Former Ohio State running back Michael Wiley remembers his recruiting process all too clearly.
Although he had a successful prep career at Monte Vista (California) High School where he rushed for 1,901 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior, Wiley’s love of football was so great he just wanted to keep playing at the next level, even if it was at a community college. But his life changed forever when he visited OSU. The moment he stepped foot on campus, he remembers it instantly just “felt like home.”
Wiley played for the Buckeyes from 1996-1999, earning All-Big Ten honors in 1998 and an All-Big Ten second-team selection in 1999. As a two-year starter, he finished his college career with 2,951 rushing yards on 509 carries and 35 touchdowns. He was selected in the fifth round in the 2000 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys and had a three-year pro career.
While his football journey is now over, his son Jackson is just getting started.
The younger Wiley concluded his sophomore season with Olentangy High School on Friday, though he primarily plays wide receiver instead of playing running back like his father. Lining up mostly outside, Jackson caught 45 passes for 553 yards with six touchdowns and averaged 12.3 yards per reception in nine regular-season games this year. Having now played two seasons on varsity, Michael said he’s been impressed by his son’s improvement on the field.
Grunk to Wiley for a TD— Olentangy Braves FB (@OHSBravesFB) October 21, 2022
Braves 10 | Monarchs 14
6:30 2Q pic.twitter.com/D6POGepRmU
“His knowledge of the game,” Michael told Eleven Warriors regarding where he believes his son has grown the most over the past few years. “I think he’s starting to slow it down, but I believe he improved on using his quickness. Because he’s a smooth runner, but he had to learn how to explode. He’s figured out to use his gifts. He’s got good hands but he’s still got work to do. He is only 15 years old, played varsity at 14 last year and he won’t be 16 until April. So I’ve noticed that he’s becoming more of a football player. When he makes mistakes, he knows the mistakes he’s made and tries to correct them.”
To this point, Jackson has picked up one Division I offer from Kentucky.
“It’s great for him as far as his confidence goes, or whatnot,” Michael said of Jackson earning his first offer. “But recruitment doesn’t really start until you start eliminating teams, and I’ve been telling him this. So all this stuff is for fun right now, he has to worry about getting better each and every week and every year. That’s his main concern.”
Jackson has received interest from other schools including Cincinnati, Tennessee and Ohio State. The Wiley family visited Ohio Stadium on Oct. 22 for the Buckeyes’ game against Iowa, and while Jackson had attended Buckeye games growing up, that was his first time at The Shoe as a recruit.
“The whole process was great,” Jackson said. “Everything was organized and things like that. We got to go on the field and talk to coaches a little bit, you know, interact with them. I just liked the day a lot.”
On his visit, Jackson spoke with program assistant Devin Jordan and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline.
“(Coach Hartline) asked me how I was doing, how my season was going,” Jackson said. “It was a pretty quick interaction because he had to run back into the locker room. But overall it was good. I thought the win was amazing, I just love the way that they use the receivers and how they play a huge part in the whole game. And they changed the tempo of the game with big plays.”
Of course, it wasn’t close to the first time Michael had set foot in Ohio Stadium. But while he cautioned his son is early in the recruiting process and will keep all his options open, he acknowledged seeing Jackson be invited to Ohio Stadium as a recruit was a special moment for the family.
“It was nice for my wife and my mother to see him out there,” Michael said of Jackson’s OSU visit. “I think it meant more to them because Buckeye Nation is a little different. No matter where Jackson goes, he’s a part of Buckeye Nation. I also need him to find a home for him. I came from California, and now this is my home. When I came out here for my visit, it felt like home. So I’m teaching him the same thing, your favorite school might not be your home.”
But it’s no secret the younger Wiley’s favorite school is OSU. The 6-foot, 165-pound wideout has vivid memories of watching the scarlet and gray every Saturday and attending a few Buckeyes games a year. One of his personal goals is to earn an Ohio State offer.
“That would mean a lot,” Jackson said. “It'd be really cool to follow in his footsteps going to the same school and hopefully even go to the NFL like he did. It would mean a lot because just like a team of their caliber and their talent, it'd be great to know that a team like that wants me in their program.”
And while Michael knows his son has his own recruiting journey and has to find a home for himself, the elder Wiley would be lying if he said he wouldn’t be thrilled if the stars aligned and Jackson ends up following in his footsteps and attending Ohio State.
“That’s home,” Michael said. “So of course, I would love it. I know that’s one of his goals. He wants to not so much be better than his father, but he wants the same opportunity. It would be special for the family, especially for my wife because she’s an Ohio State graduate as well. She would love it.”
Jackson said he’s considering attending another OSU game this fall and also plans to work out at an OSU camp next summer. While OSU is recruiting him primarily at wide receiver, he’s also heard the tale of his father playing three different positions during his first three days of freshman camp in Columbus and starting his college career as a wide receiver to see the field faster. The rising wideout prospect said he’ll be working on defensive back drills this summer and on playing from the slot in addition to his outside presence.
“He told me to keep my options open,” Jackson said of his father telling him about being open to multiple positions. “I might be able to play a little bit of DB. Maybe a little slot on the long side outside of the receiver. But he just told me, you know, whatever I'm comfortable with.”