things Nate needs to do better, and he needs to do more consistently,” Napier said.

“He does it right a lot. But … occasionally there will be a fundamental issue or flaw or technique issue that causes him to not be able to execute.”

Snyder welcomed all input, even from afar.

“That helped me big-time … because then you can plug and play and see what you like and what you don’t,” he said

But whether it comes down to leg swing, placement of the plant foot or if his ankle is properly locked, Snyder knows it’s mostly about nuances in form and approach.

“Every kick, every miss, can have a different reason why you missed it,” he said. “There are so many inputs and outputs that go into kicking, it gets frustrating, especially when you’re passionate about it.

“If one little thing is off, you’re gonna miss your kick. It’s basically just honing in on the little details.”