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Offensive lineman Shawn Wiley leaves football, university to pursue music career

Central Michigan offensive lineman Shawn Wiley meets with youngsters at the Kids Clinic on April 13 in the Indoor Athletic Complex.

Central Michigan offensive lineman Shawn Wiley is in the NCAA transfer portal after two seasons with the Chippewas.

However, he has no plans of returning to football or college. Wiley is transitioning from playing on the gridiron to becoming a full-time rapper, songwriter and producer.

Coaches from other programs have reached out to Wiley over email and text message, but he has ignored everything.

"My heart isn't on the field anymore," Wiley said. "I don't care if Alabama hits me up to play ball, it's done."

Football is done because he's finally ready to take on the full-time role of Jimmy Lee – his music persona.

Wiley didn't start making music until he arrived in Mount Pleasant for college as a freshman for the 2017 season. Being 1,130 miles away from his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, he found music as a release to his homesickness.

He didn't have anyone to run to for comfort in frustrating times, so he quickly began writing music and freestyling. His friends were impressed from the start.

"I fell in love when I first went to the studio," Wiley said. "I was actually in a band in middle school. I know how to play the piano, drums, flute, trumpet and all percussion instruments. Music is my passion."

If it wasn't for fellow offensive lineman Shakir Carr, who recently went to rookie minicamp with the Indianapolis Colts, Wiley doesn't know if he'd be where he is today.

Carr had all the computer software to cut, edit and produce music and videos, and he let Wiley take advantage of that over the past two years. Even if there was practice early in the morning, Wiley said he often worked on his music at Carr's place from night until sunrise.

Wiley does all the writing, rapping, promotions and production on his own. The only help he has is from videographer Ja-Wan Gardner, who Wiley calls the "mastermind" behind all his videos.

"I'd go to practice tired because I was working on music all night," Wiley said. "I knew my heart was in the music. I do all the videos, promotions, producing – that all came from my money."

(Photo Courtesy: Shawn Wiley)

When new football coach Jim McElwain came to Mount Pleasant in December, he set exceptions for all the players while giving everyone a clean slate.

Wiley said he didn't fit into McElwain's system. He was focused on music, adding there were a lot of things he did while former coach John Bonamego was in charge that he was not allowed to do with McElwain at the helm.

"I wasn't fitting in and abiding by what he was saying," Wiley said. "I respect the business aspect of it. He's a really good coach, and CMU is going to be a totally new team."

Even though Wiley left the football team and school, he said joining the Chippewas was the best move he ever made because it got him started on his musical journey. He plans to attend a trade school for his real estate and barbers licenses to help fund his lyrical career.

"CMU gave me so many opportunities and allowed me to network with some of the greatest people," Wiley said. "Being a football player, I met people I'll never forget. I've built a brotherhood, and it runs deep."

Everything he recorded, including music videos, took place in Mount Pleasant. 

Wiley has three music videos on the market. YAK Flow, currently at 3,060 views on YouTube, was recorded at the Courtyard by Marriott just off East Campus Drive. What You Know was recorded in Deerfield Apartments. His other video, Leechin', was shot in Wightman Hall on CMU's campus.

To get people in his Mount Pleasant videos, Wiley said he just posted about it on social media and students showed up to take part in the recording process.

"My style, my flow, my sound is different," Wiley said. "I focus on the background sounds because that helps me make a lot of my music. I always ask my homies if I sound like someone else before I record. If I sound like anybody, I won't ever put that song out."

Wiley has a mixtape coming out this summer and said people in Mount Pleasant are looking forward to it. His dream is for people to hear his music on a national level, and he wants to come back to CMU as a professional to do a show someday.

The ex-football player – now an aspiring rapper – wants to leave people with one final message.

"Don't live your life based on what somebody else wants you to do," Wiley said. "At the end of the day, you have to live your own life. There's so much more to life than what people expect from you."