Interview: Talib Wise - A True Football Icon In Europe

Photo: Alexandra Polyakova

From winning 6 championships in 6 years of playing in Europe, to coaching in Egypt, and now moving on to Russia and China - it's never boring when the time comes to catch up with Talib Wise. He's one of the first athletes to be inducted in the TDEU Hall of Fame, and to fast forward to now - we finally caught up with him to talk about the NFL, experience in Europe, and, last but not least - the imports and domestic talent.

NFL

I had a personal workout with the Chicago Bears, and, I had to do all the positions – RB, WR and DB. My agent and my scout told me to do everything – the more you can do, the better. I played offense my entire career, they end up switching me to DB, which was very confusing since I never played DB before. It was one of those things where I could either cry about it or I can just adjust my game, because it's the NFL. It's a one in a million chance to get there. I just had to take advantage of the opportunity and learn quickly. I ended up making it on the roster and spent one year in the NFL.

It was the most gratifying, yet challenging experience. It made me realize that if you do work for something it can happen. Dreams can come true if you put yourself in the right position, stay out of trouble and do the right thing. I was on the team the year before they made it to the Superbowl.


Europe

After the NFL, I played arena football. I played it for 3 years – Arizona, New Orleans and Chicago. After the league went bankrupt, Coach Joe Roman, who was coaching in Germany, helped me get signed in Europe. My first year in Europe I played for Dresden, 2009 season.

2009-2011 were probably the best. You had so much talent coming from The States, and that made the domestic players step their game up. All the games were very competitive. Now, with all the rule changes, it kind of watered it down because you don't have that many Americans on the field, so the domestic guys don't feel they need to step up their game that much.

European guys sometimes tend to put limits on their talent. That's where we as Americans need to come in and help teach them. Sometimes imports would come in expecting the domestic guys to already know everything. It's important to take out the time and show the domestic guys by example.

Photo: Herbert Kratky

Most Memorable Moments

Of course one of the most memorable moments has to be my first year in Europe. Dresden fans are some of the best fans I've ever experienced. They would come see me play when I played for other teams as well. It was great to see the impact I made there.

Also, my first Eurobowl championship! When I was with Berlin Adler in 2010 we beat Vienna Vikings. 57 yard field goal in the last second!

I was blessed to win 6 championships in 6 years of playing in Europe.
In 2011, I won the Eurobowl Championship, and then 4 days later we played the Austrian bowl – and we won that. A few days later I fly back home, get signed by an Arena team, and we came to the semi-finals.

But, back to Swarco, that year, they flew the Oakland Raiders cheerleaders who cheered at our game. That was surreal, because here you have NFL cheerleaders and they also brought one of their Hall of Fame guys – Willie Brown, to watch our game.

I love football so much, that it's hard for me to turn down stuff.

Also, I have to mention the relationship I've built with Swarco Raiders. The whole organization is top notch. They always treated me with respect and they let me be me. And, 2014 in Berlin.. No one expected us to win against Braunschweig. However, the second half of the season – we didn't even make it to the GFL playoffs. It was an up and down season.


Toughest Game Loss

Losing a game is always tough, but at the end of the day – DO YOUR JOB. We all make mistakes, but at the end of the day do your job. If you leave everything on the field and give your 100% - then you can be happy and satisfied.

In 2012, when we lost to Calanda Broncos. That was a tough loss because it was one of those games when we were prepared, but it just wasn't our day! Sometimes no matter how well you're prepared, how ready you are for your A game – things just don't work out on the field.


Real Imports vs Tourist Imports

A lot of the imports do come in trying to build their own resume personally. That's fine, but what they fail to realize is that we're brought over not just as players, but also to help teach the domestic talent on how to play the game, how to think it, how to prepare. Just to do all those little things as well. But what ends up happening is that a lot of the imports come out thinking they will tour around, get their film and just go home.

I'm the type who wants to teach others to help them grow. I don't mind helping my teammates. I was actually coaching in Egypt. I'm always trying to spread the love and knowledge of the game. There are great athletes in Europe and Africa, but the main thing they're lacking is when to do what. I coached in Egypt because guys had the thirst for knowledge.

A lot of the imports come with the attitude that they're better than the domestic talent. I saw a lot of the guys get humbled really quickly. No matter if you are better than the player next to you – just let your game speak for you. Don't talk. Cockiness and arrogance won't get you anywhere.


A Message For The Rookie Imports

When people ask me how I got to play in Europe – most ask me how much do I get payed. And, I always hate that. When I first got the opportunity to play in Europe – that wasn't my first question. I asked – “When can I come!?”. Don't do it for the money, money will come if you do things the right way. Base your decision on the feeling you get from the program, coaches, players etc.; but never base you decision based on money.

Humble yourself. Most Americans come in with the attitude of “I did this, I did that, I'm coming to Europe to dominate since those guys are not American”. That's not true! I've seen Americans get sent home because they weren't as good as they thought they were.

Have a strong work ethic and be open minded to different situations. You have to be uncomfortable at some point in your life. You will adjust. Learn how to do things differently.

And, most importantly, have fun and enjoy the moment!
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