ST. PETERSBURG — Joel Lanning has the unique distinction of being listed as an "LB/QB" on the West roster for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.
And while the former Iowa State star spent the entire practice at middle linebacker Monday afternoon, on the final play of practice he stepped in at quarterback on a goal-line play with much on the line at St. Petersburg High School. Score, and the defensive players and coaches all had to do 10 pushups; fail to do so, the offense had the honors.
Lanning's pass went incomplete in the end zone, but he may very well have done the pushups either way. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound prospect knows his future is on defense, but his offensive roots continue to help him out.
"It slows the game down for you," said Lanning, who threw 19 touchdowns as Iowa State's quarterback in 2015-16 then switched to linebacker and had 114 tackles as a senior. "Playing quarterback, you have to see things pretty quick when things are flying all around you. It definitely helps — at linebacker, you can just relax and clue in on your keys."
Lanning, 23, played both positions in Iowa State's upset of then-No. 3 Oklahoma in October, rushing nine times for 35 yards, completing two passes for another 25 and registering eight tackles on defense, including a sack of Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.
Lanning, who graduated this spring with a degree in liberal studies, threw for a touchdown and ran for another in a close loss to Oklahoma State while getting five tackles on defense. He played some on both sides in the Cyclones' upset of No. 4 TCU.
"I'm very grateful for that opportunity. Not a lot of people get to do that in college," Lanning said of his rare two-way flexibility as a senior. "I'm blessed and glad I got to do it."
Former Raiders assistant Bobby Johnson, who is serving as West head coach this week, said Lanning's experience on one side of the ball gives him a perspective and intelligence that most linebackers can't bring to the game.
"He has a high football IQ — he's sharp, and he's a really high-character guy," Johnson said. "Anybody who can do what he did, to play the amount of snaps, to go to Oklahoma and beat Oklahoma playing linebacker and quarterback, that's a special player. What it's done is given him an understanding of what offenses are trying to do, and any time you have a clue about what they might be doing as a defender, it gives you a jump and allows you to play faster. Today he seemed like he was going to the play before it was snapped."
Lanning, who has not been invited to the NFL combine, is working out in South Florida to improve his speed and other measurables in the next three months before the NFL draft.
He wouldn't rule out a cameo sendoff Saturday at Tropicana Field but understands his two-way football time may be in its final week. He hopes a strong showing here can help him settle in on defense in the NFL.
"I'm just trying to be the best linebacker I possibly can," he said.