David Laney thought his destiny was to play quarterback when he arrived as a freshman at Highland Springs High School just East of Richmond, VA.
Laney had played under center since recreation ball, but as a sophomore at state powerhouse Highland Springs he lost a quarterback competition with then-junior D’Vonte Waller.
Fate, however, intervened for the 6-foot, 170-pounder as the Springers were driving toward the third of four consecutive state Class 5 championships.
Starting defensive back Tremayne Talbert went down with an ankle injury in the next-to-the-last game of the regular season and coach Loren Johnson was looking for a replacement. Laney had seen plenty of action in a reserve role at quarterback, cornerback and safety at that point, but Johnson now tabbed him for a full-time secondary role.
Laney didn’t disappoint. He made a leaping interception near the end zone to spoil a long pass play in his first start, a 28-7 win against Varina in Highland Springs’ regular-season final. Laney added another pick and a 70-yard return for a touchdown in a 28-14 second-round state playoff triumph against Henrico.
The Springers went on to capture the state title with a 40-27 victory against Tuscarora at Hampton University to finish 16-1.
“After that, I just took off from there,” Laney said. “I started hearing from the (college) coaches at the end of that year. My (high school) coaches sat me down after the season and talked to me and my parents about opportunities I might have moving forward about playing at the next level.”
Those opportunities eventually came in the form of scholarship offers from eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs, including East Carolina. Laney, who received his offer from ECU in May, made a verbal commitment to the Pirates on June 16, two days after taking an official visit to campus.
ECU beat out Army, Kent State, Louisville, Purdue, Toledo, Virginia and Western Michigan for Laney’s services.
ECU cornerbacks coach Brandon Lynch and defensive line coach Jeff Hanson were the chief recruiters for Laney. The bond Laney formed with that duo played a role in his commitment.
“The coaching staff is like family to me,” Laney said. “I can talk to Coach Lynch whenever I want, or if I have problems in school. The same with Coach Hanson. I’m looking forward to being part of that family environment in college. I’ve liked designing things since I was little. As a kid I was always building stuff with Legos. One of the classes I’ve just taken had me designing a building for my own business. I excelled at that class because it’s really something I love to do.”
Laney shared the secondary spotlight with four-star safety Malcolm Greene last season as Highland Springs became just the fourth school in history to capture four straight state titles. He earned second-team Class 5 all-state honors in helping the Springers to a 15-0 record that included a 37-26 win against Stone Bridge in the championship game.
“I have three state championships under my belt now and I’m going for four,” Laney said. “I never thought coming into my freshman year that I’d have three state titles. We’ve only lost one or two games the last three years. I definitely think they (ECU) know I know what it takes to be a winner, and that’s one thing they like about me.”
Laney may find himself back at quarterback in 2019 as Highland Springs seeks an unprecedented fifth straight Virginia state title. But when he reaches Greenville sometime in 2020, he expects to play cornerback.
“They also said if they don’t get enough safeties in recruiting they might want me at safety,” Laney said. “I can play either one. Corner or safety, it doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m on the field helping my team. I definitely want to make a contribution at East Carolina as soon as I get there.”
Laney plays either position with a physical style.
“My strengths as a defensive back are covering one-on-one and coming up to make tackles,” Laney said.
The Pirates have secured verbal commitments from six defensive backs among their 16 total so far.