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Michigan State CB, Cleveland native Justin Layne out to prove his worth at Combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan State cornerback Justin Layne grew up in Cleveland, and he might just be a great fit for his hometown team.

As the Browns continue their ascension toward contention, they have something to prove to the rest of the league. Layne does, too.

The Benedictine High School alumnus talked Sunday at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine about his decision to leave East Lansing early for the pros and how teams told him they liked his length, but needed to verify his speed. He found the last part to be "disrespectful."

Layne has a chip on his shoulder so large -- the receivers he faced in the Big Ten, he said, were "pretty average" -- one can hear it in the tone of his voice. It probably didn't help that the first question he received was about how he's gone overlooked, so much that he wasn't at a podium in Indianapolis, but a table.

"They'll find out (Monday)," Layne said. "They'll wake up soon."

Monday is when the defensive backs take the field for their Combine workout, and when Layne gets a chance to show his speed has always been top notch. Last year, fellow Big Ten corner Denzel Ward posted the fastest time of the group at 4.32 seconds. Ward, of course, ended up with the Browns, selected fourth overall in the 2018 draft.

Could Layne follow him home?

"I think about it all the time," Layne said when asked if he's considered playing for the Browns. "My dad (is) a diehard Browns fan. He got the bathroom painted, the house, the basement painted Browns, everything. I've always kind of been a Browns fan growing up.

"We always used to watch the Browns game every Sunday. If I mentioned anything about the Steelers, he'd say 'uh, yeah, we're not having that.' Like, everything. He's a diehard."

View the top cornerback prospects in the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Layne is the second Cleveland native in as many days to make such a comment, with Ohio State defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones being the other. Ohio State receiver and Akron native Parris Campbell also said something similar about staying home and playing for the Browns on Friday. 

Ward, a Macedonia native who also claims Bedford is the only one to complete such a homecoming in the last few years, but the similarities don't end with proximity.

Ward spent his Combine experience one year ago hearing every analyst say his biggest flaw was his size, or lack thereof. 

He responded by hitting above his weight as a rookie, forcing one fumble to go along with 53 tackles, three interceptions and 11 passes defended. That 13-game stat line was good enough to earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl.

"I feel like he kind of set the way, especially for Big Ten cornerbacks," Layne said of Ward. "Just being a Pro Bowler as a rookie, that's one of my goals, too. I want to try to do the same thing."

Layne's path to such an achievement continues Monday when he reaches the starting line for the 40-yard dash. He wouldn't give a time prediction but repeatedly said it was going to be fast. 

"That's why I'm here, to try to prove them wrong," Layne said. "To try to convince them that I should be in the first round or be in that conversation." 

If Layne posts a time near where he generally thinks he should, he'd become the latest Ohio native to blaze down the sideline at Lucas Oil Stadium. Campbell and UMass receiver Andy Isabella (a Mayfield native) are tied for the top 40 times at 4.31 seconds. Malone receiver Ashton Dulin (Reynoldsburg) posted a 4.43, and Akron edge rusher Jamal Davis (Canton) finished in the top five of his position group with a 4.6.

"I guess it's in the water in Ohio," Layne said of the state's speed explosion.

We'll see if Layne will be drinking plenty of that water come Monday.

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