“Uncompromising men are easy to admire.” Robert Bruce Sr. (Braveheart)
Life of a Saint: Delvin Breaux
“Prior to my injury, everything was smooth. I was just a typical teenager going to high school at McDonogh-35. I was just enjoying my journey. I was doing all the little things you do as a kid that was about to be going into my senior year. I had to prepare yourself for what’s coming after high school. My dad always kept us training; kept us focused.”
But Delvin Breaux was no typical teenager. Breaux was gaining serious interest from college scouts at the time, most notably LSU. He did this while dealing with the stress of switching schools from Southern Lab in Baton Rouge the year prior. Then when you add in the fact that the New Orleans area was only a year removed from Hurricane Katrina at the time, it makes Breaux’s teen years appear undeniably impressive.
October 27, 2006
When Breaux stepped onto the field at Tad Gormley Stadium (now named Reggie Bush Field) on October 27, 2006, he anticipated it would be a day to remember. Playing against Jesuit HS, Breaux was informed scouts would be watching, and he had every intention of putting on a show. Breaux then suffered a nearly fatal injury on a kickoff return.
”I was playing on kickoff and I was all the way at L1 gunner going down toward the north end zone. I was running down there, typical play. I dove at the guy coming at me at an angle at about the 23-yard line. I dove into the guy’s leg and my facemask hit and it jacked my neck up. When it jacked my neck back, that was it. It was just a hard collision, and everything just went dark. I laid on the field. I didn’t move. I couldn’t move. Then, within a couple of seconds, I saw a big, bright white light. It was pretty crazy. It was indescribable,” Breaux offered.
He continued, “Next thing you know, my coaches are waking me up, opening my eyes, asking if I was ok. I heard my teammates saying, ‘D-Breaux, we need you. Come one. Get up.’ My coach asked if I was ok and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ He said, ‘Well, let’s get up then.’ They helped me get up and I walked off the field under my own power. I took my own helmet off. In high school, you have to take a play or two off before you get back in. I was about to get back in the game. I was jumping up and down. That’s when I felt the excruciating pain shoot up the back of my neck. I went over and told my dad. I went over and pointed at the back of my neck. I told him it was bothering me. He gave me some ibuprofen. I took the ibuprofen, tried swallowing it and I couldn’t swallow the pills. I kept coughing them up. That’s when my disc slipped up in my esophagus. That’s when I felt some excruciating pain in the back of my neck. I was like, ‘Dad, call the ambulance. Something is wrong.’ He called the ambulance and they put me on a stretcher. I went to the hospital from there.”
Neurosurgeon, Dr. Miguel Melgar, was baffled that Breaux hadn’t done serious neurological damage, or worse yet, died on the field after sustaining such an extensive injury. After receiving word on the extent of his injuries, Breaux knew he had a long road ahead of him. And while Breaux left Tulane Hospital with his high school football jersey in pieces, his NFL dreams were still very much intact, thanks, in part, to some words from Dr. Melgar. When Breaux asked the doctor if he’d ever be able to play football again, Melgar stated, “Whenever you make it to the Super Bowl, make sure you get me tickets.”
That’s all Breaux needed to hear.
Despite the devastating injury suffered by Breaux, LSU decided to honor the scholarship agreed upon prior to that. Breaux recalled, “I talked to Les Miles after I got back home. He said, “yeah, we are still going to honor your scholarship. We are pleased to have you. You stuck with your commitment and we are going to honor ours.” Breaux was optimistic that after some rehab, he would be able to play for Miles.
The medical staff at LSU put another obstacle in front of Delvin Breaux, who shared, “, I saw the doctors on my first day there just to see if I could play in 2008. All three of the doctors said the same thing. ‘No. We are not going to clear you. You can just think about hanging up football.” The doctors then went on to explain how he should be thankful he’s getting a full ride at LSU and that perhaps he could eventually coach. Breaux then began to rehab, assuming he would get his chance to play later in his college career. That chance never came despite Breaux’s continued belief in himself and his progress.
Breaux Finds His Way Back onto the Football Field
Breaux would not be denied his chance to show what he could still do on the field. As he continued rehabilitation, he also studied film and prepared himself any way he could for a chance to again play the game he loves. When asked where his motivation comes from, he answered, “It wasn’t my dad. It wasn’t my mom. Nobody in my family taught me. I feel like I’m the first one in my family to have this ‘get up and go’ about themselves. I won’t ever quit. I don’t know where I get that attitude from but it’s just in me.”
Breaux knocked on any door he could to find his way back. He shared, “I just took whatever opportunity that was available to me. Whether it was starting by playing semi-pro, whether it was going to combines, I just took it. I just needed to catch somebody’s eye.” And as fate would have it, the New Orleans native who played all his high school football locally and attended college locally would end up getting that opportunity locally.
Breaux signed on with the Louisiana Bayou Vipers of the APDFL development league in 2012. He parlayed a development league all-star performance into another local opportunity, landing in the Arena League with the New Orleans VooDoo in 2013. Breaux would eventually venture away from New Orleans, playing in the Canadian Football League in 2013-2014 with the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Breaux shared that during his two years in Hamilton, many of his teammates would tell him, “You don’t belong here”, inferring that he should be playing in the NFL.
Breaux Heads Home to Fulfill a Dream
After two seasons with the Tiger Cats, Breaux played his way onto the CFL All-Star team. At that point, he was finally getting serious attention from NFL teams. Then, while working out with the Tampa Bay Bucs, Delvin Breaux go the call he had been waiting for his entire life. Breaux said, “To get the call, to get the 5-0-4, when that area code pops up, you know what time it is!” Sean Payton brought the impressive cornerback back home, this time to become a member of the New Orleans Saints.
Breaux would make the most of his opportunity in the NFL, immediately making a name for himself as more than just a ‘feel-good story’ in 2015. Breaux finished his rookie campaign as the 13th ranked cornerback in the NFL according to bleacherreport.com and the best on the Saints roster. As the season progressed, Breaux achieved the high ranking despite often getting paired against the best wide receiver the opposition had to offer. Breaux was awarded the Ed Block Courage Award at the end of the season.
Not just the fans were impressed with Breaux’s splash into the NFL. Former teammate, Sterling Moore, had this to say: “I would say that for someone who missed college, played arena, played CFL, his knowledge of NFL offensive schemes and route combinations was/is impressive.”
Injuries Find Breaux
Coming off an eye-opening start to his career, the New Orleans Saints had high hopes for their new lock-down corner. A promising sophomore year quickly took an unfortunate turn as Breaux broke his fibula in week one versus the Oakland Raiders. The Saints looked to tread water while they waited for Breaux to return. After a 6-week hiatus to recover, #40 made his way back into the lineup.
Breaux would then suffer a shoulder injury that same season in week 14 against the Bucs. The Saints were 5-13 after the loss to Tampa Bay and elected not to try and rush Breaux back in the 2016 season. At that point, the team put him on injured reserve.
The 2017 season was over before it began. Breaux suffered another fractured fibula in August of 2017 and was placed on the IR by early September. It was a disappointing series of events for Breaux. On top of the injuries, a couple of the doctors on the Saints medical staff misdiagnosed Breaux’s injury – a mistake which would cost those doctors their jobs.
Delvin Breaux believes that the injuries he sustained in the NFL were not a sign of being injury-prone, but rather freak individual plays. Following that 2017 season, the Saints elected to not re-sign Breaux. The team did not cite injury concerns as the reason. In fact, they didn’t give Breaux any reason. “I never got a good reason as to why the Saints let me go. Nothing was told to me. I found out on social media that I was getting released and let go. I never heard from Coach Payton again.”
Regarding Breaux’s departure from New Orleans, Sterling Moore stated, “Obviously, everyone would have loved to see him get a chance at free agency healthy, but everyone is also happy he has gone back and succeeded at the CFL again. As much as New Orleans was a homecoming for him, going back to Hamilton is almost just as much of a homecoming.”
After a year to recuperate, Breaux found himself back on the field in a familiar place. The former Hamilton Tiger Cat was once again in the CFL with that same club in 2018. Since his arrival, he has had a chip on his shoulder and has been out to prove he can play at an elite level. He has accumulated back-to-back all-star selections in 2018-2019, earning himself a lucrative contract, becoming the highest paid cornerback in the CFL.
For Breaux, the reunion has been incredible. “The Hamilton Tiger Cats fan base has taken me back in with open arms, like I never left. The people are great. It’s great to make all-star and to compete for Grey Cups and to show that city that this is a guy who’s been through things and wants to help this city progress even more; to help this football team progress even more. It’s been lovely. I actually want to move to Canada. It’s that beautiful.”
With Breaux excelling in the CFL, the question had to be asked. Does Delvin Breaux aspire to get back into the NFL? Delvin answered, “I will let God handle everything. Whatever happens, I just let God wake me up in the morning and guide me through the day. I don’t look too far and don’t need to look back. I just stay right here in the moment and enjoy that.”
While Breaux stated that playing in both the CFL and NFL is an honor, his ability to inspire others with his story is his driving force. “’ It’s more for others to see the resiliency and then they can go out there and achieve. And I don’t care about the money. It’s about me helping others and picking other people up. People can see that and know they can change their life at any time in any moment. You’ve got to have faith.”
If anyone is to learn from and be inspired by his story, Breaux really hopes the message is received by his nearly 3-year old son, Delvin Breaux Jr. And before you wonder, Breaux would support his son playing any sport he wanted, football included.
What’s Next for Breaux?
It’s hard for Delvin Breaux to pinpoint what he wants to do after football, mostly because he is still very much in the middle of his career right now. He’s only 30-years old and playing lights-out corner. That being said, he has a few ideas.
“I want to be a coach. I want to start off at high school and work my way up. If coaching doesn’t work out, I love bowling. I might take an interest in bowling and go out there and whip on a couple cats. Maybe I’ll try and get into the PBA.” Breaux laughed and then continued. “. Also, I want to be an actor. If coaching doesn’t work out, I would love to go into acting. I always wanted to be an actor. I always loved the tv screen. Yes, I’m anti-social but if you put me in character, come on now. I can do it and then go back to my anti-social world. If there are any entertainment or tv shows that want to, give me a shout. I’m here. Come find Delvin Breaux. Let’s get that out there.”
Breaux also mentioned he has become somewhat of a beer connoisseur, so perhaps a ‘Breaux Show Brewery’ may be in his future.
Breaux’s old high school jersey may have had to be sewn back together. His spine may have needed life-saving surgery. But his heart has never been in question. So, whatever path Breaux chooses to go down after football, expect it will be attacked with the same fire he brings to both the field and to life.
And if we know anything about Delvin Breaux, it’s this: Delvin Breaux has never been one to compromise.