“Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not ‘Mr. Lebowski.’ I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.” – The Dude, The Big Lebowski (1998)
Much like the quote above from one of the best comedy movies of the 1990s, the subject of this article also goes by a “duderific” nickname. That person, of course, can be no other than former NFL star and ESPN analyst Marcellus Wiley, or as he may explain to you, “Dat Dude.”
Similar to the epic adventure of The Dude in The Big Lebowski, Wiley has been through an equal amount of excitement, highs and lows during a very successful professional football career.
Many people may remember him most from his start with the Buffalo Bills (where he also played the most seasons) or maybe people remember him from his days on the San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys or Jacksonville Jaguars. Or, if you’re a football newbie, maybe you just know his name from ESPN.
With all that being said, you can see how much ground Wiley has covered in the NFL with the different teams he has played for and all the games he has been a part of.
When asked what his most memorable game was that he was a part of during his 10-year NFL career, Wiley responded, “The one that I can’t stop talking about is the “Music City Miracle,” when I was on the losing end with the Buffalo Bills. For those not familiar with that game, it was a game where we were behind the entire game. Finally, we end up catching up and taking the lead with 16 seconds to go. We kicked the ball off—it was supposed to be just a simple kickoff, tackle the guy and game over. We go home smiling; move on to the next level, the playoffs.”
Wiley continued, “It didn’t go so well on that kickoff. Steve Christie kicked it to Lorenzo Neal who throws it to Frank Wycheck, who goes to one side and throws it to Kevin Dyson. Dyson catches the ball, runs down the sideline, untouched, wins the game, and the Titans go on to the Super Bowl—as we would have as well. Then they lose, themselves—by one yard—to the St. Louis Rams. So, that was a pretty interesting game, right there; I could never forget it.”
While Wiley didn’t win that game, Wiley did have his own success stories about being in the league. Wiley’s greatest achievement is a bittersweet one, which he went on to explain in more detail.
“My greatest achievement was the year that Bruce Smith was released. Obviously, Smith was the best defensive lineman to ever play the game—a living legend. I had all the pressure on me to respond and to take his place for the one year I was in Buffalo after he was released. I also had a back surgery during training camp [that year] so I didn’t even play before the season. I couldn’t even walk while the other guys were out there practicing and playing preseason. So, to turn around and have all that pressure that was on me, to respond and to replace Smith—to me that felt like the greatest of all my moments in the league. “
Even though replacing Smith was Wiley’s biggest accomplishment, to be stepping in and replacing a legend, it was also a tough time for him because Smith was also Wiley’s mentor.
“I knew a lot of great guys of influence, but Bruce Smith showed me the most, taught me the ropes, showed me how he prepares, how to approach the game plan. I mean, you couldn’t duplicate his moves or his talent, but you sure can try your best to get his well-preparedness. He’s just a freak of nature. He can do things no one else can do.”
Wiley took to heart all those lessons that Smith taught him and showed him because in 2001, Wiley took pride in a trip to the Pro Bowl that season. Back then, the Pro Bowl was played how it should be played—in Hawaii and after the Super Bowl.
When asked about the Pro Bowl and when he thinks about the way it has been played in recent years, Wiley responded by saying, “It’s tough, I like the fact that it’s still within football season instead of the week after [the Super Bowl]. But I don’t like it in Miami, even though I love Miami. The Pro Bowl is for Hawaii; it’s just a better vacation! The [players] go to Miami all the time, but Hawaii is something special and it feels special when you make the Pro Bowl, so I think they should keep that. “
Wiley continued, “It’s fun to watch a game of all-stars before the Super Bowl because the Super Bowl is the climax. You don’t want to go to the Super Bowl and then all of the sudden there’s another game after it which just doesn’t mean as much; it doesn’t feel as good but, no complaints! No complaints for it, no complaints about it. I think a lot of people watched this year—which was interesting—more than they did in years past, so you’ve got to run with that.”
On the other side of the professional spectrum, rookies and their pay grades have been a hot topic as many veteran players don’t like the fact that a lot of unproven college athletes are getting bigger paychecks than players that have been around and proven their value.
When Wiley was asked what he thought should be done to get this situation under control, he responded by saying, “Oh, most definitely a salary cap. I’m not mad at the rookies for making that money, I just want the best to make more, and I think it should be for the proven veterans, the accomplished guys in the league.”
Bold statements like those, where Wiley is not afraid to speak his mind, are why fans love watching him on ESPN and listening to what he has to say. Some of you may be wondering though, how did Wiley get his start with ESPN? What was his moment that secured him his gig with “The Worldwide Leader in Sports?”
Wonder no more, readers. Wiley explained to me how it all began.
“It started on Halloween of 2007. I was doing an interview about Halloween and players in the NFL that were like, ‘scary characters.’ So imagine, Rodney Harrison as Chucky or Walter Jones as Jason, from Friday the 13th. I just made a parallel between famous players and famous characters of Halloween and scary movies. They [ESPN] liked it. They thought the way I did it was entertaining. Then they said, ‘Do another interview,’ and, ‘Do another interview.’ Next thing you know, I’m meeting with the bosses, getting hired. So, it was a non-traditional way; I didn’t turn in a resume or a demo reel. I was just being me in interviews and it snowballed from there.”
Wiley went on to explain that this line of work with ESPN is something that he has a true passion for.
“I love it. I actually like it more than football. It’s funny, not everyone is born to play football, but you still have an opportunity and a chance to play football. I took full advantage of that opportunity, but deep down I wanted to do something different, beyond football, and now I’m in a space to actually do that.”
Naturally, being on the air on ESPN is what all the fans and viewers get to see of Wiley and all his on-air colleagues, but what goes on behind the scenes? What do the Wileys and Stuart Scotts and Tony Kornheisers of ESPN do when the cameras aren’t rolling? How do they get ready for their shows?
“When you first get there, there’s a production meeting where we narrow the focus of the topics. They never tell you what to say; they just tell you what we’re going to talk about. It’s up to you to create an argument, to create a discussion that is relevant and to what we’re discussing. It’s just open-form and we have a lot of fun. They encourage personality; they let you be you.”
Wiley continued, “So, you go from that production meeting to research mode where they have vast resources. You can use the researchers there or you can do your own stuff. I typically use my own stuff and use the researchers at the end to try and pull some points together. The tough part is actually taking it from the computer or notebook paper and actually saying it. Remembering that millions of people are watching, and you wanted to say a certain thing, you have to get it out at that moment.”
Wiley even went on to compare the behind-the-scene action to football by saying, “It’s a lot like football because you practice and practice—practice tackling, practice running, practice catching, but then there are only those three hours that matter. Those three hours on Sunday is all that matters. We could do all the production meetings and research we want, but those 30 minutes on NFL Live or that five-minute segment on SportsCenter is all that matters. I like that pressure because you’ve got to be ready in the moment to shine and do your best.”
Dat Dude, being the classy dude he is, even offered some words of wisdom for the young hopefuls trying to make their debut with ESPN or any other sports outlet. If any of you readers have aspirations of being part of the world of sports media, pay close attention to what Wiley has to say next.
“The best thing to do is to stay after it. Whatever level you’re on, wherever you live, just get into the media. Local newspaper, local radio—the great ones have tons of experience. It’s tough to just walk in and get it. There are so many different techniques and mannerisms and expressions, that the first step is to just get comfortable with being yourself in front of others and in front of cameras. Once you nail that down, then if you have the intelligence and talent, you’ll love it. Basically someone is paying you to do what you already do every day, which is just talking about sports.”
Wiley continued, “There’s no difference between me at the bar or me having lunch with my friends and me actually going to ESPN and working. I’m having lunch with my friends and they’re sitting there asking me all kinds of questions; the same stuff they ask me on SportsCenter. The difference is you get paid to do it. So, I advise everyone to get the reps. Continue to explore and be open and be diverse in everything you do, and sooner or later, it could lead to an opportunity.”
Being a successful, retired professional athlete and ESPN sports personality is not all Wiley has on his resume. Dat Dude also has his hands in numerous other business ventures. Among those ventures is a fashion boutique, a website for professional athletes and a lifestyle company.
Wiley began explaining these three ventures by going into more detail about the fashion boutique he is involved with.
“La’Tik is a fashion boutique that my sister runs. She is located in Santa Monica, as well as L.A. It’s great to watch her dreams come true in the fashion world. What it entails is that she’ll come to your home and be your personal wardrobe stylist as well as being on-site where you can go shop and get some of the finer wardrobes and garments out there. It’s something I supported because she supported me throughout my athletic career and she’s enjoying the retail experience.”
Going into something that Wiley is more directly involved with, there is Elevee—a lifestyle company that Wiley has a hand in.
“Elevee is the home of 3,000-plus clients, all professional athletes, ranging in sports from golf to football. What we do is customize their clothes, cars, jewelry, accessories and furniture; we’re a lifestyle company. I get to be around a lot of great athletes and celebrities who definitely have a different vision of what they think the marketplace should look like and I’ve got to make sure I take care of their desires and needs. They don’t want just a normal car. They don’t want a normal suit. They want a little extra flair and signature with it and that’s what we provide.”
Finally, possibly Wiley’s biggest achievement outside of ESPN and off the football field is the site he created for professional athletes and how they can connect with their fans, Prolebrity.com.
“Prolebrity is a social community for athletes. There are times when guys are not playing their sport and there are tons of things these guys are involved with and unfortunately, there’s a disconnect between the fans and the athletes of actually promoting and knowing about these events, charities and things of that nature. So, you don’t have to stop being a Mark Sanchez fan after the game is over. You can go to his bowling tournament, you can go to his golf tournament, you can go to his charity event dinner. What we do is provide you with the opportunity to make that happen.”
Going a bit deeper into the roots of Prolebrity, Wiley commented on how he came up with the idea for the site and why he thought it would be a good site to come to fruition.
“Large media doesn’t take a huge concern or liking to athletes once they’re off the field unless, of course, they’re getting in trouble—then everyone cares. I wanted to show the positive things where guys have invested their time, their money and their energy, because people are truly fans of the person and the player in professional athletics so it’s important that you highlight both.”
All of Wiley’s ventures are not strictly for profit, however. Dat Dude has plenty he does for non-profit organizations to give back to those in need.
“I’m involved with a lot of inner-city charities. In particular, Career Gear, which is a charity that offers second chances to kids and to those who have been incarcerated or have fallen on hard times. They provide resources, including clothing, so that they can have job experience and job interviews.”
Wiley continued, “I’m involved with them, as well as the Brady Center, which advocates gun safety and gun control. I want responsible gun owners, if we’re going to have gun owners. I’ve seen too many people within the community fall victim to the fact that there are issues with our gun control and gun regulations in this country. I’ve always been the guy who you don’t have to sell on anything. If someone is in need, I’m just going to show up and do what I have to do, whatever it may be, to make sure that the experience is greater.”
Speaking about the Brady Center, Wiley won the Sarah Brady Advocate Award for the prevention of gun violence from them. Dat Dude spoke on what that meant to him as person striving to make a difference for the better.
“It was a great honor. To be awarded for it, it’s not something you seek after. I grew up in the inner-city and I’ve seen too many people die and I knew they died, largely, because of guns. If there was less access to those guns then I think less people would have died and I’m frank with that. I understand that there is a constitutional right to bear arms, but give me a break; a person is not a deer. So, I’ve always erred on the side of caution when it comes to talking about guns and their usage and availability.”
Wiley continued, “The Brady Center took notice of that and awarded me with that honor and I continue to be an advocate for that, just because I’m a living experience and veteran of some bad conditions that were worsened by the fact that there were guns at everyone’s disposal. So, it was a great honor, great event, great evening and I look forward to doing more with them.”
At this point of the interview, some of you readers may be confused. You may have thought Dat Dude was not as serious of a person as you are now reading about. Sure, Wiley has a professional football career under his belt, a sweet gig at ESPN, numerous business ventures and helps out with multiple charities and non-profit organizations, but Wiley also has a chill side—the side of Dat Dude.
When Dat Dude (and yes, that is his real nickname) has downtime, he went into some detail about what he likes to do.
“I love to rap, DJ—I DJ a lot, at a lot of events, parties and clubs. I love to just hang out. The whole experience of tailgating is fascinating to me; probably because I couldn’t tailgate while I was playing ball. Once I retired and got a chance to tailgate, I don’t think there’s anything better in life. No wonder those games were so rowdy! We used to wonder why everyone was so pumped up in the crowd. Tailgating. That’s all you’ve got to say. I love going to games and actually going to the games and sitting there with the fans in the crowd. You can have the luxury box and tickets and suites and seats; I’ll give you my tickets. I want the ones where everyone is going to yell, curse and have a beer. That’s where I like to be. I’m just a big kid; I like video games, playing games, listening to music. I’m just a little kid.”
Dat Dude playing video games? Do I hear Madden, anyone?
! I like the new games and I have them. Actually on Twitter, I actually gave all my games away. I have these contests when I host radio shows and if you guess right on Twitter; I have my Twitter account, @MarcellusWiley, you can have my Madden. That’s one of the benefits of being a professional athlete. You get that ‘Swag Bag.’ Every day in the mail something comes to you and it’s some company trying to get you to support or endorse something and you’ve got to just give them love and wear it or use it. You give support where you can but then it’s like, ‘Let me hook up the fans.’”
There’s Dat Dude that we all have come to know and love. The big kid on ESPN just loving life and his job with a passion for everything he gets his hands on—including the keyboard. That’s right. I said it, Dat Dude has a passion for the keyboard. Oh, you didn’t know? Dat Dude is a typing champion! Here’s the legend:
“In seventh or eighth grade, I took a normal typing class like everyone does and I actually started liking it. This was back in the days where we didn’t really have computers, we had typewriters. So, we were starting to transition to a couple of keyboards and I just started typing. I look up, and the rest of the class is typing 20 words per minute and I’m typing 40. So I said, let me take this thing to the next level.”
Dat Dude continued, “When I like something, I go all-out, 100 percent, hard into it. So I started going around the city with my mom and dad and I would type out everything I saw. Next thing you know, I’m going to class typing 82 words per minute and everybody else is typing 35.”
“So I got into this typewriting contest, typing 82 words a minute with, more importantly, only one error, and I won. So they gave me this huge book with me in it, like a yearbook of great typing champs. I tell you, that was one of the best things I ever did in my life.”
I don’t know if you know how impressive this feat actually is. To give you an example, Dat Dude could retype this whole article in about 40 minutes. I’d like to see you beat the champ. I bet you couldn’t do it.
Now, what did we learn about the great Marcellus Wiley today?
He has a remarkable passion for football, as well as a very successful career in the NFL behind him. He loves what he does with ESPN and has developed a passion for that as well. He is an entrepreneur of sorts with all the business ventures he has a hand in. He is an incredible philanthropist and cares for the youth and prevention of senseless violence with guns.
His nickname is “Dat Dude.”
The next time you need some inspiration in your life or with something you have taken on, think to yourself: Who would go all-out? Who would push it to 100 percent? Who would go hard into it?
To that, Dat Dude abides.