Trae Waynes biography

Get the official biography on the Vikings' newest cornerback, first-rounder Trae Waynes.

Trae Waynes
Michigan State University Spartans
Kenosha, Wisconsin
Bradford High School

Waynes is the first to tell you that he’s “learned from the best,” first, under the guidance of former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who recently left the Spartans program for a head coaching position at Pittsburgh, and then, under the guidance of 2013 Thorpe Trophy winner Darqueze Dennard. With Dennard leaving for the National Football League, Waynes made the seamless transition to the demanding boundary cornerback position in 2014, firmly establishing himself as the best cornerback in college football.

Labeled a “lockdown corner” by Narduzzi, Waynes was one of the main factors why the Spartans ranked eighth in the NCAA FBS in total defense (315.8 ypg) in 2014. After making 50 tackles with three interceptions playing in Dennard’s shadow in 2013, Waynes emerged in 2014, posting 46 hits with three pass thefts and eight pass breakups, as opponents completed just 19.8% of the passes targeted into his area.

Waynes has played a variety of roles in the secondary, but is best when allowed to perform in press coverage, as his range and fluid hips, along with his explosive closing burst reminds many of Seattle’s Richard Sherman. Like the Seahawks All-Pro, Waynes is quick to get downhill, and he runs the alley well, taking above average angles and proper outside leverage on ball carriers. He also flashes a good motor and chase speed tracking down runners and slot receivers down to the sideline.

Waynes’ best asset might be his blazing speed, a trait that he picked up from his parents. The son of two college track athletes and the brother of another, he is blessed with that outstanding quickness from the beginning of his life. But he is the first to tell you that running in races is not his “cup of tea.” When he stepped out onto the track himself as a high school sophomore, the emotional connection wasn’t there.

Waynes attended Mary D. Bradford High School where he lettered in football, baseball and track. As a senior, he broke his fibula and tore ligaments in his ankle, which saw his recruit status drop to a three-star rating. Regarded as the 94th-best safety in the country, he still earned first-team All-Southeast Conference in 2010 after he recorded 38 tackles, two interceptions and four pass break-ups. He was also named a first-team All-State and All-Region selection by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.

In baseball, Waynes earned first-team all-county honors as an outfielder in 2010 after leading the Red Devils in home runs (three) and finishing second in batting average (.452, 28-of-62). He also produced eight doubles and three triples as a junior while being caught stealing only once in 26 attempts.

Waynes was also on the track and field team. In 2010, he won the county indoor track championship in the 60-yard and 220-yard dashes and recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.37) at the Midwest Ultimate 100 Camp. He finished third in the 100m (10.85) at the 2011 Division I State T&F Championships. He recorded a career-best time of 10.75 seconds in the 100 meters at the 2011 SEC Outdoor Conference Meet, placing first.

Coming to Michigan State in 2011, Waynes spent the season playing on the scout team, learning the techniques needed to play field cornerback. He appeared in nine games as a reserve in 2012, posting five tackles while assisting on a sack. He wrested the “field” cornerback spot from Johnny Adams during 2013 fall camp, receiving Sophomore All-American recognition after he posted 50 tackles with three interceptions and five pass break-ups opposite Darqueze Dennard.

The Thorpe Award winner left the program for the NFL after that banner 2013 season, thrusting Waynes into the spotlight as the Spartans’ new “boundary” cornerback in 2014. Taking over for the best defensive back in the nation at a lynchpin position on one of college football’s best defenses, Waynes was ready for the challenge as 2014 fall camp commenced.

Waynes was lightly recruited as a safety at Kenosha Bradford. And a shoulder injury heading into the all-important offseason before his senior season didn’t help. Yet, his prep senior season featured two important things that happened to help shape the rest of his football career.

The first was the 4.2-second 40-yard-dash Waynes ran at the 2010 Michigan State summer camp. Michigan State was among the handful of Football Bowl Subdivision programs recruiting him. They hadn’t seen much on tape, but knew he had speed. The Spartans offered a scholarship soon after they saw it in person and Waynes committed soon after.

The second key event was Waynes’ move to cornerback. With his shoulder still tender, his high school coach moved him one last time to try to limit the contact he would face. By the time his senior year came around, the Bradford High product was a Division I commit finally playing the proper position.

When Waynes was sidelined with his broken leg, his best friend would come over to his house to help him with his homework and to bring him food. When he became mobile again, the two started going to a nearby school to run drills together. That best friend would later become one of the best running backs in college football – Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.

Even though Waynes held opponents to just-under 20% pass completion rate in 2014, he received just one first-team All-American nod in 2014. The Thorpe Award semifinalist had to contend with mentoring three newcomers in the secondary, as Michigan State ranked eighth in the nation in total defense, but finished 60th in the FBS in passing yards allowed (227.3 ypg).

The junior was dominant at the boundary corner slot, where the unanimous All-Big Ten Conference selection chipped in with 46 tackles that included one sack. Four of his eight pass deflections came on third-down snaps and all three of his interceptions were followed by Michigan State touchdown drives.

Waynes started 27-of-36 games at Michigan State – 14 at “field” cornerback and 13 at the “boundary” position…Recorded 101 tackles (71 solos) with thirteen pass deflections and six interceptions…Registered 1.5 sacks for minus 5 yards, four stops for losses of 14 yards and two fumble recoveries.

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