1. Do you remember watching the draft when you were younger? If so, does a certain player or moment stand out to you?
Yeah, it's funny. I remember watching the draft growing up and it looked like these smoke-filled conference rooms – not too many theatrics going on…Wow has it evolved over the years. The '83 draft really stands out, all the quarterbacks, just talking about that draft and their impact on the game. For me, my draft experience was a roller coaster ride, but no matter how high or how the low the ride was, I was just so excited to be on it. Coming from a small school and going from an undrafted status before my senior year to hearing talks that I may even go in the first round; I didn't let that go to my head. I didn't let anything change the reality that I was just excited and appreciative of the opportunity. Getting my name called, 52nd pick, second round, Buffalo Bills, was amazing – beyond amazing, beyond fantasy for me.
And to know that I was going there, and my first thought was, 'Wow, Bruce Smith. I get to play with Bruce Smith.' It was almost like the greatest dream of your life coming to reality but also [it came with] another bow on it because I got to play with the greatest to ever do it.
2. Can you describe how you felt in the days, hours, leading up to the draft?
It's so crazy because obviously, your life's going to change. I think the biggest thing on draft day, is you're going to know location. You know that you're already going to have the money – especially me coming from a poor background. I knew that I was going to be richer the day after this than I was the day before. So, that felt good, but you couldn't even ride that emotion. It was just a reality. Alright, you're going to get paid. But more than that, where am I going to play? Who am I playing with? Who's coaching me? Who's going to take my development to the next level? Those kinds of questions. What area is it? What's the weather there? What are the people like there? All of the guess work gets answered by that one selection, once you hear your name called. Emotionally, you're just thinking through so many scenarios.
At the time, there was 30 teams in the league. So, I'm thinking through all 30 teams. Then you're like, 'No, they don't need a D-end,' 'No, they don't want me,' 'No, they didn't interview me' – everything…You just go through everything, trying to just guess, 'Do they really like me or not?' Especially when you're a second-round pick. You've already gone through those 30 teams once in the first round and none of them called your name. So, now you're like, 'Who did they pick?' 'Oh, they picked a D-end and they didn't pick me.' I think I was maybe the eighth defensive end picked – somewhere around there. It really started to get kind of crazy in terms of my mind just running away with it. I completely was off. Buffalo was one of the two teams that never interviewed me throughout the process…and that's the one that I ended up calling home.
Scroll through to view photos of notable Bills second-round draft picks throughout franchise history. The Bills are currently slated to have their first pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft at number 54 overall.
3. What was your setup like on draft day? Were you at home with your family?
Yeah, it's crazy. I'm actually doing my spring cleaning during this time when we're all hunkered in at home and I recently got a chance to watch the tape. So, there was CNN and Sports Illustrated at my home because I'm from a small school, Ivy League, and that was a story for them. There were camera crews at my house at like 7 that morning and I invited my immediately family, so my mother, father, obviously my sister, my grandmother, uncle and it looked like 20, 30 people there. [It was] even to the point that my friends were there, a couple of my friends…It was a family affair. It was a lot of fun. We had food and drinks. Everyone was just hanging out.
Then that turned into, there was a dead period, a lull. This is the old format where the first round lasted like four or five hours or something crazy. It was forever. Then they started to move in the second round a little faster, but they wanted the suspense of the first round, so they drag it out. They drug it out. I think I even dosed off. My dad did go to sleep – I saw that on the video. My dad was sitting there, and he's the biggest sports fan there is, he's mister football. He was literally sitting there with his glasses on, asleep. There's so much anxiety, everyone's up so early so excited and if it doesn't happen immediately, obviously you have a little bit of that fatigue, that adrenaline deficit. It all pumped [up] and got rowdy once they said my name. I was so excited.
4. Did you celebrate after that?
Oh yeah. We had a draft party that night. It was actually at Hollywood Park Racetrack in one of their rooms. That was a party. I had everyone – maybe I invited everybody I ever met in my life in Los Angeles – and it was a great time. Talk about feeling like the man of the hour. It was weird because a lot of the people rode the roller coaster with me in terms of expectations of making it to the NFL. So, my story is a guy that was really good at the youth level – like All-American status as a Pop Warner player and as a tracker runner. I was winning national track meets and setting national records in track. I was really fast – just a young little fast dude that played football.
So, before high school, most people were already telling me, 'Man you're going to go to the NFL,' or 'You're going to be a professional athlete one day.' I was just like, 'Whatever.' I couldn't think that far ahead. I didn't even know what that really meant, but I got to high school and I had Osgood-Schlatter in my knees, which is basically something telling you that you're going to have a growth spurt but right now your knees are just going to be on fire, you're going to be uncoordinated, you're not going to be too athletic. I really struggled with my body in high school, which was a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to focus on my academics and choose a school like Columbia. I think I would've went to a football factory if everything was left to my athletic hype…but it all worked out.
All those people who were there from day one that said I would make it and then those same people who stopped saying I would make it, were now living in a reality that I made it. It was crazy man. To hear person after person tell me that exact same story, it was great to be around.
5. How many phone calls do you think you received after you were drafted?
How many calls? An insane amount! Calls, people just stopping me walking down the street [everywhere]. Walking through the mall, I got bum-rushed by store owners from places I've been before. It was weird because I went to this one store the day before to get my outfit for my draft party, and they acted like I'm the same old guy who always goes in there, who is a normal customer. But then I went, I forgot my headband, and I went after I got drafted and I was like, 'I forgot my headband yesterday.' And literally, the same store, the same owner, had done a 180 in terms of how he treated me. I went from being Marcellus Wiley, Columbia senior to Mr. Marcellus Wiley, NFL player…it was crazy. Those kinds of things happened all the time…
The biggest emotion was just the satisfaction that I persevered because I didn't give up on my body; I didn't give up on myself; I didn't give up on my dreams. I actually made it. Coming from my community and my family background, very few instances could we point at publicly and say, 'You made it. You did it.' I was the first college graduate. I was obviously the first in the NFL. It really gave our entire family a stamp of confidence and really just something to point at and say, 'Yeah, we can do that as well' and it was great to feel.
6. How has the draft changed in the years since your draft?
Yeah, I love it. I'm so in love with the evolution of the draft, sports, football in general. I just love how not only are the athletes, bigger, faster, stronger, more advanced, their acumen is greater. At a younger age, they know more. You could walk up to an eight-year-old right now and he'll break down 'cover 3' for you. I'm in the NFL and I'm like, 'What's cover 3?' And now there are eight-year-olds telling you exactly, online, that they're beating you in Madden. It's crazy. I just love that. I just love how it's growing. I love how the bottom line continues to grow, the opportunities continue to grow and moments like this – doing a Q&A interview where you circle back with some of the alumni just to give that full story perspective.
I hope it just continues to grow. Just like I look back at those smoke-filled rooms, I hope they look at today's 2020 NFL Draft and say, 'Man, that looked like Atari. That looked so old school.' I hope in 20, 30 years, that generation can look back at this generation and say the same thing.
7. Do you have any advice for guys that are draft eligible this year?
Yeah, so many levels. Rapid fire – don't spend any of the new money. Figure out your savings model and investment strategy before you figure out what you're going to buy…Don't buy jack until you figure out how much you're going to commit to saving and investing and saving for that rainy day. As we're learning right now through the coronavirus, you never can predict when that rainy day occurs in any respect. So, that and you will not play forever – no matter who you are. I played for 10 years, 25 years of football in total in professional years and I was done playing football at 32. That is so much life in front of you, so much life to live. So, don't think it's going to last forever because even if you have a long, great career, it won't.
Beyond that, I would tell everyone to get their measurables. That means, know exactly what athlete you are right now because when you come out of college, those weight programs, conditioning programs really got you right. You're young, your metabolism is on fire, you just know how high you jump, how much you can lift. Don't lose sight of that because you get to the pro level and so much of it is a business and so much of it is about how much you produce, that sometimes you forget you have to build that athlete up every single year – no matter how successful or how much failure you have in the league. Continue to build your base of athleticism, so that you can do more. If you can do more, you probably will do more in terms of potential to reality.
Beyond that, I would just tell everyone to always work on being better than what is expected and what is told of you. Always find that extra gear, even at the pro level because the pro level is different than college…