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Brendan Langley on position switch: 'I always wanted to play receiver'

His work as scout-team receiver last year gave Elway and Langley the idea of moving to the other side of the ball.
Credit: AP
Denver Broncos cornerback Brendan Langley warms up before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/Mark Reis)

KUSA – Brendan Langley couldn’t get on the field as a Broncos’ cornerback, but no one could stop him in practice.

Langley, you see, played receiver on the Broncos’ scout team last year. By year’s end, Langley suggested the idea of switching positions – from cornerback to receiver -- to his top boss.

“Mr. Elway and I had a conversation about it at the exit meetings,’’ Langley said Thursday in a phone conversation with 9News. “I asked him about the idea and his response to me was, “I was going to ask you the same thing. You’ve been great on scout team, let’s see what you can do.’’’

Ron Clements Sports first reported on Langley’s position switch last week at the NFL Combine. The report caught the Broncos’ coaching staff off guard. Elway may have pulled a Steve Martin and had the greatest of excuses – I-I-I-I-I, for-got!

“I’m sure he’s not worried about Brendan Langley right now,’’ Langley said. “I’m sure he’s worried about a draft class he has to put together.’’

If the odds seem long of Langley making a successful switch from one side of the ball to the other, a review of his background brings possibility. The second of the Broncos’ third-round picks in the 2017 draft, Langley was sensational while playing receiver, cornerback and returner at Kell High School in Marietta, Ga.

As a senior at Kell, Langley had 34 receptions for a whopping 770 yards (22.6 yards per catch) and 14 touchdowns, according to one high school stat site. He added eight more rushing touchdowns while averaging 15.9 yards per carry. He also had six interceptions as a cornerback.

“I passed for two touchdowns as well,” Langley said with a laugh.

Amazing, isn’t it, how good you have to be to even make an NFL practice squad? Which is where Langley spent most of last season with a reworked contract.

His position dilemma began after high school, as three college and pro teams struggled to figure out which position – cornerback or receiver – best suited Langley’s superior athleticism. Most thought cornerback was his ticket. For the Georgia Bulldogs, he started the first four games as a true freshman at cornerback.

Then he was benched. As a sophomore, he converted briefly to receiver, but never played in a game and switched back to cornerback.

He then transferred to NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as I-AA) Lamar, where as a junior he had 4 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown, and an 86-yard pick six as a cornerback.

In his senior season at Lamar, Langley had just one carry – but he went 55 yards for a touchdown. He didn’t have a reception, but he returned two punts for touchdowns, and had six interceptions as a cornerback.

At the 2017 NFL Combine, he measured in at 189 pounds and a tick above 6-foot. From this tall, lean, muscular frame, Langley ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds and led all prospective cornerbacks with 22 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

Langley is not an athlete. He’s a freak athlete. Fast, strong and a playmaker with return ability, the Broncos were excited when they nabbed Langley with their compensatory, third-round pick near the end of Day 2 of the draft, No. 101 overall.

Only, again, Langley simply didn’t take to the cornerback position. He played 108 defensive snaps – about two games worth -- late in his rookie season. For his second season, Langley struggled in training camp, and again in the preseason.

For the regular season, the Broncos had serious problems finding quality cornerbacks last year. They signed veteran Adam Jones off the streets early and Jamar Taylor late. They had rookie Isaac Yiadom play a couple games with the repercussions of a separated shoulder. They moved safety Justin Simmons to slot corner.

The Broncos let everyone play cornerback except Langley, who didn’t get one defensive snap.

“It was definitely frustrating, being a competitor,’’ Langley said. “It was frustrating not being able to be out there, but what are you going to do? Are you going to sit around and pout? Or are you going to keep working?

“I kept working and I guess Mr. Elway and the staff liked what I was able to do as a receiver on scout team and hopefully we can get this ball rolling.”

Langley was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster with five games left last season, but all his work was specific to special teams.

So what is it about the cornerback position was so difficult for someone with such a remarkable physical skill set?

“To be honest, I’m just not comfortable moving backwards,’’ Langley said. “It’s not a big thing. I don’t have any big story to tell you. I just do not like moving backwards.’’

It’s all forward from here. He has been training this offseason in Houston, although for this interview he was contacted in California where he has been working with a specialized receiver coach he didn’t want to identify.

When Bronco players report for the first day of offseason conditioning on April 1, Langley will have exchanged his No. 27 jersey for the more receiver-like No. 12. He’s not going to beat out Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton or the free-agent receiver (whoever he may be) the Broncos may add next week.  But if Langley becomes the next Bubba Caldwell or Matt Willis – previous Broncos’ No. 12s -- what a story it would be.

“I’ve gone back and forth between cornerback and receiver my whole life,’’ he said. “But to be perfectly honest, I always wanted to play receiver. The corner thing was cool, it got me a foot in the door. Now I’m ready to attack the receiver position full go and I think you guys are going to be extremely surprised with the production.’’

When he was among those waived last September as the Broncos set their season-opening, 53-man roster, Langley had to re-do his rookie contract. He got $1.17 million in signing bonus and salary as a third-round pick in 2017, but he took a reduction to $195,882 for his five games of work last year and he is scheduled to draw the third-year minimum $645,000 if he makes the roster in 2019.

Langley isn’t looking back or moving backwards. From now on it’s one fast foot in front of the other.

“I’m a receiver,’’ he said. “Full speed ahead, I’m a receiver. This offseason I trained as a receiver. I haven’t backpedaled not one time, so corner is pretty much a thing of the past for me.

“I haven’t hit my prime, yet. I’m still getting my feet wet. I’m so much more focused now because I have that excitement. I get to learn and it’s like football’s fun again.’’

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