Wayne Toussant keys Plaquemine win over Livonia _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Plaquemine's Wayne Toussant (4) carries the ball against Livonia, Friday, October 16, 2015, at Livonia High School in Livonia, La.

Twenty-eight minutes after taking the field for Tuesday’s practice, Wayne Toussant fielded a punt launched from a jugs machine. Teammates donned red practice shirts to simulate the punt team racing toward the Plaquemine sophomore, who fielded the ball cleanly and put his new vision to the test, letting holes develop and blockers align before bursting through.

Thirteen minutes later, Toussant lined up as a wingback in the Green Devils’ Wing-T offensive sets, sweeping in motion one play while being utilized as a decoy on the next. Three plays later, he was in the slot, taking an option pitch from quarterback Austin Mitchell.

Six plays later, Toussant — the Green Devils’ do-it-all dynamo who says he never tires — didn’t take the pitch, instead delivering a hard block on the scout team defender as his quarterback scampered free behind him.

“Usually, kids like that, blocking isn’t a part of their game,” Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano said. “It’s not a sexy thing to do. He’s a very physical kid, plays a lot bigger than his size. Very, very physical, great tackler, tough kid. He’s one of the better blockers, if not the best running back, I’ve got.”

Still, Toussant wasn’t done. He ran with the defense, where he’s primarily a cornerback but he has slid over to free safety, for one practice segment. For a young player who touches the ball so often, this is surprisingly his favorite place to play.

“I like defense the best,” Toussant said. “Defense wins championships. But I’ll do anything. Wherever you put me, I’ll do my best at it.”

Standing 5-foot-11, Toussant’s sets a goal to play far bigger than his stature. Distefano worries about undue pressure all three phases could place upon his budding star, but last week’s 30-24 win against Livonia soothed any concerns.

Toussant is from the north Iberville Parish and close to those in the Livonia community, but shook aside any nerves to score three times and pull down a game-clinching interception.

Designed to get Toussant the ball in open space, many of the Green Devils offensive formations center around the sophomore, who has evolved from a junior high mindset to an intelligent, mindful runner who anticipates his teammates’ help.

Toussant, an offensive mainstay last season, often relied upon his speed to outrun defenders — “junior high football,” as Distefano terms it. To advance, Distefano and Toussant gathered outside in the offseason, sometimes necessitating Distefano to excuse Toussant from a late class, to work on anticipating holes opening and how to hit them harder.

“There’s some things you just can’t teach,” Distefano said. “Having Austin Mitchell, I think he learned a lot from watching Austin, just showing him film on how patient Austin was, how he would set up the blocks and the ability to make people miss. He’s not just relying on his speed anymore, he’s becoming a complete player.”

Reserved and soft-spoken off the field, Toussant and free safety Todd Harris are close. The two often stay at Harris’ house during the week, though are careful to spend as much time out of it as possible. Trips to Baton Rouge for a walk around the Mall of Louisiana or around the state to watch other friends play are common for the twosome.

“He’s humble. I follow in his footsteps,” Toussant said of Harris, who has an LSU scholarship offer. “I look after him, he looks after me. He’s quie,t but he likes to clown a little bit.”

Toussant clowns a bit himself but put the pads on and things turn serious. Defense is his favorite, but if he had to choose an offensive position, he wants to be in the slot. With a knowledge of the entire offense, defense and special teams schemes, Toussant admitted he doesn’t feel like just a sophomore.

“I know all the offense and defense and I’ve been playing since my eighth-grade year,” Toussant said. “I think I play up ahead, probably on the senior level. They say that I got a bright future, but they never said I’m on another level.”

Harris does.

“Just as good as he is on the field,” his teammate says, “he’s that good off the field.”