As camp progresses, Saints' Breaux closes in on NFL dream
The 25-year-old New Orleans native, who was too injured to play college football, can't seem to stop smiling when he talks about his first few months in the NFL and how close he is to wearing black and gold in the Superdome on Sundays.
''I just wake up every day with a smile on my face and I'm ready to work,'' Breaux said. ''It still feels surreal.''
Breaux was a Louisiana high school standout who expected play for LSU, but a neck injury derailed his college career before it started. He was never cleared to play in college, but found his way back into pro football through the Arena Football League and then the CFL.
He spent two seasons north of the border playing for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This offseason, the Saints decided to sign him as a free agent, and he has quickly earned practice snaps as the primary nickel back.
''It's a dream come true,'' Breaux said. ''I'm glad to be out here each day working, grinding.''
It was a dream he was never shy about sharing, even when it looked a little far-fetched.
Several years ago, Breaux spotted Saints cornerback Brandon Browner, who was then with Seattle, along a Mardi Gras parade route in New Orleans.
So Breaux introduced himself and told Browner, ''Man I'm going to be up there in the NFL with you. Watch. Just wait. And he was like, `All right, bro. Can't wait to see you.'
''Now that we're on the same team, it's just unbelievable,'' Breaux said.
Browner, a former CFL player himself, seems to feel much the same way.
''There's something about that dude, man,'' Browner began. ''I like him a lot.''
During practice Sunday evening, Breaux made a diving break-up on a pass intended for receiver Joe Morgan. He allowed a short catch to Marques Colston, but immediately wrapped up the Saints' all-time leading receiver to limit the gain.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro describes Breaux's transition from the CFL to the NFL as ''smooth.''
''He's really, really good,'' Vaccaro said, mentioning how refined Breaux's technique has looked. ''He's grasped the defense quickly.''
Breaux got married in July, but worried he'd have to call off his honeymoon when he found out Saints rookies were assigned to report to camp a week earlier than veterans. But when he addressed the potential conflict with Sean Payton, the coach told Breaux not to worry about it because he doesn't really consider him a rookie.
''If I said, `All rookies get on the line. We're doing extra conditioning,' I wouldn't expect him to get on that line,'' Payton said. ''I'd say he's pretty hungry. His journey to get here is unique and I think he's taking advantage of those snaps.''
Notes: Saints coaches ran sprints after practice as a result of Payton trying to see how young kickers Zach Hocher and Dustin Hopkins would handle a little pressure. Payton decided that coaches would run if both kickers hit from 59 yards. With fellow players cheering them on, they did. In fact, both kickers hit all four field goals they tried from various distances. ... Linebackers Anthony Spencer and Dannell Ellerbe, as well as left guard Tim Lelito, tight end Josh Hill, left tackle Terron Armstead and running back C.J. Spiller returned to practice after recent absences of various lengths during the past week. ... Those missing practice included defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and receiver Brandin Cooks. Payton generally declines to discuss reasons for absences during preseason. ... Safety Jairus Byrd remains on the physically unable to perform list, and Vaccaro said he didn't expect Byrd to rush back to practice while he continues to rehabilitate a knee injury that caused him to miss much of last season. But Vaccaro also said he wasn't concerned. ''He'll come back and be the same old Byrd when he's healthy.'' ... Top draft pick Andrus Peat, who has worked primarily as a reserve right or left tackle, took snaps at left guard on Sunday evening. ''The key is to get the right five guys out there,'' Payton said. ''I do see him as a tackle, and yet I think he has the athleticism to play inside.''