Steelers rookie cornerback Justin Layne knows a thing or two about making changes.
The defensive back wanted to play receiver at Michigan State. Coach Mark Dantonio convinced Layne to play defense.
“I wasn’t in favor of it at first, but it worked out, so I’m in favor of it now,” Layne said Friday, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
Dantonio thought Layne’s size would help him become an even more effective pass defender than pass catcher.
“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,” the 6-3 Layne said. “I was thinking about my future for the most part.”
Layne’s future is now, as a member of the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s decision to pick Layne prompted him to immediately remove Cleveland Browns socks that he was wearing on draft night and then to remove all Browns gear from his family’s home, including a Browns-themed bathroom — which would have been an entirely appropriate place for Browns gear during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
“Browns everywhere, my dad took it all down and replaced it — literally everything, every flag I had,” Layne said Friday, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “So it’s all done. We are fully committed.”
Layne grew up in Cleveland, attending Browns games as a child. And while it’s obvious that he would have preferred to play for the Browns, incoming players have no choice but to accept a system that gives them no options (other than sitting out a full season) if they end up being drafted by a team for which, deep down, they’d rather not play.
The good news for Layne, to the extent that he can’t shake the kind of die-hard fandom that the NFL wants its customers to have, is that he’ll be able to sign with the Browns after his rookie contract expires in four years.