A football playbook consists of X’s and O’s, but to Georgia State defensive end Javonte Lain, the playbook is a lens for art.
Lain –– a studio-art major –– creates pieces through sculpting, drawing, painting, and building. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end discovered his interest in art from his older sister, Akeila, in the third grade.
“In my mind, it started off as a competition,” Lain said. “Then, she really became my mentor. She took my work to a different level.”
Lain’s level of talent was unknown to several of his teammates and coaches, until ESPN unveiled his art on its college football Twitter account.
Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott noticed Lain’s talent after a little direction from his wife, Summer. Elliott knew Lain’s creativity and athletic ability, but was unaware of the product from pen to paper.
“He’s a deep thinker,” Elliott said. “He doesn’t do a lot of talking, so I can see his creative side running through his mind.”
On the field, Lain presents quickness and overemphasized effort at his position. His aggressive nature makes him a fierce competitor against offenses that beat him in size.
“That’s one of the things that sets him apart,” Elliott said. “He’s a little undersized to be playing where he is, so he has to play with a lot of effort and make really good steps.”
In the meeting room, Lain’s mind sets him apart especially when learning new plays. His playbook consists of more than just notes and memorization. Lain –– self-proclaimed as “Vonte the Artist” –– takes a play and constructs it into a form he better understands.
“If I wasn’t quite sure on a play, I would go home, not necessarily draw X’s and O’s, but draw something that correlates to it,” Lain said.
Drawings come quickly to Lain, claiming he can draw a watch with three-dimensional detailing in an hour.
However, on the field and in the studio, Lain said he finds himself harshly criticizing each detail.
“I am a perfectionist,” Lain said. “If it’s not exactly how I want, I will start everything all over that includes on the field.”
As others may view Lain’s interests as polar opposites, Lain views football and art as ways to express himself. Instead of two different means of expression, Lain views his athletic ability and creativity as one in the same.
“On the field, you can express yourself athletically,” Lain said. “In the studio, you can also express yourself. Art for me is really about self-expression, and sometimes, it doesn’t always have to have a meaning.”
His art may not always have a meaning, but art means a lot to Lain, enough to make the 21-year-old consider a career as an art curator.
“You should always do things you love, and art came naturally to me,” Lain said.