I spoke to Wiley again during the start of mini-camp. You can read that interview here.
In my third interview with Wiley conducted just this morning, I spoke to him about how he’s impressed Mike Vrabel with his vocal leadership, how the work habits of Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro are rubbing off on him, Tom Brady and more.
JM: Thanks for joining me today LaDarius. With the first two pre season games in the books, how did it feel to finally suit up for an NFL game?
LW: It’s definitely a dream come true. You pray for moments like this. It’s exactly what I’ve been working so hard for my entire life. To be able to play in an NFL game and take part in that atmosphere, there are no words for it. It’s unreal. Especially it being my first NFL game. That was such a cool experience. The culmination of it all, it’s been an incredible couple of months.
JM: There’s no doubt about that. It was a couple of weeks ago when head coach Mike Vrabel mentioned that he was eager to see you in a game because of how vocal you’ve been in practice and making sure guys are lined up properly. This was just before the first pre season game. What impression do you think you’ve left on him?
LW: I think I’ve shown him that I could take it from the class to the grass. I’m an incredibly coach-able guy. I’ve shown him that I’m a smart player and that I play fast. He can trust me to do my job. I think us safeties are the quarterbacks of this defense. We have to get guys lined up correctly. We have to make the checks. I’ve shown him that I can take on that role and conduct myself like a veteran guy.
JM: Have you always been that vocal on the field?
LW: I’ve always tried to carry myself that way. I think the Vanderbilt defense did a great job of preparing us for that. Us safeties were the quarterback of the defense there as well. We had to make the checks. Vanderbilt did a great job of preparing us for the transition from college to the NFL. I had to make those adjustments and checks in college. That was the expectation and thankfully when I got here with the Titans, I felt very comfortable with the defense. It allowed me to really hit the ground running and it allowed me to be the vocal leader that I’m used to being.
JM: You mentioned the safeties being the quarterbacks of this defense. When you look at the starters, Kevin Byard just got a massive contract, yet he’s still showing up to practice just hours after his wife gave birth to a baby girl and he’s talking about playing special teams. On the other side, Kenny Vaccaro received a pretty big contact as well and he’s continued to work incredibly hard this off season. When you see two veteran guys like that, what does it do to your motivation?
LW: It sets the standard. There’s a clear standard set in our room. Both of those guys are the standard. They set the expectation with their actions, not with their words. You can only try and hope to be like those guys. You implement their work ethic and watch how they go about practice. Kevin Byard showing up to practice just hours after his wife gave birth to their daughter, I mean, what can you say about the man’s work ethic? That was one of the biggest day’s of Kevin’s life and he still showed up to practice. I look up to those guys. I try to implement what they’re doing whether that would be their pre practice routine, how they conduct themselves at practice and even their post practice routines. It’s all about how they carry themselves. They’ve been great mentors and even better leaders. It’s been a pleasure to learn and study under them.
JM: That’s a terrific answer. I know it’s a very tight knit group, but would you say those two guys have been the ones to give you the most pointers in terms of who you’re leaning on?
LW: Yeah, it’s definitely been either Kevin [Byard] or Kenny [Vaccaro]. I’ve been asking them lots of questions and they’ve been a terrific help to me. We’ve talked about their rookie years and what I can expect. We talked about how they found the best routine for them. I understand what works for them and their bodies and that’s helped me understand how I can find the right balance for myself. I see what they do differently from other guys. There’s a younger player on the team, Mike Jordan that’s also been very vocal. With JoJo [Tillery] and I being the rookie safeties, we’ve been leaning on those guys as far as learning the playbook goes and how to watch film, how to prepare on game day and so on. They’ve taught me a lot about studying opponents. Those three guys have been great mentors. they’ve given me so much useful information. Everybody in the group is willing to give up information. It’s such a tight knit group as you said. Everybody is willing to go out of their way to help you out. That’s what I love about this team.
JM: I love that answer. How do you feel the first two pre season games have gone for you?
LW: I think they’ve gone pretty well. I’ve wanted to make the most out of every snap. I’ve wanted to show great effort and hustle to the ball. I’ve been playing stress free and I’ve shown that I understand my assignments. I’m gonna continue to make the checks and get people in the right position. At the end of the day, I’m trying to make plays. I’m looking forward to doing all of that in the final two pre season games as well.
JM: That’s great. Practicing against the New England Patriots, how cool was it to see Tom Brady up close and personal? I’m sure that was a bit of a welcome to the NFL moment for you.
LW: It was pretty cool. That’s the GOAT right there. Being able to practice against him was awesome. There were some periods were I was actually able to go against him. To get that look in practice was unbelievable. Growing up watching Tom Brady and watching him win all of those Super Bowls, to now share a practice field with him was definitely a dream come true for me.
JM: There’s no doubt about that. I’ve appreciated your time today. In closing, what are you hoping to achieve in this third pre season game against the Steelers? The third pre season game is usually the most important of them all.
LW: I’m just looking to put good stuff on film. I’m gonna continue to show great effort and hustle to the ball. I’m out to make plays and handle my assignments accordingly. I’m gonna continue to be a vocal leader in practice and on the field. I wanna make an impact on special teams. That’s really what I’m looking forward too. I’m looking to stay consistent. I’m not gonna get too high or too low on myself. I’m just here to do my job. I’m looking forward to putting great stuff on film.