Bills Legend Marcellus Wiley will make his way back to New Era Field this Sunday as the team’s ‘Leader of the Charge.’ In anticipation of his arrival, buffalobills.com caught up with Wiley to find out more about his time spent playing in Buffalo, his budding second career in media, his family life and more.
1. When you played here, who was the hardest person you had to go against?
That’s a great question. At my position? I actually avoided him, thank God there was a Bruce Smith on my team, but Tony Boselli…When Tony Boselli and Bruce had their little rivalry – I think it was short lived…obviously Tony did well in the league as an offensive tackle [but] it was short lived because of his injury] but him and Bruce in the playoff game, Jacksonville versus Buffalo, they went at it. So, when I got there, I knew that they had to go at it some more and I was so thankful because I was like, ‘I’m a young player trying to learn my way around this league, trying to learn from you Bruce. The last thing I need to do is go into a warfare with you and your rival and be in any part of that.’ Not saying I threw in the white flag, but I was thankful I got to go against the other offensive tackle – Leon Searcy, who was no weakling himself, but he certainly wasn’t Boselli in that moment.
2. Who was your funniest teammate?
By far Ted Washington. Ted Washington was hilarious. I almost felt bad being around Ted at times because I feel like the friend who just laughed at everything he said, and he probably got annoyed at it and I was younger than him…He just cracked me up. Of all the guys I played with, he was the one that reminded me most of my family, so he just was a jokester. I remember we would be in the elevator and he would mumble words to a point that we understood it but all the other people who weren’t on the team, or didn’t know Ted, couldn’t comprehend it. That used to crack me up. It could be the mayor…it didn’t matter…he would just mumble something, and we would sit there crying. So, Ted was my guy.
3. Did you have any pregame rituals when you were here?
One of them was I had to laugh to fight the anxiety, to fight the pressure, to fight the nervousness. I always had to remind myself that I started this game as kid and I just had fun. It wasn’t about wins and losses. It was about the process and how well I performed, and did I do my best to try and help my teammates be their best and then just let the chips fall where they may. You could get lost in so many other levels of the game. You could be focused on did we win or lose. Hey, I won games that we didn’t play well, and I lost games, that we really did well.
So, I always tried to remind myself of the foundation of which I played for and that was just to have fun out there and work your butt off. I was a guy that had to remind myself of my origin. Laughter was always the thing I loved to do. It wasn’t about what sock I put on or which way did I drive to the stadium [and] did I see the same fan and do the same handshake. It was simply make sure you find a moment before this game starts and get a laugh in and remind yourself, it’s just a game, do your best and move forward.
4. What was your favorite thing about playing in Buffalo?
The 'Fandemonium.' How much they [the fans] were invested in us as a team – everywhere you went. I remember we used to go to the bank, and this was before direct deposit so you actually had to take your check into the bank, which was always a weird thing because we had some good checks…If you walked in there the week of a loss and you still tried to cash that check, I remember at my bank, they’d laugh, they’d give me hell, they’d delay giving me my deposit slip and we would really talk football. I’m sitting there like, they care so much! She’s like, ‘Look I can get fired over this, but I don’t care. I need to talk to you about third down.’ I’m like, ‘What is going on? This is amazing.’
It was amazing and refreshing because everyone cared. You know, in Buffalo especially, priority number one is how are those Bills doing. So, to be a Bill, actually one of those members of that team everyone cared [about], I loved the fun, I loved the admiration [and] I loved the respect.
5. Is there anyone on the Bills now or around the NFL that reminds you or yourself as a player?
I played with energy [and] lightheartedness, but certainly put my work in. I also just liked bringing personality. For some reason, I keep thinking of like a JuJu Smith-Schuster. I keep thinking of him. You can tell that he’s like, ‘I’m loving this. I don’t know about you guys but yeah obviously I’m working like everyone else, but I don’t have to show you my work, I’m just doing well.’ Then he has this bigger than life personality outside the game and I was accused of being the guy that had as much going on off the field, as he did on the field. People were always like, ‘How is he balancing this out?’ It wasn’t really hard to do until the injuries started to mount up and I couldn’t play as well, but I think JuJu Smith-Schuster. He’s a youngster, but he reminds me of a lot of the same personality.
6. What is the biggest lesson that you learned from playing in the NFL?
I would sum it up with this adage because I’m so much better in so many ways from playing football as a person. I’m tougher than I ever thought I could be, but the NFL tests you. It will try and break you but if you survive it, you’re so much stronger. So, ‘It’s not more than you can handle, it’s just more than you expected.’ That made me tougher.
I went through the process of there are times that you have a surgery and don’t know if you can perform, the team’s not doing well [and] you don’t know if you’re going to turn the corner and win again. We were 0-3 one year and ended up making the playoffs and being 10-6. It’s not more than you can handle being 0-3, or whatever things were thrown my way. It’s not more than you can handle, it’s just more than what you expected. If you’re able to survive that, you’re able to show your character [and] preserve in those moments, you come out so much stronger and prepared for the real world.
7. You’ve had quite a successful career after the NFL. How did you decide the path you wanted to take with broadcasting and now as an author? Is that stuff that you always wanted to do, or did it develop as you started to consider your post-football career?
I think it was certainly an evolution. Originally, I got to thank Buffalo for doing some initial work [there]. I had a show on in Buffalo, a weekly show. Boy, this is so pre-social media thank God, this is pre-YouTube thank God, where they used to come to my house and I would host a cooking segment and do interviews and I would sit there and rap. I was freestyle rapping on the show. I was talking about X’s and O’s. I would cook at times and I always had this love affair with the media because one, I respected their job. I didn’t come from big business football, major college football. I came from Columbia a small school. So, when I met the media for the first time as a pro, as a rookie, I loved to tell my story.
I loved to tell then what the game felt like as a rookie. I loved to tell them what it felt like to be in this locker room and one of those cherished 53 members, but a lot of my teammates didn’t…They were there to play football and very little else. But I was there to play football and everything else. I think that really separated me from other players and that passion just kept growing, that respect kept growing for the media and when I was done I had tremendous relationships and a love for what the media did. So, I just parlayed that into a career.
Don’t say hello, when it’s time to say goodbye. Marcellus Wiley
8. Do you have any advice for current NFL athletes?
Yes, I do. First of all, don’t say hello, when it’s time to say goodbye. Coach used to always say that. Don’t wait until you’re at the end to say ‘Hey! I’m here. Let me network and think about what’s next.’ You have to think about ‘next’ now. I mean it’s okay. You’re not undermining your football efforts by thinking about what could be next or what’s the safety net after football. It’s okay to have more than one thing to focus on. You’re able to prioritize and make sure you handle your business. To me, players wait to the end to act like now they realize that their career’s going to end. It’s a means to an end. Football will come to an end, no matter how great you are and the game will continue to go and grow.
I remember one time we were in the locker room and our coach drew a picture of the shield on the actual whiteboard and it was just a five-inch copy of the NFL shield and he’s like, ‘I want all of you guys to come in here and realize one thing in this league’ and he grabbed some offensive tackle. [The] dude was like 6-7, 340 [pounds], something huge. He’s like, 'Come here' and he stood next to the shield that he drew that was only five inches tall…and he’s like, ‘I’m going to tell you which one of these is bigger – that five-inch shield. That shield right there is bigger than this guy. Matter of fact, this shield is bigger than all you guys.’
So, the game is going to be there, and you got to get as much as you can out of it and I want guys to realize that they need to think about that in the now before it’s too late.
9. Now that you’re not in the NFL, what’s your favorite hobby outside of work?
Rest in peace to my favorite hobby. I think a lot of Buffalo people would remember, I used to DJ. I DJed all these major events – Kanye West, Outkast concerts, Kenny Chesney, Run-DMC, major Super Bowl events, the ESPY parties, NBA All-Stars – you name it, I’ve done it. And I finally, I won’t say retired, but I am so selective that I might as well say I’m retired. I don’t DJ to the same intensity. So, rest in peace to my DJing, but my favorite hobby is…the best most fulfilling thing I do – I hang out with my family. In particular, my little three-year-old boy. That little critter, I mean he makes every moment, from waking up with him at 6:30 to when he gets home from school and [I] put him in bed at 8 o’clock at night [is great].
It’s weird because when you play football, even before you get to the pro ranks, you’re so invested. You almost block out family perspectives, family life, friendships because I got to grind. I got to get this. And when you get there, you have to put even more work in. I wasn’t able to be there every single moment of the day for my daughter. I wasn’t there all the time for my sister, for my family. I was out there trying to make it happen in terms of my dreams, but now that I’m in my second career and I have this opportunity to stay still, not travel, be in one place always there consistent, I just love being a father. I love being a husband. I love coming home and doing nothing but doing everything with them. So, that’s my new hobby. I’m doing nothing but doing everything.
10. What is your favorite vacation spot?
My wife laughs at me because she’s like, ‘You don’t like to go anywhere’ and she’s right. I traveled for a living when I became a pro and then after that, my early days at ESPN, I was on the road a lot. But my favorite spot? Toronto is my favorite place outside of LA. My favorite vacation spot…is probably Costa Rica because they have the natural hot springs…they have Jacuzzis, saunas built into the mountainside. You would just literally walk around in Costa Rica and on the side of the mountain there’s this little puddle of water that’s bubbling from the volcanic reaction but it’s a hot tub…and there’s hundreds of them, thousands of them. You’re like ‘This is insane!’ You just walk down the street, hop into somebody’s hot tub but no one owns it. It’s part of the landscape, so I’ll go with Costa Rica, but the Bahamas are beautiful as well.
11. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Tacos with ketchup, every single day. To the point where I had them last night…but I am a fanatic for tacos and ketchup. Homemade tacos, with the grease coming down the elbow, the cheese melted into the ground chicken, hard fried shells, corn. Oh my God. The lettuce, tomatoes and then you throw that ketchup on top – heaven. It’s kind of an LA thing I’ve heard but hey, most people that try it are pleasantly surprised.
12. If they were making a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
I’m going to flatter myself if I answer this, so I am going to say Idris Elba. But he has to double in size and he probably has to look a little worse as a person and pack on the weight, but Idris Elba would be amazing. I always respected him as an actor and you know, they play with the dimensions in Hollywood. He could look bigger than he is. You just have to cast small around him, but Idris Elba would be amazing…
13. If you could live for one day in the past or one day in the future, which would you choose?
The past. I would and I’m not too proud to say I have regrets [but] I would go right back to when I got hurt in San Diego. It’s in my book but a lot of people don’t know that things were going so well for me and they were going well incrementally. So, it was the best way to learn. [It] went from zero sacks, to three, to five, to 10 to 13, but I kept getting hurt. And I was doing that, despite being hurt and when you put up those numbers people respect you but I’m like ‘God, I could be so much better if I just was healthy.’
…I got hurt after my 13-sack year in San Diego and then that year I got hurt, I remember the moment. It was a game against New England. It was our fourth game and I already had three sacks and I never had three sacks in four games, so I was like ‘Yo, I’m ready. This is going to be my best year!’ Then I got hurt. I would go back to that moment and say, because you’re hurt, shut it down…I wish I would’ve shut it down that year and came back perfectly healthy going forward. Instead, I came back. I rushed it again. I came back not the same and I never, ever was able to attain that level of health or production again.
14. What is your favorite musical artist or band?
My favorite band is Outkast. Forevermore. I just love them. I got a chance to actually go to their concert and hangout with them and go on stage with them. I’m a fanatic…that’s my favorite group even though they haven’t put out music in over a decade together, they still got my heart. Their message, how daring they were, how they stepped outside the box and how great their music was, that’s my favorite group of all time.