Nigel Despinasse spends plenty of time working in a relatively small ring.
Trying to stereotype the Catholic High junior is like pushing a square peg through a round hole.
“My sister had a friend who did track, and she talked about it a lot,” Despinasse said. “I told my parents that’s what I wanted to do. I started out as a sprinter, but they switched me to shot put and I won my first meet. I guess I was about 6. I was hooked.”
Despinasse figures to be one of the top Division I performers at the Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Indoor Track meet set for Saturday at LSU’s Carl Maddox Field House. He opened the indoor season with a winning shot put toss of 56 feet at the LSU High School Classic last month.
That throw was a personal best. Not bad for a 6-foot-2, 270-pound guy who is built like a prototypical football lineman. Forget the prototype and stereotypes. Despinasse dropped football in junior high.
“I never really loved football like I do track,” Despinasse said. “I figured if I didn’t love it the same way, why spend the time with it? My dad had a different opinion. He thought I needed to do all the sports. He understands now.”
Catholic throws assistant Don Hood, who is also an assistant football coach, said several coaches tried to convince Despinasse to try football again.
No dice. Despinasse’s goals are linked to track. Last spring he finished second in the discus and third in the shot put in 5A at the LHSAA outdoor meet.
There was one battle his father, local pediatrician Dr. Brian Despinasse, did win. Despinasse attended University High before moving to Catholic. The elder Despinasse is a 1985 Brother Martin graduate who competed in multiple sports, including football and track.
“My dad asked me if I’d consider going to Catholic after my seventh-grade year,” Despinasse said. “My first thought was there’s no way I’m going to an all boys school like he did. But I changed my mind.”
Since then Despinasse has worked to refine his craft as a thrower.
“Nigel is still a young guy, but he’s really a student of the events he does,” Catholic head coach Pete Boudreaux said. “That’s hard to find in this day and time. He works in practice ,and he studies the techniques for the shot and discus.”
After completing a Wednesday practice, Despinasse talked about “cleaning up” portions of his technique and working to get stronger. He’s added an inch in height and gained 10 pounds while reshaping his muscular frame since last spring.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger physically since, and that’s made a difference,” Despinasse said. “I need to keep working on that, along with my technique. Sometimes the little things make a big difference.”
Hood said it’s another “little thing” that sets Despinasse apart. “I think his greatest asset is that he’s a competitor,” Hood said. “Once a meet starts, he’s ready.”