It takes a great athlete to reach his dream of playing in the NFL. It takes a special kind of person to move on after accomplishing that lifelong goal.
Described as a “finisher” by his high school football coach, Michael Wiley, a former Ohio State football player and Dallas Cowboy for four years, has moved forward with life toward new goal after living out his dream of playing in the NFL.
Whether it is teaching young teenagers about the importance of school or developing business ideas, Wiley’s ambition is allowing him to find his place in a world outside of sports.
After cementing himself as the best player Ed Carberry ever coached at Monte Vista High School, Wiley found success on the field at OSU.
Wiley did well on and off the field and realized his dream in 2000 when the Dallas Cowboys drafted him.
He averaged 6.3 yards per carry, but injuries ended his career.
“I still feel like I left with something to prove,” Wiley said.
At the age of 25, his dream was over.
After football, Wiley went back to school because he promised his mom he would get his degree. But after getting married, having two kids, and opening the After Five Lounge restaurant and bar in 2007, school was not a priority.
One evening, his wife of seven years, Quiana Wiley, asked him: “How would the kids look at you without a college degree?”
Those words triggered something in Wiley. Nearly a decade after leaving school for the NFL, while working full-time and raising a family, he finished what he had started and graduated in 2008 with a degree in sociology.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Wiley said. “It is definitely my proudest accomplishment.”
“I was very proud of Michael for going back,” Quiana Wiley said.
Dee Miller, a former college teammate, said Wiley remains the same confident individual he first met.
“Wiley came here with a California swag, but it was well deserved,” Miller said laughing. “He was confident but not cocky.”
Miller went through the same difficult transition from being an NFL player to living in the “real world.” He said he was happy Wiley went back for his degree.
“It’s fulfilling to see him grow as a young man to a mature, older man,” he said.
Wiley closed the After Five Lounge in 2009 but is currently brainstorming business ideas for the future. He wants to be seen as “Michael Wiley: the businessman,” not as a former athlete in business, he said.
When asked what he still has left to accomplish, he answered: “Everything.”
Wiley,32, is currently a store manager at Kroger grocery store. He said he enjoys his job because he gets to help employees and meet fans. He said he never has a dull moment and learns something new every day.
Chris Masten, another Kroger employee, said, “They always take the good people. If he gets a store, I told him to call me. I’ll be the first one to work for him.”
Wiley promotes the importance of school to his younger workers. He sees it as “coaching younger kids.” Wiley has “lessons of the day” where he asks each of them what they learned in school that day. Wiley knows first-hand that education opens more doors, and he hopes to help his workers realize that.
Despite having to leave behind a sport that he dedicated much of his life to, Wiley said he would not have done anything differently except “go to USC and get out of this damn cold,” he said.
“The game has been good to me. I appreciate what Ohio State gave to me. I appreciate what Monte Vista gave to me. I appreciate what Dallas gave to me. They showed me something that otherwise I wouldn’t have experienced, and for that I am thankful,” Wiley said.
His Facebook “about me” box reads “Lived 1 Dream Now Living Another 1!”
He hopes to finish life strong.
Wiley would like to be remembered as a “fun guy, honest person. From day one to now, I’ve never changed,” he said. “What you see is what you get.”