The 2019 NFL draft is loaded with talented playmakers in the secondary, and Vanderbilt’s LaDarius Wiley is ready to prove himself at the next level.
A physical defender who excels in coverage, run support, and loves creating turnovers, Wiley recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his predraft process, playing college ball down the street from the 2019 NFL draft stage and why playing in the SEC best prepared him for what’s next.
JM: How’s this process been going for you?
LW: The whole draft process is going well for me. I’ve been working towards my dream daily and that’s a wonderful feeling. I’ve been going through this process at the Mamba Sports Academy. It’s been 8 or 9 very intense weeks of training. We’re still working hard. I’m trying to make my dreams come true. I’m very blessed. I’ve been working alongside some very high caliber players and I’m thankful for that. It’s definitely been a blessing.
JM: Who are some of the guys you’re working out with?
LW: I’ve been working out with Dwyane Haskins, Quinnen Williams, Greedy Williams, Kelvin Harmon, Stanley Morgan Jr. and a bunch of other guys that are considered high caliber players. Being able to work out with them and matching their intensity has been great for me. It’s been a blessing to be around those guys.
JM: How important was your pro day considering you weren’t at the combine?
LW: It was a big day for me. It was the biggest job interview of my life. I did everything I could to put on a great performance. I was looking forward to the opportunity to show the NFL teams some things they perhaps hadn’t seen me do on tape. I think I surprised a lot of people with my movement skills. I think I showed the things they wanted to see from me. I didn’t go into it stressed. I’ve been playing football since I was 5 years old. It was a fun day. I think I put on a show.
JM: What’s your favorite part about playing defensive back?
LW: I love two things specifically about playing defensive back. I love being able to play multiple roles. I’ve put that on tape. I played both free and strong safety last year. I spent some time playing at the nickel spot as well. That versatility is key. I also love being the quarterback of the defense. I felt like our defense wasn’t like any other in the nation. The safeties were responsible for giving the calls out to the rest of the defense. I’m used to having that responsibility on my shoulders. I had to make sure people were in the right positions. I took great pride in that. I had to put guys in the right position to make plays. I learned a lot from doing that.
JM: Who are some of the best offensive players or wide receivers you’ve ever competed against?
LW: There’s so many great offensive players in the SEC. I was able to play against some great players. Emanuel Hall from Missouri is a great receiver. In fact, Drew Lock of Missouri is a great quarterback as well. I played against all of those receivers at Ole Miss. DaMarkus Lodge, D.K. Metcalf wasn’t healthy when we played against them this year but I did play against him last year. A.J. Brown is the other receiver of course. I thank the SEC for affording me that opportunity to play against some of the best talent in the country.
JM: Your dad passed away unexpectedly in November and he seemed like a great man. He was someone who was very generous and was well known to feed the homeless. How are you dealing with that as you go through the most important time of your life? Have you found a way to turn into some positive energy?
LW: I definitely have. I’m thinking about the great memories he left us with. He left a lot of great memories. My dad never shied away from telling me how much he loved me and how proud he was of me. He always spoke it into existence that I was going to play in the NFL some day. It’s unfortunate that he won’t be physically present to see it but I’m living for him and I’ll always cherish the great memories I have of him. I’m living how he taught us was right. I’m giving back to the less fortunate. That was always very important to him. I’m proud of everything that I do as a man and I’m not afraid to tell people that I love them. He taught me all of those things. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I work incredibly hard for the things I want in life. Living with these things is what makes dealing with his passing a little bit easier.
JM: That’s incredible. I know you’re from Los Angeles, but with all of this going on, how much would it mean for you to hear your name called during draft weekend just down the street from where you played at?
LW: It would definitely mean a lot. I love the city of Nashville. How coincidental that I’m a guy from Los Angeles who came out to Nashville to play college ball and the draft is in Nashville the year that I’m eligible. That’s crazy. It’s a great set up and a wonderful feeling. Nashville has been great to me. To get drafted in Nashville would be a dream come true. Nashville has helped me grow and develop as a man. I found my own identity out here and I was alone for the first time in my life. This city has helped me become the man that I am today. Being drafted in Nashville would be a wonderful feeling.
JM: That’s some amazing stuff. Is there an NFL quarterback you’d love to intercept?
LW: Tom Brady. I would have to go after the big dog (laughs). With him being the GOAT, I would love to pick him off or any quarterback of his caliber really.
JM: I’ve heard that you love video games. What are some of your favorites?
LW: I’m more of an NBA 2K player than anything. I play some Madden as well. I just got a Switch and I’m into the old school Super Mario games. I play some Mortal Kombat and Call of Duty as well. I play a wide variety of games.
JM: Who do you use on Madden?
LW: I use a bunch of different teams. I like to play the match-up game. I’ll wait to see who my opponent chooses and then I‘ll pick a team based off of his selection. I’m a Los Angeles kid so I usually use the Rams or the Chargers.
JM: Fair enough. In closing LaDarius, why should an NFL team use one of their draft picks on LaDarius Wiley?
LW: Draft picks are investments and I look at myself as a growing and developing investment. I still see myself growing as a leader and as a player. My best football is yet to come. My best days are ahead of me. I’ve grown as a leader and I’m a smart football player. I’m always around the ball. I’m a playmaker and that’s what they’re gonna get outta me. I can play multiple positions. I can play special teams as well. I’m just gonna get after it and make sure that I’m competing for a job.