I originally interviewed LaDarius Wiley back in March as an NFL draft prospect by way of Vanderbilt. You could read that interview here.
In that interview, Wiley spoke of the possibility of hearing his name called in the city he played his college football in. Getting drafted in Nashville ultimately wasn’t in the cards for Wiley, but life has a funny way of working itself out.
After going undrafted, the Titans invited Wiley to their rookie mini-camp as a tryout. After impressing throughout the weekend, the Titans offered him a contract.
I caught up with Wiley to discuss the disappointment of going undrafted, the rollercoaster of emotions when the Titans reached out to him, why he feels he’s earned this opportunity and plenty more.
JM: The last time we were on the phone, we talked about you getting drafted in Nashville where you played your college ball. That unfortunately didn’t happen for you, but life can be funny sometimes, can’t it?
LW: It really can. God has a plan. It all came together like it was supposed too. I’m in a perfect situation here in Tennessee. I’m right down the street from where I played my college ball at.
JM: The draft was over on Saturday. I spoke to you shortly after, and you hadn’t signed anywhere yet. When did the Titans reach out?
LW: They actually reached out to me later that Saturday. I had spoken with my agent and we were looking for an opportunity to get into mini-camp. I was looking for an opportunity to earn an opportunity basically. The Titans came calling and I made the most of that opportunity.
JM: Was that a stressful couple of days for you?
LW: You’re disappointed for sure. You believe in yourself and your talent. You see other guys getting drafted and you try not to compare yourself to them but that can be difficult. It’s definitely disappointing. You heard certain things from different teams, maybe a promise here or there throughout the process but it doesn’t happen. You can’t dwell on that disappointment. You have to pick yourself up. I’m thankful that I had my brothers and my mom there with me. They supported me throughout the entire process. They reminded me how blessed I was to even earn an opportunity. I went to work. I showed up at mini-camp and made the most of that opportunity.
JM: The process of being a UDFA can be pretty stressful. You may have heard from multiple teams. It’s a fluid yet ongoing process.
LW: You can look at this as a good and bad thing, but I only heard from the Titans (laughs). I didn’t even have a mini-camp invite from another team. The fact that I took that one opportunity and earned a contract out of is a blessing. No other team offered me a contract or even a mini-camp tryout. I was jus thankful that the Titans wanted me at mini-camp. That was a blessing within itself. That was my one chance. It only takes one team.
JM: Going to mini-camp on a tryout as you did can be pretty taxing. You hadn’t signed yet. They’re just out there trying to prove yourself. What was the environment like?
LW: It was a very competitive environment. I believe there were about 31 players there on a tryout just like I was. I didn’t even realize there were that many. I just went in with the mindset that I was going to work my butt off. I was going to use my strengths to my advantage. They knew I was a smart player and that I could make plays. I was very vocal. The defense we ran at Vanderbilt required the safeties to get the calls. I was used to being vocal and I wanted to showcase that. I tried to not make the same mistake twice. I made sure I was taking to their coaching. I soaked it all in.
JM: Where were you when the Titans informed you that you had earned a contract?
LW: I was actually at our final practice on a Sunday. I stayed in the locker room after practice because I didn’t know if that was going to be my last time in the locker room. I prayed on it that morning. I stuck around after practice and I felt pretty good about my performance throughout camp. A couple of assistants came into the locker room and told me to go upstairs. I met with Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson at this point. They told me the news and welcomed me to the Titans.
JM: That’s incredible. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for you. What’s your initial assessment of your teammates? There are some fantastic defensive backs in that room.
LW: We have a very talented group of defensive backs. You have so much versatility across the group. You have a couple of Pro Bowlers here. We have some older guys with experience and some rising stars as well. I’m blessed to be apart of this group. It’s such a great team and a really special group. They’re geniuely good guys. They go out of their way to help out a young guy such as myself. I haven’t felt isolated at all. They welcomed me to the group. They’ve been extremely helpful. I appreciate those guys. I’m watching them and trying to learn from the best. I’m watching their process and trying to understand the secret to their success.
JM: Defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs has a track record that speaks for itself. He’s an extremely energetic coach. What’s your early impression of him?
LW: He’s consistent. He’s consistent with his coaching style he’s consistent with who he is. He doesn’t shy away from who he is. I can always respect that and I respect him as a man. I love that he’s real and I love that he tells it like it is. I don’t like coaches that sugarcoat things. I’ve been blessed to be around some fantastic coaches. I’ll always appreciate a coach that is 100% honest with you. Coach Coombs is very consistent. He cares about winning. I love that mindset. It helps create great players who win a lot of football games.
JM: That’s a great, honest assessment of coach Coombs. How can you distance yourself from the other undrafted free agents?
LW: I plan on continuing to work hard. I plan on making the most of my opportunity. I’m gonna stick around and battle. I’m going into every day, every practice like it’s gameday. I’m doing the little things right. Whether that’s technique wise or being vocal, I have to do it right. I’m using my strengths to my advantage. I’ve always been a smart player. I’m staying in the playbook. I’m trying to soak everything up. I’m showing them I can play special teams as well. A lot of times in this league, your foot in the door comes via special teams. I want every special teams opportunity they’ll give me. I need to make an impact on that third phase of the game.
JM: I’ve appreciated your time tonight. In closing, how do you plan to attack these next couple of months?
LW: I’m just taking things day by day. Like I said, every day is gameday. I’m taking good care of my body. I’m making sure I hydrate. I’m not gonna allow myself to get into any soft tissue issues because I didn’t hydrate or take care of my body. Those soft tissue issues are avoidable and a lot of the time they can cost you your opportunity. I can control that by stretching and hydrating. I’m staying in great shape. My head is deep in our playbook. I’m making sure I know the plays and can make the calls. Even with limited reps, I have to understand every situation. I’m just trying to play smart and mistake free. I’m gonna be who I am. I’ve always been a humble guy that loves to play football. I’m having fun with this opportunity. I’m very thankful for it. That’s how I’m going about it.