Blid Wreh-Wilson's Academic Success Prepared Him for NFL


By Kristen Sheft

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For Titans starting cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, preparing for game days in the NFL bears striking resemblance to studying for final exams in the world of academia, a realm he was acutely familiar with growing up.

"I treat games like tests," he said. "You have to know how to prepare for things, and you always have to make sure you're working for something. Success, it's not just a discipline thing. Every week is like a cumulative final; it keeps adding up and adding up, and you have to be smart about it."

Credit his father, a Liberian immigrant who came to the United States in 1980 on a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to conduct post-doctoral research, for deeply ingraining this attitude into his son's head.

"I actually never missed a day of school from kindergarten until 12th grade," he said with a smile. "(My dad) was going to school every day, too, so I couldn't miss. There'd be days when I was sick, and I still went to school. It was always school first. There were no exceptions. I studied, and I went to school."

In fact, football was not even on Wreh-Wilson's radar when he earned his first college acceptance letter to study economics at Pittsburgh.

"I wasn't going to play a sport," he said. "I was planning on following in my dad's footsteps and doing something academic-related. I was brought up in an environment where school was the number one focus, so that's what I was going to do."

It was not until Wreh-Wilson, who had previously never played a down of organized team football, watched his high school win a state championship his junior year that he began to entertain the idea.

 "After that season, the coach begged me to play. A lot of the guys I hung out with growing up were football players, so I decided to try that for fun. I played soccer my whole life, so you know that whole stereotype. My friends thought I wouldn't be able to take a hit. I think we even made a bet on it to see if I would be halfway decent."

Titans Online looks at the career of CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson. (Photos: Donn Jones Photography, AP)

It turns out he was pretty good.

Almost immediately after stepping onto the football field for the first time in his high school career, Wreh-Wilson began garnering attention from Division I schools.

 "We had players on our team that were being recruited by schools, and I started to catch their eyes, too. I had really good grades, so (coaches) thought, 'He's not going to be an issue.' Playing one year and having the academics to back it made me a good choice.

"During one particular visit, I remember the head coach at Connecticut telling me, 'Look, I can't make any guarantees about football, but I can guarantee you'll leave here with a degree if you come here.'"

At that moment, he knew he found his school.

After redshirting his first year on campus for the Huskies, Wreh-Wilson quickly established himself as a force at cornerback. As a sophomore, he started in all 13 games, posting four interceptions — two of which he returned for touchdowns.

Though limited during an injury-shortened junior campaign, the Pennsylvania native returned the following year on a tear. In his final season, he was honored as the team's Most Valuable Player after recording 47 tackles and an interception. He also received All-Big East Second Team honors, a career first.

In the third round, the Titans selected Connecticut DB Blidi Wreh-Wilson with the 70th overall pick. (Photos: AP, Connecticut)

While leaving Connecticut as one of the program's top defensive players, making 39 starts in 46 career games, Wreh-Wilson earned an opportunity to play at the next level. The Titans ultimately selected him in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, an impressive feat for someone who never really considered playing football.Much to his father's delight and his coach's promise, he also left the school with something he is most proud of: degrees in economics and business marketing.

To that end, Wreh-Wilson, now in his second season with the team, is grateful for his father's guidance and strong academic upbringing.

And although he is two years removed from pulling all-nighters in the library during finals week, he continues to treat football as an ever-evolving learning experience.

"What you put on the film and what you display is basically your level of preparation. When you get out there, you're not raising to some level you just got to out of nowhere. It's everything you've done throughout the season, OTA's, minicamp, training camp, every game, every rep. It's your hard work and everything you've studied."

"The more focus you put into something, the more time you put into something, it ultimately shows how much you love it and how dedicated you are to whatever you do."

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