It didn’t take long for the paint brush to come out at the home of Justin Layne when he got the call that he was selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Before he even made it to Pittsburgh for the team’s Draft Party, his dad, Dre Layne, was already buying paint. Lots of paint. Black and gold paint. And it was used to cover two colors that a Steelers fan wouldn’t have in their home, brown and orange.
Layne grew up a Browns fan, something natural for a kid from Cleveland, Ohio. But his dad, let’s just say he was a Browns fanatic. So much so that he painted his bathroom brown and orange, with the Browns stripe, and even had a dog bone on the bathroom sink. That quickly changed the minute the Steelers selected Layne and the colors of choice were black and gold and a Steelers logo and Terrible Towel were a must in the bathroom.
“I was raised a Browns fan,” said Layne. “I can’t say I’m a diehard like my father. My father is a diehard fan. He had the bathroom painted, everything. It had orange and white stripes. We’ve had pictures in there. Statues in there. He was a diehard fan.
“But he’s done with it. The basement. It’s a man cave type of thing, so he’s got pictures in there. He changed that. He changed it all to the Steelers.”
There is no doubt Layne’s dad had hoped his son would be drafted by the Browns. After all, who wouldn’t want their kid to go to the team they cheered for, the hometown team. But once the Steelers selected the cornerback from Michigan State, it didn’t matter if they were one of the Browns biggest rivals or not, they were now his team.
“He was just happy. That’s all I can explain,” said Layne. “He was a little emotional, but he was good. I got a little emotional. I’m just thankful for the opportunity. There were some tears.
“I talk to him every day about it now. He asks so many questions. I try to give him little details. He doesn’t even talk about the Browns anymore.”
As crazy as it may seem, Layne actually had a feeling that he would be going to the Steelers, that Pittsburgh would be his new home. Why he felt that way, he really has no idea. But his feeling was right on point.
“I literally had a feeling the entire time,” said Layne, who did say the Steelers were his favorite team on Madden. “Ever since I went through all this pre-draft stuff, I had a feeling and I don’t know why. Through high school and college, somehow I always ended up at the rival school. This time it was the rival team.
“When I came on my pre-draft visit, it was great. I loved it here. That’s another reason why I wanted to come here. I love it all here. Everybody is just so cool and cordial, so it’s great out here. Everybody is just cool here, felt like family. It’s a good environment, a good vibe.”
That vibe has gone to the next level now that Layne is taking part in the team’s OTAs, learning the ropes from the veterans and seeing how business is done.
“It’s been great,” said Layne. “Everybody is unselfish, trying to help each other. Help the younger guys. If I do something wrong, my eyes are in the wrong place, they will pull me aside. My eyes are wide open.
“There is something I am learning every day. A lot of checks, reads. It’s not just one call. It could be three different calls in one play. It’s tough to adapt but I am learning every day. I am trying to get in shape and learn the plays.
“I feel like I am getting there. As soon as I have something down pat we have something else. That is just part of the game. I still have a long way to go, but I think I am doing pretty well so far.”
Like most rookies one of the biggest adjustments Layne has to make is not thinking so much. Yes, he wants to know what he is doing, but it’s about reacting rather than thinking and that takes time.
“I find myself doing that a lot,” said Layne. “I think once I buckle down a little bit I will play a lot faster. It’s still a learning process.
“Each day I just have to go back home and study. You can’t just get one install and expect to learn it. You have to be a student of the game.”