Out of Southland race, Southeastern Louisiana takes on Incarnate Word _lowres

Photo provided by Randy Bergeron/SLU Public Information Southeastern Louisiana defensive back Jordan Batiste returns an interception against Southern Utah last season.

HAMMOND — Three years ago, Jordan Batiste couldn’t wait to get to Tulane and embark on his college football career.

Batiste, then 17 years old, graduated a semester early from Lutcher High, enrolled for the spring semester at Tulane and went through spring workouts with Green Wave.

Batiste put the finishing touches on what turned out to be a springboard toward a starting berth in the secondary, returning an interception for a touchdown in his first spring game with the Green Wave.

For good measure, Batiste attended his senior prom at Lutcher later that same evening.

“That was a pretty big memory,” Batiste said.

There were other indelible moments like Batiste’s first collegiate start against Rutgers, facing Ole Miss — where he was once committed — and taking part in last year’s New Orleans Bowl.

However, after the season Batiste, citing personal reasons, opted for a change and transferred to Southeastern Louisiana, where he’s now part of the No. 3 Lions (2-0), who will will encounter Tulane (0-2) Saturday at 7 p.m. at Yulman Stadium.

“It probably won’t get weird until pregame until I actually see my former teammates in a different color than me,” Batiste said. “I’m still going to play hard. I’m a Lion. We’re going to play hard.”

Batiste was regarded for play-making ability in Tulane’s secondary, earning honorable mention Conference USA honors in both of his seasons.

Batiste finished his sophomore season with 35 tackles and led the Green Wave in sacks with seven and pass break-ups with eight. He also had an interception and fumble recovery.

“He’s a very talented young man,” Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said. “I’m happy to see him in there. He’s playing well for them. I wish we had him here. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”

One of the key selling points in Batiste’s decision to attend Southeastern over Bethune-Cookman was the Lions’ ready-made ability to win big at the Football Championship Subdivision level.

Southeastern returned the nucleus from the school’s first Southland Conference championship team that went 11-3 and advanced to the FCS quarterfinals.

“When I chose Southeastern, I thought about some comments coach (Ron) Roberts made about winning as soon as possible and saw they had previous success last season,” Batiste said. “Knowing the Tulane game was on the schedule was another selling point. It wasn’t big, but it helped.”

It took Batiste less than a quarter to leave his imprint on SLU’s season-opening 44-3 victory over Jacksonville University.

Batiste, sensing an out route in the flat, closed quickly on the wide receiver and within a split second dislodged the ball, which safety Micah Eugene scooped and returned for a 3-yard touchdown.

“He’s a playmaker, he’s a ball hawk, a guy that finds a way to get around the football,” Roberts said. “He plays the game fast. He plays with emotion and with a lot of speed.”

Batiste is the second-leading tackler in the secondary with nine stops and delivered another key play in last week’s 41-14 win over Southern Utah. His first interception of the year and subsequent 14-yard return led directly to a field goal.

“I’m very happy here,” Batiste said. “I’ve never played for a team that was ranked this high and had this much spotlight, and I love it. It makes me feel like I’m at a big FBS school.”

Batiste said his preparation for Tulane will resemble the same even-keel approach he’s taken to the first two weeks of the season. If for some reason he deviates and allows his emotions to take over, Batiste said his teammates and coaches will intervene.

“It’s not about trying to show somebody up, go out and impress somebody else to make them regret that you left,” Roberts said. “All those things will stop you from focusing on what you’ve got to do. He’s just got go out focused and play and not worry about who he’s playing.”

Advocate contributing writer Scott Kushner contributed to this report.