CALGARY — It's been a long and winding road for Hamilton cornerback Delvin Breaux after a near death experience as a high school senior and countless stops along the way.
He's hoping his third Grey Cup experience will finally lead to a championship.
"I haven't told this one in a while. It was back in 2006 at my senior high school. I was committed to play for LSU and everything was going well. I had my LSU coaches in the stands," Breaux said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Breaux said he was on special teams and when he dove to make a tackle his helmet hit another player's knee.
"After that everything just went dark. It was pitch black and then within a few seconds I had a bright, white light just appear and my coach was saying, 'hey man, you all right?' I got up, walked off the field, took my own helmet off and I was ready to go back in."
But everything wasn't OK. A few minutes later Breaux was in an ambulance suffering from severe neck pain.
"When we were in the ambulance the only question I kept asking was how big was the hit? Was it a play of the week type hit? because I'm trying to be on TV and show my coach," he said with a laugh.
"The doctor came back in with a little smile on his face. He looked at me. He looked at my parents and said how are you alive right now? You're supposed to be dead on that field," Breaux said.
"He said God really had his hands on you. I looked at my parents and my parents had tears coming down their eyes."
Breaux fractured his C4, C5 and C6 vertebrae and has a large scar on his neck, all the way down his spine to his shoulder blades, as a reminder.
"They put plates, screws and rods in my neck," he said.
LSU honoured his scholarship but he never received clearance to play.
His professional career began in 2012 with the Louisiana Bayou Vipers of the Gridiron Developmental Football League. He signed with the New Orleans Voodoo of the Arena Football League before joining the Tiger Cats in 2013.
Breaux was a league all-star second season with 33 defensive tackles, an interception for a touchdown and three forced fumbles.
He had an interception in the 2014 East Division final and the Grey Cup that year.
"That was my first two Grey Cup games, man," said Breaux.
"This is my third time here. I'm hoping for a better outcome this time."
The Ticats released him so he could sign with his hometown New Orleans Saints the following season. Breaux's NFL debut season was stellar with 45 tackles and three forced fumbles in 2015.
But a run of injuries, including twice breaking his fibula, sidelined him for most of the next two seasons. The Saints chose not to retain his services last year when he returned to Hamilton.
"I'm just one blessed individual," Breaux said. "I can't afford to have bad days so I am just thankful."
Breaux is still grateful for the doctor he saw when he was 17.
"The doctor told me not to rush nothing but whenever you make it to the Super Bowl send me Super Bowl tickets," he chuckled.
"He didn't say the NFL or the CFL so we here and I tried to reach out to him again with tickets to the game but couldn't get in contact."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2019.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press