Rookie Receiver Grabs Spotlight

To describe Alex Breaux’s arrival at Harvard this fall as “humbling” is something of an understatement.

Breaux, a freshman wide receiver for the Harvard football team, was last on the depth chart heading into training camp. But weeks later, after an impressive performance against Lehigh and after a spate of injuries took its toll on the Crimson’s receiver corps, Breaux now finds his name at the top of the same chart.

Last Saturday against Lehigh, Breaux emerged as the Harvard quarterbacks’ favorite target, reeling in seven passes for 135 yards, including the first touchdown of his Harvard career on a 23-yard pass from Richard Irvin. On Monday, Breaux was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, but the distinction isn’t going to his head—the freshman emphasized his focus on the Crimson’s game at Cornell this Saturday.

“I’m happy, but my concentration is on playing well this week. It’s not going to inflate my ego,” Breaux said.

Widely recruited out of high school by Stanford, the University of North Carolina, and other Ivy League schools, the native of Moraga, California initially considered Stanford his top choice. But after an overhaul of the entire Stanford coaching staff and a postgraduate year at Phillips Exeter, Harvard became a natural fit for Breaux.

It may have been a natural fit, but it didn’t come easily. Breaux arrived at training camp this summer to find his name last on the depth chart at wide receiver.

“It was really humbling, as a competitive person, to see my name on the bottom of the list. I recalibrated my goals, first to make the travel squad, then to see game action,” Breaux said.

Between Breaux and a starting position were two of the best wide receivers in the Ivy League, junior Corey Mazza and senior Rodney Byrnes. An opportunity emerged for Breaux, however, when both suffered early-season injuries.

“Now I want to contribute a lot and get significant playing time,” Breaux said.

With eight receptions for 150 yards on the season, Breaux enters this week’s game at Cornell leading all Harvard wide receivers and averaging an eye-opening 18.8 yards per reception. At 6’3” and 190 pounds, Breaux’s size and athleticism make him well suited to challenge defenses down the field—and, with the 6’4”, 200-pound Mazza out for the foreseeable future, give the Crimson a long-ball option.

“I am developing as a big play receiver and working on getting as many yards after the catch as possible,” Breaux said. “I see myself as a downfield threat.”

So does Coach Tim Murphy, who projected a bright future for Breaux. In addition to his physical frame, Murphy cited Breaux’s ability to pull down hard-to-catch passes as one of his biggest assets.

“For a kid thrown into the fire, he played very well,” Murphy said. “I think he’s going to be a very good player. We knew after about a week or two that arguably he’s got the best hands on the team. The rest is a matter of acclimating himself.”

Breaux faces the immediate challenge of developing a rapport with sophomore quarterback Liam O’Hagan.

In Saturday’s game against Lehigh, it was clear that Breaux, who has practiced on the second team with sophomore quarterback Richard Irvin, felt particularly comfortable with Breaux. After entering the game with 13:59 left in the fourth quarter, Irvin led the Crimson on a 10-play, 89-yard drive highlighted by a 23-yard touchdown pass to Breaux, the first touchdown pass of Irvin’s Harvard career and the first touchdown reception of Breaux’s. On the drive, Irvin found Breaux three times for 64 yards, including on third-and-seven from the Harvard 14-yard line.

This week, Breaux has practiced with O’Hagan, and he felt optimistic heading into the game at Cornell.

“Liam and I are becoming more comfortable with each other. We’re working on hot reads, building confidence, and adjusting to the defense,” Breaux said.

It’ll be seen Saturday if the combination clicks, as Murphy plans to feature him at Cornell.

“In the two receiver sets, he will certainly be one of the main guys. He’s earned that,” Murphy added.

As Breaux works on becoming familiar with O’Hagan, it might be wise for Harvard football fans to become familiar with Alex Breaux.