NEW ORLEANS — Devon Breaux did not even join the Tulane track and field team full time until spring football practice finished at the end of the indoor season.
This week, though, he’ll compete at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds in Greensboro, N.C., in the long jump, trying to secure a spot in the national championships next month. He did not need much time to recapture the form he exhibited in winning the 2012 Class 4A state title as a senior at Donaldsonville High.
“Obviously he is a great athlete,” Tulane director of track and field Eric Peterson said. “But it does require some really good coaching on the part of (assistant coach) Doug Fraley to be able to manage the workload he’s going through during the spring for football and then also come out and train effectively and compete well.”
Breaux, a redshirt freshman wide receiver whom football coach Curtis Johnson expects to be a major contributor this fall, was rusty in his first few meets.
But at the Conference USA Championships, he scored points in three different events: finishing second in the long jump, third in the high jump, and fourth with an all-football 4x100-meter relay team that also had senior Albert Williams and sophomore wide receivers Justyn Shackleford and Xavier Rush.
For his overall performance, Breaux was named Male Freshman of the Meet, becoming the first male Tulane track and field athlete to win an individual conference award since 2001.
His long jump of 24 feet, 91/2 inches qualified him for the preliminary rounds, which begin Thursday. That distance, a career best, was two inches longer than his state championship effort and ranks 17th in the East Region, with the top 12 finishers advancing to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.
“Once he was able to focus 100 percent of his efforts on preparing for NCAA track meets, he put it all together at the right time,” Peterson said. “He’s a big-time performer and definitely a national level talent. The fact he’s able in his freshman year on a part-time workload to achieve what he’s done is remarkable.”
Breaux is one of five Tulane athletes competing in Greensboro, joining sophomore discus thrower Thomas Lynch as the only Green Wave men to qualify for regionals since the format changed in 2003. The three women are pole vaulters Joanna Lapucha and Merritt Van Meter, and triple jumper Estefany Cruz.
Without cooperation between the football and track coaches, Breaux’s big performance never would have happened.
“We have a really good relationship with the football coaching staff, not just (Johnson) but the position coaches,” Peterson said. “That’s really the important ingredient. Everyone needs to be on board and supportive. I don’t think there are many good relationships between football and track staffs anywhere in the country, but it’s working very well here.”