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Inside Jared Wayne’s Quiet Confidence: Drafted or Not, the NFL is the Goal



Jared Wayne learned something new about himself — or rather, about his game — as he’s gone through the draft process.

He’s had 12 drops during his career at Pitt, but five of them came during the 2022 season. Uncharacteristic. But now that he’s aware of that statistic, he can go back and kind of re-evaluate, think about why they occurred. And how they won’t occur again.

As he competed Wednesday at Pitt’s Pro Day, working with Nate Yarnell during the individual position drills, he showcased the soft hands and instinctual ball skills that allowed him to emerge as one of the best receivers in the ACC.

It wasn’t in competition against defensive backs, competing on air, but hauled in catch after catch in front of all 32 NFL teams. And four CFL teams — fittingly.

It wasn’t a performance that made up for his five drops last season, what’s done is done, as he said, but he certainly showed what he’s capable of in other ways.

I mean, Wayne practically leaped out of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex with a high-flying 41.5-inch vertical jump, tied for the highest among all of Pitt’s participants. It speaks to Wayne’s ability on the football field. Quietly explosive.

“There’s a stat, I led Power Five receivers in gains over 20 plus yards, I think it was, and that’s my game,” Wayne said Wednesday. “I’m a guy that can go up and get it, I’m a deep threat as well, contested catches, and I just keep being who I am as a player.”

Wayne measured in Wednesday at a lean 6-foot-2 (and 6/8ths) and 209 pounds, with 9 and 6/8th-inch hands, 33 and 1/8th-inch arms and a long 79 and 5/8th-inch wingspan.

He jumped out of the gym with his 41.5-inch vertical, complementing it with a 10-foot-7-inch broad jump, and while he didn’t hit his fastest time in the 40-yard dash, he felt like the day as a whole was solid.

“I heard a range,” Wayne said. “I heard some in the 4.5s, and I heard some in the 4.6s, so it is what it is. At the end of the day, it’s just a number and you have to go out and play football. That’s something I’m very confident in myself.”

Wayne certainly played some football last season, growing into his role as the leader of the wide receiving corps, guiding the room with his quiet confidence, and it translated on the field. Despite inconsistent quarterback play, Wayne was Pitt’s lone reliable target through the air.

He racked up a career-high 60 receptions for 1,063 yards (17.7 yards per reception) and six touchdowns — often serving as Pitt’s sole threat through the air.

He knows the kind of player he is. He’s confident in the kind of player he is, regardless of whether or not that leads to being drafted.

“My body of work speaks for itself,” Wayne said. “I put up the numbers, 1,000-yard receiver. I’ve showed that I’m versatile, can play inside and outside. I show off good hands, yards after the catch, explosives.

“It speaks for itself, so I’m very confident in the player I am ad know the player that I am, so at the end of the day, if my name’s called, that’s a huge bonus. If not, we’re still working, nothing changes.”

Wayne was a surprising non-invite to the 2023 NFL Combine earlier this month, which is a snub that may have impacted others, but he tries not to be motivated by external factors. He competes with himself every day.

It’s an honor to be invited to the Combine, but it doesn’t bother him not to go. You still play football nonetheless. And he’s still been talking to NFL teams — almost all of them. He’s talked to Kenny Pickett, of course. And to Jordan Addison here and there. But it’s Wayne’s journey.

He’s been training in Tampa, Florida over the last few months, close by Israel Abanikanda actually, which has admittedly been a nice challenge, but he’s running his own race.

“Whether you’re the first overall pick or the last overall pick, or go undrafted, the goal stays the same,” Wayne said. “The goal is the make an impact and play football, and the work doesn’t change whether I get drafted or go undrafted.”

And now that he’s learned about those five drops last season, and the 12 over the last four seasons at Pitt, he won’t let it continue now. He’s confident in that — and himself.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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