Nov. 13, 2008
By Jessica Taylor, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
It may seem that senior safety Otis Wiley is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. One of the leaders on the Spartan defense, he not only has the entire Michigan State football team looking to him for guidance, answers and support, but the community as well. Very few people would consider this type of responsibility a good thing - fortunately, Wiley is one those few.
"It makes me feel good," Wiley said regarding the high expectations. "I guess it comes with the job and it's a privilege to be in my position. There is a lot of responsibility and I have been blessed with that."
"It shows that my team respects me as a leader," said Wiley. "I wanted that position coming into my senior year and it caps off my whole career at Michigan State. It feels really good that my teammates look to me to lead. It's a big role to fill but I'm glad I've been given the opportunity to fill it."
Leading by example on the field, Wiley's efforts have without a doubt contributed to Michigan State's successful season this fall. He is tied for first in the Big Ten with four interceptions, including two in the win over Notre Dame, and ranks second in the conference in passes defended with 11. Wiley is also tied for fourth on the team with 55 tackles and has 216 for his career in 44 games.
As if his records don't speak loud enough, Wiley's biggest contributions might be off the field. Although these actions can't be measured, they go much deeper than a list of numbers.
In addition to his involvement in numerous community service engagements through MSU Student-Athlete Support Services, last June Wiley made a trip across the country to Los Angeles for what would be a life altering experience. He spent a few weeks living in one of the most urbanized areas in the nation, working with and enduring the same hardships the youth have to deal with. The trip was coordinated by Athletes in Action, a Christian organization, of which Wiley is an active member.
"It was reaching out to the homeless and the communities that don't have the resources that we have around here," Wiley said. "A lot of athletes do this and we learn the ins and outs of urban youth. Personally, I took away from it that I have a whole lot here at Michigan State and to never take for granted what I have. To reach out is what it really taught me."
Whether Wiley meant to or not, he has earned the respect of the communities he has helped, from his home community of Flint as well as the entire Spartan community. He also hopes he has earned the respect of the boys he worked with in L.A. "There are a lot of little boys that I met that don't have the chance, like me, to play," said Wiley. "When they see me on TV hopefully they can smile and say `Hey, I know that guy.' So when I play out there it's for them, for the kids that don't have a chance."
We all know those boys will look back and realize just how monumental of a part Otis Wiley played in their lives that summer. His value, through the eyes of children, was proven to him through Dairy Day, where athletes go to the MSU Dairy Store and take pictures with children. The aspect that makes this event extra special is that the children and the athletes are sporting the famous milk moustache.
"There were all these little kids and I picked them all up in my arms and it was hilarious," Wiley said smiling as he recalled the memory. "They were so shocked to take a picture with an athlete and to me, I'm nobody. But to them, I'm really somebody."
`Somebody', Wiley certainly is. With all of this under his belt, he still says that he isn't sure if he is "equipped to handle" the very near future that is quickly approaching - his entrance into the real world. However, Wiley does have a plan.
"I told Justin Kershaw I was going to be a couch bum at my parent's house," Wiley said, of course joking. "I'm actually training for the NFL and if God doesn't bless me in that area or it doesn't work out for some reason, I'm going to be a counselor and do outreach for the youth. That is where my heart is." It's apparent that part of Wiley's heart is also with the 2008 Spartan football team as well.
"We are real," said Wiley, referring to members of this season's team. "We're all real guys and we aren't afraid to speak our minds. Coach Dantonio and our staff stress that we're family and I've realized that we really are. We see each other every day more than we see anybody else in our lives. You have to be close. You might not like somebody one day, but the next day you love them. The unity is stronger on the team this year than it's ever been since I've played at Michigan State, and that goes a long way on the field and off."
Perhaps Otis Wiley doesn't realize it now, but that unity he speaks of, as well as the success of this team, is due in great part to him.
This feature was originally published in the Nov. 8 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.