INDIANAPOLIS — Change is an unavoidable part of life in the SEC, where coaches drift in and out of programs like flotsam and players jump ship with little hesitation, and the turnover can result in some strange situations.
Case in point: The 2017 NFL Combine featured more Georgia transfers (two) than players who actually finished their career with the school (one-man show Isaiah McKenzie). Louisville’s Josh Harvey-Clemons was the more high-profile departure, given his 5-star pedigree. But Brendan Langley, another former Bulldogs defensive back, also earned the invite to Indy despite taking a tougher, far less certain route.
“I am surprised. (Georgia) had a lot great athletes,” Langley said. “I wonder what’s up with that?”
Langley, one of many touted 2013 signees who would eventually leave Georgia behind, started four games for the Bulldogs as a true freshman cornerback. He struggled, lost his starting job, moved to receiver and then wound up back at cornerback before transferring to Lamar, an FCS school in the Southland Conference.
Langley took a major chance jumping from the SEC to a small-time college — let alone one that didn’t even support a football program from 1990-2009. But the Marietta, Ga., product never second-guessed himself.
“If there was ever any doubt, I would’ve never went to Lamar in the first place. Going from the SEC to Lamar, that’s unheard of. But I knew that I had what it took to make it out,” Langley said.
Langley’s road to the NFL combine featured another twist after arriving at Lamar. He began the 2015 season at receiver, but requested coaches move him back to the defensive side soon after, thinking that’d be his best shot to stand out with the Cardinals.
This time, the switch paid off.
As a junior, Langley flashed the same promise he displayed at Georgia, recording 11 pass breakups in 11 appearances, and then broke out as a First Team All-Southland Conference selection while playing defensive back full-time this past fall. He finished the year with 6 interceptions, 7 pass breakups and a pair of punt return touchdowns.
“We had a very good receiver, Reggie Begelton. He was all-world. He was our guy, and I knew it. Quite frankly, I didn’t feel like begging for the ball anymore,” Langley said. “I was going to let him shine. I felt like we needed a bit more help on the defensive side, and the coaches agreed. The move was fairly easy.”
That performance earned him invites to the Senior Bowl and then the NFL combine, where he posted a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash, 22 bench press reps and a 60-yard shuttle time of 11.19 (second-best among all defensive backs).
“It was a very humbling experience. Just learning to stay level-headed, stay the course,” Langley said of the transition from Georgia to Lamar. “Keep your faith in God. I’m a God-fearing man. Pray every day. Once you got God on your side, you can’t go wrong.”
As Langley continues preparing for the pros, he still keeps in touch with a few of his old Bulldogs teammates and former Tennessee safety Brian Randolph, who like Langley went to Marietta’s Kell High School.
It would be tempting for the Peach State cornerback to look upon his time at Georgia with regret, or view it as a missed opportunity. But that’s not Langley’s style. He’s accepted the past, moved on and is ready to give the NFL his best shot.
“Not disappointment. Just lessons learned,” he said. “I definitely learned a lot there. I had some great coaches, great teammates that taught me things about the game and life in general. I had a great time at Georgia. There’s nothing but love.”
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