The New Orleans Saints have signed CB Delvin Breaux, a Louisiana native who spent the last two seasons playing in Canada with the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Breaux, who excels as a shutdown corner in man coverage, gives the Saints' roster a boost and a fresh injection of talent at a position that struggled throughout 2014. New Orleans ranked 25th in net pass defense and was often exposed on the perimeter against top-notch receivers. Breaux's skill set fits the profile of the type of corner that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants in his system. Former Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, who has returned to an assistant coaching position with the Saints, is also likely to work closely with Breaux in an attempt to get him ready to compete for a roster spot and playing time.
The Tiger-Cats granted Breaux his release on Saturday, giving him the opportunity to sign with New Orleans immediately. A former highly-touted recruit who signed to play at LSU but was never granted medical clearance due to concerns over a severe neck injury, Breaux's road to an NFL career has been one full of ups, downs and plenty of inspiration.
The 25-year-old prepped at McDonogh 35 in New Orleans before sustaining that neck injury which temporarily derailed his football dreams in October of 2006. Breaux, in his senior year, suffered fractures to the C4, C5 and C6 vertebrae, while his right vertebral artery was also damaged. Just 17 at the time and verbally committed to play at LSU -the school where his father had played- Breaux's young career was flashing before his own eyes, as doctors explained to him that the damage he had incurred to his neck would require two painful surgeries and a long road to recovery if he was to ever get back on the field, let alone regain the ability to freely perform everyday activities.
That long road got underway, in earnest, straight after Breaux was discharged from Tulane Medical Center less than a month after his operations. By early 2007 he was running on the track at McDonogh 35. Having honored his scholarship, LSU was Breaux's next step, but a redshirt year was needed to give his neck ample time to continue the healing process. Breaux watched from the family suites at Tiger Stadium as LSU went on to win its second national title in five years. He remained in school for the 2008 season, but the medical clearance continued to elude him. By year three, still yet to be cleared by LSU's training staff and desperate to play the game he loved, Breaux began struggling with academics and eventually left school. His attempt to transfer to the University of Arkansas-Monticello, where he hoped to gain his long-awaited medical clearance, fell through due to his grades. One bit of good news did manage to emerge from that saga, however, as the doctors at Monticello did, indeed, clear Breaux for contact. Good news, obviously, but Breaux needed somewhere to play. While his hopes of playing college football hung firmly in the balance, the ultimate dream still stood in front of him. Delvin Breaux hopes to win a roster spot and playing time with the Saints in 2015.
Taking jobs in the construction and security fields, Breaux continued to work diligently towards making his return to football. With college in the rear view, he set his sights towards the professional level. The NFL seemed like the longest of shots at the time, namely because Breaux lacked game film and crystal clear medical records. Upon words of encouragement from his girlfriend and several flag football teammates, Breaux set out to assemble himself a football dossier. He tried out for the Louisiana Bayou Vipers, a local semi-pro side from Hammond, a short jaunt from New Orleans. Breaux was a natural. Looking comfortable and healthy as ever, he made the team and recorded 45 tackles, 5 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles, but that was just the beginning. With some game tape now in tow, Breaux headed to an open tryout for the Arena Football League's New Orleans VooDoo, where he recorded a toasty 4.38 40-yard dash time. Breaux won a roster spot with the VooDoo, going on to appear in three games where he recorded 10 tackles. The next step in his progression was a trip north, where Breaux landed a place on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' roster ahead of the 2013 CFL season.
A physical 6-1, 193 shutdown corner with high-end athleticism, Breaux got his feet wet in year one, but really came on in his second season with the Ticats. He put together a fine 2014 season with 33 tackles, an interception, a touchdown return and a fumble recovery as Hamilton won the East Division before eventually falling to Calgary in the Grey Cup. Breaux was named a league All-Star, and helped limit Montreal Alouettes standout receiver and fellow future NFL hopeful Duron Carter to 3 catches for 25 yards in a playoff matchup. Game tape ready to rock and roll, Breaux's next step was to gauge his NFL interest, and interest he would find.
More than 20 NFL franchises called, and 13 arranged workouts with Breaux. The Saints, who just last spring brought in another standout CFL defensive back in Marcus Ball, were a logical contestant in the Delvin Breaux sweepstakes. Not only the hometown team with a history of casting their nets near, far, and wide in search of talent, the Saints also presented Breaux with a feasible route to the field. New Orleans, as mentioned, struggled defensively throughout the 2014 season, and to say that the Saints were bad in coverage would be putting it mildly. With a seemingly wide-open depth chart below top man and fellow New Orleanian Keenan Lewis, Delvin Breaux's next challenge may be his easiest when it is all said and done. Having overcome so much just to get to this moment, eight months to fight for an NFL roster spot with his hometown Saints will be a simple task compared to the eight years it took to get there.
With names like Brandon Browner, Cameron Wake, and Marcus Ball making an impact in the NFL, it only makes sense that more teams such as New Orleans will continue to look north of the border in their constant pursuit of talent. While many capable players are out there, few, if any, will have such an inspiring story to their name as Delvin Breaux.
Eight years on from a career and life-threatening injury, Breaux is right where he needs to be and right where he wants to be. In Louisiana and on the football field. Home, in other words.