Vanderbilt Commodore LaDarius Wiley: Smiles, Snoop Dogg, and Swag
La’Darius Wiley has a smile for everyone, he was coached by Snoop Dogg, and he has ALMOST more swag than his head coach Derek Mason. As a matter of fact, he was Mason’s very first recruit at Vanderbilt. “I choose Vanderbilt for the opportunity of the education and to play in the SEC. Being able to come from California and play in the SEC was unheard of. I was raised on Pac-12 football, so my California pride is very strong, and I feel like I am the SEC ambassador for California.” This just a small snippet of this West Coast Vanderbilt Man living on West End.
La’Darius Wiley has an undergraduate degree in Medicine, Health, and Society with a minor in Business, and he wants to go into healthcare management. Wiley is currently enrolled in a graduate program called Leadership Diversity Studies at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. He hopes to one day open a center of his own, “My plans are to create a holistic healthcare facility catering to mental, physical, social, and other health issues related to the human body. We don’t have many facilities these days that cater to both mental and physical health.”
When asked why he was drawn to the mental and physical health aspect of health care, he affirms his journey as a football player as the number one reason, “As football players, we have trainers that cater to our physical well-being, but often times there aren’t people that cater to our emotional or social well-being.” He explained even further, “That came to mind after looking at hospitals and their systems, patients can go get physical care, but there is no one there to check on their mental state. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. I think we can create a better healthcare facility that caters to those needs. I am not trying to change the healthcare field, I am just trying to make it better.”
Going back to California has always been the plan when Wiley finishes at Vanderbilt. Although, he wouldn’t be completely disappointed if he made a detour to the NFL. He was born and raised in Inglewood, California. With a strong pride for his home state as mentioned above, Wiley is one of six boys, right in the middle, with two older brothers, Larry, and Lincoln, as well as three younger brothers, London and a set of twins Logan and LaVario. “My mom wanted boys, with her being in the only woman in the house she was catered to, she is our queen. She always said boys are easier to raise than girls, you don’t have to worry about all the clothes and social issues. Boys just want to play sports and be fed.”
His dad, Lincoln, works for Burlington Northern Santa Fe while, his mom, Sue, works for the U.S. Postal Service. His parents travel across the country weekly to support their son’s football teams. London is at Langston University in Oklahoma. The twins are juniors in high school, they play football as well. The whole family is due to attend a collective football game in November when all their schedules finally align.
Wiley has been playing football since he was five years old, and his mom was his first football coach. In fact, Wiley’s first coach for every sport was his mom. “She was very tough on me as a coach, and she treated all the kids on the team like family, very tough on us but very loving.” He continued, “My mom understood the game and created a passion for it. She always emphasized doing things the right way. We were taught to treat women right, as well as being great young men. It was very cool having her as my first coach.”
When Did You Fall In Love With Football?
“My love for football was a continuous process. Growing up, I didn’t get the chance to go to football games but I was able to play it. I had heard the stories of my older brother playing it and everyone in the neighborhood knew who he was, so I wanted to make a name for myself. I decided I was going to try it, I was fairly decent at it. There was one year in Pop Warner I was in 7th grade – I didn’t play football that year, I didn’t think I wanted to. Yet, while I was away from it, I missed it and decided it was something that I really want to do.
The next year, 8th grade I was in the Snoop Youth Football League, and Snoop Dogg was one of my coaches. We were able to go to Florida to play an All-Star team and that’s when I knew that I really loved the game of football. I ended up playing in high school and being pretty good. Football brought great mentors into my life. I thank football for the male figures that were in my life along with my dad The camaraderie between teammates has been great as well.”
*Bonus Question* I asked: “Was Snoop cool?” Wiley replied, “Yes, a very very down to earth guy. He created lots of opportunities for inner city kids, with his youth football league he gave us a chance to travel. That trip to Florida was my first trip on an airplane as well as my first trip outside of the state of California. He granted me new opportunities, not to mention being able to play with the guys I played with. I am very grateful for him.”
2018 Vandy Defense
Wiley was named as a Pre-season All SEC-Coaches Selection. He spoke about the 2018 defense and new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. “Coach Tarver is a great defensive mind; he has brought a re-energized theme to the defense: attacking the ball, running, creating turnovers on defense. Tarver always says ‘Good things happen when you run to the ball.’ We play with the idea that the ball is ours. We are always trying to get the ball and get it back to our offense.” He continued “Mason is always going to be Mason, but now you can see the difference with his energy, he has more energy now. He is also, able to share himself more with both offense and defense. Tarver is a great coordinator and a great personality.”
Most players like playing offense for the glory of scoring, Wiley decided defense was better for him. “I didn’t play defense until my junior year in high school, then didn’t play safety until my senior year. I made the decision my junior year, defensive players have longer careers especially DB’s. Also, I took a couple of hits while playing offense. To score on offense was fun, but I would rather deliver a hit than getting hit. I also enjoy the challenge of playing defense, the ball isn’t coming to you but it is your job to take the ball from someone.”
Through the Peabody graduate program, Wiley has weekly community service projects, he serves with a 10-person team. They have different community service occasions, the focus changes every week. Such as ‘green spaces’, “we went to a park in downtown Nashville where we went and talked to the homeless, we listened to their stories.” Wiley is also involved with activities with the team chaplain where they go out and serve the community through Bible study and devotionals. He is also an active member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Being a Vanderbilt student has given Wiley many opportunities to experience a variety of internships, and they have laid a solid foundation for his longterm goals. The variety of internships has been vast, from start-up companies where Wiley was instrumental in developing their hiring process to established companies and learning how to be a successful salesman. On top of that, he has also worked with the community at The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. “The internships that I have done have been meaningful. While I was interning at the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, we invited our neighboring elementary and middle schools to come in and we gave talks on sports-related topics, like leadership, camaraderie, and sportsmanship. Vanderbilt does a great job at putting student-athletes in a position to do meaningful work. Meaningful work has always been a big emphasis on the football team and Coach Mason as well.”
As a student-athlete, downtime is a rare thing. Between school, football, FCA, and community service, Wiley likes to take time to relax with walks through the park, he is a self-proclaimed “nature guy”. He also proclaims to be an “old school” music-lover. He enjoys taking time to find a quiet spot on campus to draw, which has been a lifelong passion. But, by the same token, he, like many guys his age, is a video game enthusiast.
Mason is synonymous with the word ‘SWAG’ in the SEC. Yet, Wiley out-swagged Coach Mason at the 2018 SEC Media Days. He wore a red vest and suit combo that was the talk of the town. “I wanted to match my coach because he has a pretty good style. Mason has set the swag bar high so when the opportunity presents itself I try not to disappoint. Mason knows I try to match him and be as fly as my head coach.”
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) July 19, 2018
LaDarius Wiley is a positive, humble, and kind person. “Coach (Osia) Lewis calls me ‘SMILEY’ because I smile so much.” Wiley has never met a stranger; his smile and ease of conversation are contagious and make everyone feel welcome. His positive attitude coupled with his work ethic, combined with his call to serve his community will carry him far in life. “I am very blessed to be here in the position that I am in. Every morning I wake up and I have another opportunity to be great and to what I was called to do. I am always going to put my best foot forward,” Wiley said with a smile. This Vanderbilt man will make an impact on the West Coast as well as the West End, with an outlook on life that is second to none.