Going pro is any young football player’s dream, but for Trae Waynes, hearing his name called on draft day is about more than individual fantasies.
The standout cornerback at Michigan State, who many predict will be the first defensive back taken in the 2015 NFL Draft, keeps his grandmother and aunt in the back of his mind at all times. Both women battled cancer and won, and both pushed Waynes throughout his football career. Waynes says that reaching the NFL is just as much for his family as it is for himself. STACK sat down with the Kenosha, Wisconsin native at Proactive Sports Performance in Santa Ana, California, to discuss his upcoming tests at the NFL Combine, the difficulty of leg day, and of course, his family.
STACK: What’s a typical day like for you here [at Proactive Sports Performance]?
Trae Waynes: I wake up at about 7:30 and make sure that I eat. Then I head to the field at around 9 o’clock and get there at about 10 and work out there a little bit. After that, my position coach will come and we’ll do defensive back drills for an hour after. We get to go home for an hour and a half or two hours, eat a little and get a little rest. And then at 2 o’clock I come back and work out. After that, I probably get therapy treatments, a massage or whatever else they have scheduled for us.
That’s a heck of a day. Is it hard to get up for that, mentally, every single morning?
It’s not really hard mentally, because I look at it as the biggest job interview in my life—going hard and being disciplined for a couple of months out of the year, knowing it will really pay off in the end. So it’s not really hard mentally knowing that I have to come do this every day. It’s actually fun, and I enjoy doing it.
You refer to the NFL Combine as job interview. How do you feel about it right now? Nervous, anxious, excited?
I’m kind of nervous. It’s a really big deal. I’ve got to be at my top performance on the go. I’m working really hard to get to where I need to be by the time I get there. Mostly, I’m anxious. I got a lot of friends that are going. It’s something I’ve watched as a kid and something I’ve always dreamed about going to, hoping that I could make it to that level. Finally being able to do it, it’s really exciting.
Is there a specific drill or test you’re focused on?
Everything is important, but the two things I’m really focusing on are the 40-Yard Dash and the Bench Press.
Where are you in terms of your preparation for those two?
I think I’m progressing. It’s hard to say because we haven’t really maxed out our Bench Press yet or our 40s. But from what the coaches have been saying, my 10 and 20 splits are getting faster and faster, so I’m seeing improvements. I’ve always loved upper body. So when we bench, that’s something I look forward to. I’ve always enjoyed doing it since I was younger. But I also like doing legs and stuff like that. It’s kind of funny that I say that, because everybody that knows me knows I don’t like leg day. But now that I’m here doing it, and what I’m doing it for, it’s exciting to do it.
The Combine is close now. What goes through your mind when you think about it?
It’s honestly still surreal. Just knowing that I’m possibly a top prospect at my position in the country, maybe a first-round draft pick—it’s almost surreal because that’s something you dream about as a kid. And it’s something you want to have. But as you’re going through the process, you’re never really thinking, “I can really get there.” Now that it’s here, it’s like, wow, this is actually coming true. It really still hasn’t hit me and I don’t think it will hit me for a while through the whole draft thing, because like I said, it’s something a lot of kids dream about and now that it’s finally here, you really don’t know how to take it in.
Is there someone in your life who has motivated you through your entire football career, who has helped you get where you are now?
Pretty much my family. My grandma and aunt have always really supported me. That’s one thing—they really kept me going. They both struggled with cancer. My grandma always calls me up like, “I’m praying for you.” She jokingly said, “If you make it, I want that first check.” Just joking around. They really keep me motivated because what they’ve been going through. They’ve always been there to support me and my brother. And I want to do it for them.
Is there any added pressure for you to succeed because of that?
Yeah, it gives me a lot of pressure, because I know my younger siblings and family look up to me. I believe I’ll be the first professional athlete in our family. Seeing a lot of them looking up to me and wanting this for me, it does add a little pressure, but I know they’ll be proud of me either way despite what happens. I really try not to think about it and take one day at a time.
Read more about the stars of the 2015 NFL Draft.