Getting To Know: DL Chuck Wiley

Chuck Wiley grew up in a tough neighborhood, but he stayed focused on football and stayed out of trouble. He has grown into a man with many interests outside of football.

No experience necessary.

That was Vikings defensive end Chuck Wiley's modus operandi as he strolled into an acting audition for a role in a Universal Pictures movie co-starring Ice-T soon to be released in video stores.

It was just another item in an endless list of options for Wiley, who makes his way living life to the fullest.

Wiley, who had absolutely no background in acting — not in college, high school or even elementary school — was up against 25 thespians. More than two dozen trained, experienced actors coveted the role of a madman, yet Wiley, whose only stage has been a football field on Sunday afternoons, was awarded the part.

"I won the part from 25 other people, and they were all actors," Wiley said. "It's just having game. There's this thing I call ‘ism.' If you want it, you go get it. You work until you get it."

It's worth noting Wiley's role was that of a hostile, mean-spirited United States war veteran. He plays an angered man who thrives on confrontation.

"He's an old, crazy Vietnam veteran with an attitude," said Wiley. "He came back from the war and he doesn't have that much common sense. He's a real mean, bossy, uptight kind of guy. He's cursing all the way through the whole thing. He's just a rude individual.

"Ice-T played a repo man, and one day he was picking up the rent. He came to my door — and you know how crazy I am. He asked for the money, and I took a machete and threw it through the door.

"It wasn't too hard of a role to play. If you're not tough, you can't play football."

One look at Wiley and it's only natural to figure he won the acting part on looks alone. At 6 feet 5 inches tall and 277 pounds, with a braided goatee dangling a couple of inches below his chin, Wiley wouldn't appear to be anyone's first, second or third choice for Mr. Congeniality.

So far as playing defensive line goes, Wiley fits that role perfectly. He's got size, he's got height, he's got speed and he's got spirit. One simple conversation with Wiley, who the Vikings signed as a free agent in the offseason, reveals he also carries a zestful approach to not only football but practically everything he endeavors.

* Wiley enjoyed his mean-spirited role in "Tara" or "Hood Rat" (the movie has not been named yet). He enjoyed it so much that he's planning on attending acting school in California next spring.

* Wiley is pursuing a master's degree in sports administration, so instead of waiting, he is examining his options for fulfilling that goal by taking classes at the University of Minnesota.

* Wiley already holds a degree in pre-physical therapy, so some day he might continue that and work on a sports team's training staff.

* Then there's broadcasting. Again, one conversation with Wiley reveals he would be a natural in front of the microphone or camera.

"I want to keep all of my options open," he said. "I want to get into broadcasting and do something on Monday Night Football, or the Best Damn Sports Show Period. I know I can talk. They always tease me because I know people's stats and where they came from and all that other square, corny stuff."

On the surface, Wiley's appearance contrasts his character. Although he refuses to admit he has a nice side — fearing he'll be labeled a "square" — Wiley carries an entertaining demeanor that (he hates hearing it) most would enjoy.

"I'm not a nice guy. Nice guys finish last," he said. "I'm cool. I get along with everybody. If you can't get along with me, you can't get along with anybody. Chuck Wiley is a down-to-earth individual. But I'm not nice, in no sense of the word. I'm no gentle giant; I'm no Mr. Nice Guy."

Seconds after insisting he's a hard-liner, Wiley eases his stance, in an effort to paint the right picture.

"I'm not a nice guy, but I don't have a heart like Hitler, either," he said. "I play football for a living. I play one of those two sports in America where you can beat the [expletive deleted] out of somebody without getting arrested for it. The other sport is hockey.

"You gotta have attitude because that's the only edge you've got. Coming from Louisiana, you can't be no punk down there. You can't be no square."

Wiley is planning on going to acting school, hopes to pursue his sports administration degree and has wishes to dabble in broadcasting. But even though he played high school and college football, he received his most important training on the streets and in the neighborhoods of Northern Baton Rouge, La.

As a youth, Wiley was surrounded by evil temptations and witnessed endless poor choices. One of his next-door neighbors is still in prison serving a sentence Wiley says is "near life." Another boyhood neighbor just recently was released from jail. Another has three or four kids, Wiley says, and is "struggling to survive."

While they all grew up together, Wiley — thanks, in part, to his dad, Charles — made enough right decisions to properly shape his future. Some of his boyhood friends didn't.

"My dad was my mentor," Wiley said. "He kept me off the street, kept me busy and kept me active. Where I came from, I could've really gotten into mischief and been out there on the streets. I had friends who pushed me away from that stuff because they knew I was going to be playing football."

While his friends wandered away from the straight and narrow, Wiley tried to follow the line.

"I grew up around all that stuff, but it was my dad who kept me away from all that," Wiley said. "People always talk about that New York had this, and Los Angeles had that. … We had that stuff right there in Louisiana. Drugs, prostitutes, money, dope — whatever it was, we had it, too."

Unlike his friends, Wiley recognized his potential.

Wiley, who was an honor student in history and science, was a two-time all-district linebacker at Southern Lab High School. He was also all-district as a tight end as a junior, and as a kicker as a sophomore.

Wiley had an exciting future. So his dad and his friends wouldn't let distractions obstruct Wiley's promising path.

"I would've dabbled in it," Wiley said of the drugs and other mischievous temptations. "It was so easy, it was all around me. People always tell me how tough they are and they don't even know. I've seen guys on the street. I've been where we had to duck because people were shooting."

Wiley's first year with the Vikings is his fifth in the NFL. He played his first year with Carolina in 1999, registering 67 tackles. He had 61 tackles and four sacks with Atlanta in 2000, and 40 tackles and a sack last season. The Vikings assured Wiley he would be part of a defensive line "wave" where several players would be shuttling in and out during the game.

So far, he's seen limited playing time, although head coach Mike Tice admitted he would like to try to find a way to get Wiley more time.

"I can't cry about it," Wiley said. "You can't bitch about it. You just keep playing, keep doing your job and hopefully something will happen."

He uses the same approach for the Vikings' slowest start in 35 years.

"You have to keep working," he said. "It's going to happen for us. Malcolm X said ‘by any means necessary' we have to make things happen and win ball games."

WILEY EXTRAS
Favorite movies: Deep Cover, and The Mack
Favorite actors: Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson
Favorite actresses: Halle Barry, Angela Basset
Favorite TV show: Martin, The Sopranos
Favorite musical groups: Cash Money, 8Ball and MJG, Dr. Dre
Favorite songs: "Get a Life" by Rick James, "Hypnotized" by Cash Money
Favorite musical style: classic, soul
Favorite book: Pimp
Favorite food: Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffe
If I weren't playing football: I'd be coaching college basketball

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