There was a time when Delvin Breaux thought he was no longer going to play football.
The multiple broken vertebrae in his neck kept him away from the game for six years and prevented him for suiting up for LSU. But on Saturday, Breaux finally pulled himself back to the place he once appeared destined to end up by reaching an agreement to sign with the New Orleans Saints.
Breaux previously would not have been eligible to sign until Feb. 10, but the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats let the cornerback out of his contract early so he could sign with the Saints. ESPN first reported Breaux’s signing.
The 6-foot-1 cornerback has been through a long journey to get here. He signed with the Tiger-Cats in 2013 and finished last season with an interception returned for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and 33 tackles.
He’s widely regarded as one of the league’s better players, and one CFL scout at the Senior Bowl said he believes Breaux has the size, speed and skill to become a good NFL player. Another was less bullish, saying via text that he does not see Breaux as an immediate starter in the NFL.
“He played well in the system he was in in the CFL,” the scout wrote. “But I don’t see him as being a challenger for a starting role.”
Breaux is used to overcoming the odds. He suffered his injury in 2006 playing for McDonogh 35 while diving head-first at the knees of a Jesuit kick returner. The play caused him to break the C4, C5, and C6 vertebrae in his neck.
In a 2013 interview with The Advocate, Breaux said doctors at Tulane Medical Center told him the way he injured his neck, “You’re supposed to be dead on the field.”
But he fought back. Breaux attended LSU but never got on the field and eventually flunked out of school. He bounced around, working odd jobs, until hooking on with the Louisiana Bayou Vipers, a semi-pro team in Hammond, in 2012. He intercepted five passes and then briefly played for the Arena Football League’s New Orleans VooDoo.
That led Breaux to Canada, where he starred for the Tiger-Cats. Not only was the cornerback able to prove he’s fully healthy, he proved to himself he can play at a high level.
“I’ve learned that I can compete with guys on that level despite being out of football for six years,” he told The Advocate before his workout. “I showcased my ability to be a shutdown corner who can match up with any receiver and play zone as well. My durability was the biggest because most teams want to see if I can last a whole season, and I did that. So I did pretty well up there as a whole.”
Breaux worked out for the Saints on Friday after undergoing a physical Thursday. In New Orleans, he’ll enter a cornerback group that is wide open. Keenan Lewis is entrenched as the No. 1 guy, but everything else is up for grabs.
Corey White; Patrick Robinson, who is set to reach free agency; and Terrence Frederick filled in at the No. 2 spot last season. The team also has Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a 2014 second-round pick.
With those players in the secondary, the Saints ranked 25th in passing defense last season.
New Orleans has experience with CFL players after signing safety Marcus Ball out of the league last season.