Broncos’ Langley recalls small time on way to big
Being the highest NFL draft pick in the history of Lamar University is a cherished feat for Brendan Langley.
When the Broncos selected the cornerback in the third round of the draft in April (No. 101 overall), he immediately thought of those at the Football Championship Subdivision school who dotted the circuitous path to his dream.
And not just his teammates and coaches.
“Lamar’s done a lot for me, the university as a whole,” said Langley, who played his freshman season at the University of Georgia before transferring to the much smaller school in Beaumont, Texas. “It was down to the lunch ladies, the classroom teachers and everybody else. Lamar will always have a special place in my heart, and it means a lot to me to be the highest draft pick from there.”
Now, Langley is trying to put Lamar more prominently on the map as he fights for the fourth cornerback spot in the Broncos’ vaunted No-Fly Zone secondary. He was listed in that spot on the team’s initial depth chart, which was released Monday, though coach Vance Joseph said Langley and third-year player Lorenzo Doss are running virtually even.
“He’s growing,” Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods said of Langley. “The biggest thing for him is he has everything you want. He has the size and speed. We know he’s tough. The biggest thing for him is it’s a learning curve. We’re exposing him to different defenses than he ran in college. So for him, each day he gets a little bit better. I know from my experience of coaching guys like (Minnesota Vikings cornerback) Xavier Rhodes, same type of guy, each day he’s going to become a better player.”
Part of the learning curve is simply growing more comfortable as a cornerback. The switch to Lamar from the bright lights of the SEC — a fateful decision, Langley said,
that centered on prayer — may not have been the most conventional path to the league, but it gave Langley the chance to return to his roots as a defensive back.
Langley was a highly rated cornerback coming out of high school in Marietta, Ga., but he struggled at the position during his freshman season with the Bulldogs. He switched to wide receiver and ultimately stayed at the position when he transferred to Lamar, a school that didn’t even have a football program from 1990 to 2009.
But Langley couldn’t crack a deep rotation at receiver and requested a move back to corner as a junior. The switch paid off. During his senior season, he intercepted six passes, returned two punts for touchdowns and earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl.
“It played a big role,” Langley said of switching back to defense at Lamar. “I mean, I’m here. I just need to be able to adapt to any situation, be able to play receiver, corner, returner or whatever they’d have me do. You’ve just got to be able to adapt and be ready for whatever they bring your way.”
The secondary remains the staple of a defense that has been the backbone of the team the last two seasons. Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby make up perhaps the league’s top trio at cornerback. T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart are Pro Bowl safeties.
Yet the underrated aspect of Denver’s success in the secondary, Woods said, comes from the depth in the group. That extends from Will Parks and Justin Simmons at safety to Doss and others at cornerback.
Langley wants to add to that depth. There are still raw elements to his game. Woods said playing FCS football gave a player of Langley’s talent the opportunity to make plays simply on instinct and sheer athleticism. In the NFL, his success is dependent upon learning defensive schemes well enough to play at a high speed.
“When you don’t run a lot of scheme in college and you’re exposed to a lot of different schemes in the NFL, it takes you time to learn it, and that’s where he’s at right now,” Woods said. “Right now, they are battling. Doss is making a lot of plays, Langley is coming along. It’s just a matter of evaluating those guys.”
Rookie cornerback Brendan Langley came to the Broncos from Lamar University, an FCS school in Beaumont, Texas.