Today I introduce you all to Justin Wyatt, a 2019 NFL draft prospect by way of Limestone. A graduate transfer from Troy University, Wyatt had to drop down a level after he suffered a season ending injury in 2017.
Wyatt recently played in the D-II Senior Bowl, and was invited to numerous other collegiate all-star games.
Wyatt spoke exclusively to MCM about his winding path to the draft, the culture shock of going from D-I to D-II, and why an NFL team should use one of their draft picks on him.
JM: You’re a graduate transfer from Troy. How did you end up at Limestone?
JW: I’m from Atlanta and decided to focus my search on schools close to home. I wanted to play my final year in front of my friends and family. I was in touch with just about every school in the state of Georgia. The head coach at the time was a former football player and I got along well with him. I liked that they had sent some players to the NFL recently. Vyncint Smith who plays for the Houston Texans now was starting to blow up here. One of my current teammates, Joshua Smith was getting some draft buzz as well. It just sat well with me that this is a D-II program that the NFL is obviously paying attention to. I felt that this program could get me to where I need to be. I think I made a great decision.
JM: Was it tough to go from Troy to Limestone? Did you experience any sort of culture shock?
JW: Yeah, I thought every school was the same. I was naive in that sense. I didn’t really understand the different levels. I can see why people say D-I athletes are spoiled now (laughs). The facilities and the gear are on a different level. I came to a D-II school after spending my entire career at the D-I level. You’re on your own out here. I quickly realized that I wasn’t at a D-I school anymore. There was an adjustment period for sure. One of the first things that made me realize that things are different is that we couldn’t get taped up for practice. We could only get taped up for the games. We had to save the tape. I was like, seriously? (laughs). That’s something minor but I thought every school had the same resources. You have to make the best of it. I came here to play football.
JM: What do you feel is your best trait as a defensive back?
JW: I would point towards my football I.Q. and my versatility. I watch a lot of film. I’m always trying to better myself in the film room. I used to play wide receiver. Having that background as a receiver helps me figure out what concepts the offense is running. I can look at how a receiver lines up and figure out how he wants to run his routes. Before the play starts, I’m aware of the down and distance. I look at the personnel and the alignment of the receivers. I can see all that and figure out what are the top two run or pass plays they wanna run outta that formation. That time I spent playing receiver helped me with all of this. Playing receiver really translates to playing defensive back; it helped with my lateral movement and footwork. It just translates over. Instead of running forwards, I’m running backwards now.
JM: Do you see yourself as more of a safety or cornerback at the next level?
JW: I see myself as more of a safety personally. I can be more versatile and useful playing the nickel position though. That’s what I played at Limestone.
JM: Is there one NFL wide receiver that you’d love to cover at the next level?
JW: It would have to be someone that likes to run their routes out of the slot. Odell Beckham or Stefon Diggs. Those are two fast guys who run great routes. They have very good footwork. I’d like to test my versatility against the best.
JM: What do you enjoy about playing defensive back?
JW: I love the camaraderie of playing defense. On offense, it takes one guy to make a play. A defense really has to play as a unit. Everybody has to do their job to be successful. If my coach tells me I need to go make 10 tackles, I’m gonna do my job and go make 10 tackles. You have to play with emotion on defense. You need to be aggressive. Go out there and make a big hit. Playing defense is a lot of fun.
JM: I love that right there. In closing, why should an NFL team use one of their draft picks on Justin Wyatt?
JW: Because I’m a versatile player and I love to play special teams. I made my coaches play me on special teams. They weren’t gonna put me out there at first. I said no, I wanna play special teams. I enjoy it. I had to beg my coaches for that. I look forward to it. My versatility will allow a pro team to line me up anywhere. Let’s go play ball.