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Football: Same place, different path; Figaro follows in father’s footsteps … sort of

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, December 15, 2013

Pondering what to do with his days after Lafayette High, UL senior receiver Devin Figaro had a decision to make.

Football? Or basketball?

The call on what sport to play in college was simple for Kevin Figaro, Devin’s father.

Oh, there was opportunity to play football.

“But my love was basketball,” said Kevin Figaro, who after leaving Lafayette High and starring at UL from 1977-81 was drafted by Atlanta Hawks.

He went on to play professionally overseas, mostly in France with stops in Switzerland, Israel and Argentina.

“That was a no-brainer for me,” Figaro said. “I grew up playing basketball. I was a basketball guy.

“At UL the football coach wanted me to come out there and play some football, but my passion was basketball.”

In time, and as more and more mail came his way, the choice became easy for Devin Figaro too.

And because he made the one he did, Figaro now finds himself preparing to play his final college football game against the school with which he started – Tulane, in Saturday night’s New Orleans Bowl at the Superdome.

“I love basketball,” Devin Figaro said, “but I had more colleges talking to me (about football).”

SEC programs including LSU and Auburn were among those showing early interest.

“I just took it as a sign,” he said. “The only ones in basketball were Ole Miss and Tulane, and I was getting a bunch of letters in football.”

Father and son had the chat.

The one about which sport to pick, that is.

“I sat down with him, and talked about, ‘Why football?’ ” said Kevin Figaro, who now works an overnight post-office shift. “He decided football gave him a better opportunity for a scholarship.”

Besides, Devin figured his 6-foot-3 frame was better-suited for catching passes than dishing alley-oops.

Discussion done.

First Devin went to Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia for a year of prep school in 2008. Then Tulane it was, but only for football.

After spending two years with the Green Wave, however, it was time for change.

He had 23 catches for 302 yards and a touchdown in those two seasons, but something just didn’t seem right. Tulane won just seven games in that span, going 3-9 in 2009 and 4-8 in 2010.

That was when, after considering other options, he decided to transfer to UL, where Mark Hudspeth had just taken over as coach of the Cajuns.

It had to help that he’d be closer to home, and friends and family, including a Mom, Diane Figaro, who’s regularly traveled to watch him play, even when he was at Hargrave.

“It was just the best fit, when it all came down to it,” Figaro said. “I came to a couple practices to look at how the coaching staff was over here, and I loved how Coach Hud was energetic and how all the other coaches were really teaching the players and just giving a good vibe. I wanted to be back around my hometown fans and play under Coach Hud.

“The biggest thing in making my decision was I wanted to be somewhere where I could be coached and just learn.

“I’m not speaking down on any of the coaches that were there when I was at Tulane, but the energy and the vibe you would get from them – it just wasn’t a good one,” he added. “After a loss, at practice, the amount of coaching going on started to fade, so I felt I couldn’t get myself better being in that environment.”

He thought he could as a Cajun, though, and Dad loved the idea.

“I was pretty excited about it … because I thought UL would give him a better opportunity,” Kevin Figaro.

As it’s turned out, Figaro has played a mostly reserve role in his final two seasons.

He appeared in five games last season, making three catches for 24 yards.

He’s played in all 12 for the 8-4 Cajuns this season, getting three starts and making 10 grabs for 183 yards including a 38-yarder earlier this month at South Alabama.

And his father is as pleased as can be.

“I’m real proud of Devin,” Kevin Figaro said. “I’ve enjoyed him being there, being in uniform, playing hard.

“I’ve always admired that about him – him just playing hard, whatever time it is. Whether it’s one play, two plays, he’s out there trying to contribute. So I’ve enjoyed it.”

Now Devin gets to enjoy one last game, fittingly – it seems – against the Green Wave.

But neither father nor son is making any big deal of that.

“I still haven’t talked to (ex-teammates) about it,” said Devin Figaro, who does keeps in touch with old roommates and even went to New Orleans to see Tulane play UTEP earlier this season.

“I’ll talk to them whenever the time is (right). But for now we’re just focusing on us, focusing on regrouping and fixing the things we need to fix from the last two losses.”

After an eight-game win streak, UL dropped its last two at South Alabama and to UL Monroe.

“At the end of the day, no matter who we play,” Devin Figaro said, “we still have got to go and play the game to the best our ability.

“It’s just another opponent. It could be from California. It wouldn’t matter. We’re just going out there to get that bitter taste out of mouth.”

Be it basketball or football, Kevin Figaro understands the feeling.

“We laughed about it,” he said of the UL-Tulane matchup, “and talked about other things.”