The All-Big Ten cornerback had three interceptions for the second straight season and is widely thought to be a first-round pick in this year’s draft.
“Once we got the feedback from the NFL, I talked about things with the coaches and my family and ultimately decided this is what I wanted to do,” Waynes said in a statement. “I have never really paid attention to pre-draft player rankings. In fact, I wasn’t even aware that some draft analysts had me rated as the No. 1 corner.
”So I didn’t make my decision based on those ratings, I made it because I have an opportunity to pursue my dream to play pro football. I’ve dreamt about this since I was a little boy and I didn’t want to miss this chance.”
Waynes said the Cotton Bowl was a great way to close out his career at Michigan State, especially with the late fourth-quarter comeback as the Spartans beat Baylor 42-41.
But the decision was not easy, Waynes said, as he is close with coach Mark Dantonio and defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett, who he said is like a “second father.”
”I honestly had a hard time telling them about my decision because it’s difficult to leave, but they both understood,” Waynes said. “I’ve always been able to talk to both of them about any subject. I’ll always value those close relationships.”
In his second season as a starter, Waynes cemented himself as a No. 1 cornerback – the role filled in the previous season by Darqueze Dennard.
Now, Waynes is primed to follow in Dennard’s footsteps and possibly be a first-round pick as Dennard was selected No. 24 by the Cincinnati Bengals in last year’s draft.
Dantonio said there is no question Waynes is a player who is ready for the next level.
“Trae Waynes is a tremendous football player, who also has been a great ambassador for our football program,” Dantonio said. “Trae is a lock-down corner, who played an important role in our success the last two years.
”He’s an excellent press corner, who’s often been isolated against our opponent’s top wide receiver. He has great deep-ball judgment and the ability to tackle in space. Physically, Trae has length and great make-up speed. …
”He’s ready to transition into the next chapter in his life. We wish him nothing but the best as he pursues his dream of playing in the NFL.
”The initial report on Waynes’ decision came from his hometown paper, the Kenosha News, shortly after the Cotton Bowl.
With one decision out of the way, Michigan State still has a pair of question marks when it comes to juniors declaring or returning for their senior years. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun has yet to announce his choice, while quarterback Connor Cook has previously said the plan has been to return for his senior year and said he has unfinished business.