NFL Draft

The Person Behind The Player: CB Justin Layne

New Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Justin Layne is a man of a few words. Cornerbacks like Jalen Ramsey and Richard Sherman have taken over the game over the last number of years, not just for their play but also for their banter. Layne prefers to operate in a different manner.

“I just let my game do the talking for the most part, unless [opponents] are talking first. I just always kept to myself,” Layne told Connor Muldowney of Spartan Avenue.

Layne certainly let his game do the talking in his last season at Michigan State – 72 tackles, 15 pass defenses and one interception. It is easy to tell when looking at the character of the former Michigan State corner, that he would rather spend his time working instead of talking.

Layne is football’s version of a workaholic, as he never takes a day off. In a great interview with Draft Wire, the newly drafted Steelers’ cornerback was asked what kind of character the team that selects him is receiving and his answer was that of a man eager to get back to work.

“They’re getting a good guy who can’t wait to come to work every day. They’re getting a lock-down corner that’s only gonna get better at the next level. I possess a lot of speed and I’m a long guy. I’m the ideal cornerback at the next level. I can’t wait to get to work.”

What many may not know about Layne is that he did not always play cornerback. He was a two-way player in high school, playing both wide receiver and cornerback before making the full-time transition to cornerback at Michigan State. Playing receiver taught Layne a lot about playing corner as he can easily go into the mind of the opposing receiver and anticipate their every move.

“It taught me a lot about anticipation. I have a great feel for what a receiver is gonna do before he actually does it. It allows me to be instinctive. I have a great feel for the routes before they develop. I usually know which way a guy is gonna run before he even starts heading in that direction. I credit that to my background as a receiver,” Layne told Justin Melo.

With 23 pass defenses and two interceptions over his final two seasons, Layne’s production surely does seem to back up his statements. Considering his ability to recognize what a receiver may be thinking; it is almost unfair that Layne was also gifted with 6’2 height and 33” arms.

Layne joins a Steelers team that is in the midst of a cultural change following the departures of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Gone are the superstars as the team looks to get back to a more team first attitude, an attitude that Layne is very familiar with. Playing with what he calls the ‘MSU Brotherhood’, the cornerback knows all about working as a team.

“We’re a brotherhood. I’ll never forget my time there and the relationships that were created. Being a Spartan means you’re a warrior. That’s exactly what we were. A whole bunch of warriors bound together by one common goal. We always put the team before the individual. We don’t have individual goals,” Layne tells Melo.

Layne may not be much of a talker but it only takes a few words to realize he is a perfect fit for the Steelers.

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