Marcellus Wiley had a solid ten-year NFL career (1997-2006) as a defensive end playing for the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, and Jacksonville Jaguars and played in one Pro Bowl. The gregarious Wiley is best known to most however for his broadcasting work on ESPN where he co-hosted its afternoon show“Sports Nation” and is currently doing the same on Fox Sports 1’s “Speak For Yourself.” That may account for the title of his just published autobiography, “Never Shut Up” (Dutton Books).
I have to admit that I picked up a copy because Wiley is one of the few players from my alma mater, Columbia University, to make it to the ranks of any professional sports league. I expected him to tell a number of anecdotes about growing up in a tough part of Los Angeles; his days playing for that perennial Ivy League powerhouse, the Columbia Lions; remembrances of life on Morningside Heights; some obligatory NFL war stories; and concluding with how he broke into television and whether that’s a tougher business than pro football.
While there are lighthearted moments in “Never Shut Up” it is a surprisingly cautionary tale. His Columbia degree did not prevent him from exercising poor judgment such as hitting nightclubs when he should have been resting; firing his loyal agent, Brad Blank, for rightfully warning him about the possibility of getting cut by the Chargers if he didn’t restructure his contract; and voicing his displeasure with the legendary Bill Parcells, who was his head coach when was with the Cowboys which led to his being cut by them.
Most harrowing though was his painkiller addiction which haunted him well after his playing days and nearly killed him just a few years ago. He filed a lawsuit against the NFL for failing to inform him about the dangers of the drugs that he was given.
“I knew that playing in the NFL was like signing a deal with the devil but I didn’t realize the steep price I’d have to pay,” Wiley told me in a phone interview last week.
He’s so adamant about the dangers of tackle football that he’d forbid his young son from playing Pop Warner football and would discourage him from playing it from the high school level on up.
Wiley laughed when I mentioned the number of NFL quarterbacks who are over 40 or quickly approaching it.“Those guys wear red jerseys in practice. If you touched them at all during training camp or in practice you’d get a one-way Greyhound bus ticket. The offensive and defensive linemen butted heads on every play in practice. The actual games were a relief and fun compared to practice.”
I asked Wiley if he was ribbed by teammates about his alma mater, Columbia. “Every day I was told that I played with a bunch of nerds!” he chuckled.
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