Redskins' Batiste walked the beat, but now holds the line

Reserve never gave up on dream of playing pro football

D'Anthony Batiste, a former sheriff's deputy, was praised as a natural police officer by his instructors.
D'Anthony Batiste, a former sheriff's deputy, was praised as a natural police officer by his instructors. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 5, 2009

In spring 2007, D'Anthony Batiste returned to Cajun country and told a wild tale that even Louisiana's most colorful backwater storytellers wouldn't dare spice up. At 6 feet 4 and 314 pounds, he stood as a giant in front of the roomful of cadets enrolled in the Acadiana Law Enforcement Training Academy in Lafayette, La.

I was once just like you, he told them.

And the story that unfolded for the young cadets -- a group still learning how to fire a gun and work a police beat -- was improbable from start to finish.

"I loved playing football. . . . On draft day, my phone never rang. . . . The NFL didn't want me . . . neither did Canada . . . so I worked in the jail . . . then the sheriff's office. . . . I was there for Katrina . . . but I never gave up on my dream . . . it always came back to football for me."

Around the academy office in Lafayette, they still talk often about Batiste, whom they call "D" or "Big D." They'd never produced an officer quite like him. For starters, none of the others was as big; few as menacing, fewer as promising. And certainly none left the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office for the NFL.

Just 3 1/2 years removed from his career as a sheriff's deputy, Batiste is a reserve offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins. The Louisiana native will take the field Sunday to face the New Orleans Saints -- a team that, like Batiste, is a survivor of Hurricane Katrina and her merciless aftermath -- as one of the most unlikely players in the league.

Growing up in Marksville, La., which has a population of less than 10,000, Batiste played tight end and defensive end in high school.

"He had nothing given to him," said Benny Brouillette, his coach at Marksville High. "But he knew if you have a dream, you have to go with it. He never gave up believing in himself."

Batiste wasn't on the radar of the bigger division I schools but accepted a scholarship to Louisiana-Lafayette. He was recruited as a tight end but injuries on the offensive line made him the Ragin' Cajuns' starting left guard just three games into his freshman season.

Mostly because he enjoyed shows like "Cops" and police dramas, Batiste was a criminal justice major. But as college progressed, he began envisioning a football career. He earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors as a senior and spent the spring of 2004 preparing for the NFL draft.

But Batiste's interest in the NFL was unrequited. He wasn't invited to the NFL scouting combine, wasn't flown into NFL cities for private workouts and visited with just a handful of scouts during the school's pro day.

He could do nothing but hold his breath the weekend of the draft.

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