When he arrived at Michigan State in 2016, Justin Layne was hoping to follow in the footsteps of Andre Rison and Plaxico Burress – Spartans wide receivers who became NFL stars.
Before his freshman season was over, that dream was dashed.
Layne was playing cornerback.
“I wasn’t in favor of it at first, but it worked out, so I’m in favor of it now,” Layne said Friday after the first day of rookie minicamp for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The position switch worked out well enough for Layne that he was taken in the third round (No. 83 overall) by the Steelers, who were intrigued by the rookie corner’s 6-foot-3 frame.
Layne was an all-Ohio wide receiver at Benedictine High School in Cleveland, and he was rated as the No. 42 receiver in the country by ESPN.
After initially balking at playing cornerback, Layne realized the request made by coach Mark Dantonio was in his best interests.
“There are a lot of 6-2, 6-3 receivers, there are not a lot of 6-2, 6-3 cornerbacks that can move like me,” Layne said. “I was thinking about my future for the most part.”
Layne, however, remained an occasional part of the offensive game plan. He returned to wide receiver for two games in 2018 and had one catch for 11 yards while playing 16 offensive snaps against Purdue.
“It didn’t stress my prep,” Layne said. “I already knew the defense, and I knew most of the offense, and it was a fun thing. I did it in high school, so why not do it in college?”