News: Who Is "Dat Dude" Anyways? -

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    Who Is "Dat Dude" Anyways?

    Nick Eatman Staff Writer
    June 7, 2004, 7:43 p.m. (CDT)

    IRVING, Texas -- Despite the Cowboys' turnaround last season, making the playoffs for the first time in five years, there is no denying something has been missing from this team the past few years.

    In fact, two glaring deficiencies.

    No consistent pass rush and a lack of locker room personalities.

    Now getting to the quarterback might be deemed much more vital to a team's success than having a cast of characters filling your locker room. But both have been lacking for the last few years, and the Cowboys just might have filled both voids this off-season.

    Keyshawn Johnson immediately gives what had otherwise been a rather bland team a recognizable face and voice in the locker room. And the addition of defensive end Marcellus Wiley adds another charismatic personality who can hold court in the locker room.

    Oh, and by the way, he's been known to sack a quarterback or three during his time, which would allow the Cowboys to kill two birds with one stone.

    And that's the real reason the Cowboys signed the seven-year veteran to a four-year deal, counting on him to provide an improvement in what has been a problem area the last few seasons.

    Wiley knows he's joining a defense ranked No. 1 last season, but he said his job is simple.

    "I've got to get to the quarterback," said the veteran with 41 career sacks. "That's what I've always done. Get to the quarterback and make plays. It's my job to make (the pass rusher) better. It's my job to pick up where things left off last year. I know we've got some talented players around me, and that's exciting. That's one of the reasons I chose to come here, to play with some of the best defensive players in the game, all right here."

    And having talented players around him isn't exactly the norm for Wiley, who suffered through a dismal three seasons in San Diego, having to watch the Chargers let go of several defensive stars, such as linebacker Junior Seau and safety Rodney Harrison.

    And it became Wiley's turn to exit this off-season, the Chargers cutting the defensive end who was scheduled to count roughly $9 million on salary cap. Wiley had just three sacks in 2003, 10 less than his 2001 total that earned him Pro Bowl honors his first year with the Chargers.

    But with his statistics and the talent around him both dropping, Wiley was set free in February, and it wasn't long before he found a new home in Dallas, one with a better supporting cast.

    "When you line up next to guys like La'Roi Glover and Greg Ellis every play, it makes things easier for everyone," Wiley said. "Hopefully, I can make their jobs easier, too. But that's what you've got to do. You've got to have a lot of guys who can make plays for you. It makes it tough to block when you're throwing a bunch of players at you on every play."

    Wiley virtually replaces Ebenezer Ekuban, an unrestricted free agent who was not in the Cowboys' plans this off-season. Ekuban never blossomed into the pass-rushing end he was projected to be when selected in the first round of the 1999 draft. Ekuban, who signed with Cleveland in March, recorded only 12 sacks in five seasons with Dallas.

    And since the Cowboys are looking for those kinds of numbers for one season, Wiley might be a better fit, considering he's produced two double-digit sack seasons during his career.

    Not only will the Cowboys' defensive line look a bit different this year with the addition of Wiley, but his presence allows Ellis to move to the right side, a spot he's been eyeing for quite some time. At right defensive end, Ellis won't face as many double-teams from the tight end, although he'll be facing the opponent's left tackle, usually the more dominant offensive lineman on the team.

    And for Wiley, he's played both sides throughout his career, but said he preferred to play left end, where he's been the last three years in San Diego.

    "I like playing on the left side a little more," Wiley said. "It is something to get used to. It is different. You've got tight ends coming at you every play. And it all looks like play-action. But then you have to look at the positives. That's the side Reggie White and Michael Strahan played. Obviously, there are sacks to be made. It's just (that) quarterbacks get to see you coming, so you do miss a few plays that way."

    But Wiley won't be completely judged by his sack-total.

    "We want to see how he plays the run, too," defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. "That's going to be something he needs to do. And he's done a pretty good job of that in the past. But that's the first thing for all of them: Stop the run."

    While this is Wiley's first year in Dallas, and even first in the NFL, he sees plenty of familiar faces, including former Chargers teammate Leonardo Carson, who signed with the Cowboys last October. Wiley is also reuniting with Cowboys defensive ends coach Jim Jeffcoat, whose last season as a player was Wiley's first in Buffalo during the 1997 season.

    "He taught me a lot," Wiley said of Jeffcoat. "And I still have a learning curve, because we both feel that I've yet to reach my potential. And I want to be able to do that here in Dallas. I think he's really going to be able to help me."

    One thing Wiley doesn't need much help with is having fun.

    Whether it's on the field, in the locker room after a practice or out on the golf course, Wiley is usually all-smiles. And that, he said, doesn't change too often.

    "You've got to have fun out here," Wiley said. "Football is fun. So I'm going to be having fun. I'm going to be doing a lot of talking. That's just me. They call me the heartbeat. But we've got some other guys who have a lot of energy. I'm going to feed off their energy, too."

    Just a glimpse inside Wiley's locker at Valley Ranch, and you notice his is a little different from the rest. No other player has a stuffed doll of "Chucky" from the movie Child's Play, hanging from his locker. No other player has a picture of a dead lizard or a sign that reads "Welcome to Bulgaria" in it. And of course, no one has their own Gatorade bottle with the words "Dat Dude" written on it.

    Nope, that's all in Wiley's locker, and he's got rehearsed answers for all of them, especially for Chucky.

    "Oh, that's Charles Lee Ray, a.k.a. Chucky," Wiley said, referring to the animated character in the popular horror films of the 1980's. "That's what I think football is: Child's Play. And that's the movie he was in. We're just big kids having fun."

    As for the Bulgaria sign, Wiley said, "That's the secret society. You've got to be one of the chosen few to be from Bulgaria. Right now, they're all from Bulgaria. But when we put the pads on, only a few survive."

    He also has a Polaroid picture of a dead lizard in his own hand, evidently signifying his attitude of how to play every game: "Ball 'til you fall."

    "That's how you have to play the game, until you have nothing left, "Wiley said. "That's what that lizard did, in my hand. He just took an "L" and that's how you're supposed to feel after the game. That's how you ball 'til you fall."

    And of course, then there is Wiley's well-known nickname, "Dat Dude," a term he coined himself, hoping he would make so many plays on the field that "even the fans at the top row would ask, 'Who's Dat Dude making all those plays?'"

    The website for Wiley's non-profit organization is even, and Wiley said he just likes the term and is a little surprised it took off so well.

    "That's what they say now," Wiley said. "They say I'm Dat Dude. I guess I'm not Marcellus anymore. I think that's my last name. It's just something to keep me going. It's funny when you walk down the street and people call you that. Everyone has a nickname and it's funny how that one took off. I want to be "Dat Dude" making all the plays."

    And the Cowboys would like nothing more than for Wiley, or whatever he calls himself, to be "Dat Dude" making all the sacks.

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