Persistence carries Andrew Wylie from Eastern Michigan to Super Bowl
The good news is, Eastern Michigan's Andrew Wylie has reached the Super Bowl with Kansas City.
The bad news is, the second-year left guard has lost his starting spot to the more-experienced Stefen Wisniewski. But it's not because Wylie has been bedeviled by health issues.
Wylie missed the AFC title game because of a nagging high ankle sprain, and Wisniewski started instead. Wylie sat out five contests in the regular season, when he also had shoulder problems and an illness. Overall, Wylie has not played in four straight games.
Wylie is healthy and has been practicing regularly.
"I'm back and off the injury report, and I'm healthy," Wylie told the Midland Daily News. "That's about all I can say. ... I'm on the field with my guys and supporting them and still preparing every day like I'm going to be out there (on game day)."
Wisniewski, 30, is in his ninth year and was on Philadelphia's Super Bowl-winning team in the 2017 season.
The demotion of Wylie, a 6-foot-6, 309-pounder, is the latest in a series of discouraging happenings that have dogged him since he left EMU in 2017. Playing would have meant protecting star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
A victory earns the Midland High product a ring, regardless.
Still, Wylie's story of achieving is one of persistence and resilience.
He told the Midland Daily News in November 2017: “I didn’t really have NFL aspirations in high school. I was just hoping to get a Division I scholarship. Once that happened, I realized I could make a living out of this."
At the top of his Twitter page he has written: "I struggle every day now so one day my plan will come to fruition."
That was January 2017, before his quest to play in the NFL got going, and it smacked of being downright prophetic. Landing where he is wasn't easy for the 25-year-old, whose salary is $590,000.
► After EMU, Wylie was an undrafted free agent.
► Baltimore signed him and released him after the draft.
► He signed with Indianapolis on May 15, 2017.
► Then he was cut from the Colts' practice squad Sept. 26.
► Next, he was on the practice squad with Cleveland and released Dec. 15.
► The Los Angeles Chargers released him Dec. 27 from their practice squad.
► Kansas City signed Wylie on the 28th and plucked him off its practice squad Jan. 8, 2018, promoting him to the active roster.
► Wylie made his NFL debut Sept. 9, 2018, against the Chargers.
► On Oct. 21, 2018, he got his first start, against Cincinnati.
► And now, the Super Bowl.
Quite a trip.
"If you can’t (improve continually), you won’t make it very long in the NFL," Wylie told Chiefs Wire in May 2019. "I try week by week to really hone in on certain details that maybe I didn’t do well the week before, really hone in on those things and (work on them) in practice ... and, hopefully, by the end of the season, you’re a completely different player."
Coach Andy Reid told Chiefs Wire in June 2019 about Wylie:
“You know he’s one of the better athletes we have up front there ... I don’t think people know that. He’s really a good athlete, he gets out and he runs. You see him do that, you see him lock on to people, kind of glue on to people in the screen game and on pulls."
Wylie was Kansas City's Mack Lee Hill Award winner for 2018. The honor goes to the top rookie or first-year player in memory of Hill, a running back who died in 1965 after two seasons with the team.
“It was a real surprise (to win the award), and I think the thing that means the most to me is that it’s an award that your teammates and coaches vote on,” Wylie told the Midland Daily News. “... These are guys who I’m with every single day. After being around guys for a while, you get a real sense of their character, and that’s just huge that my teammates and coaches think that highly of me."
When Wylie, a communications major at EMU, was in action, next to him at left tackle was another Mid-American Conference player, Eric Fisher of Central Michigan. Fisher, the first overall pick in 2013's draft by the Chiefs, is from Rochester, Michigan.
Wylie, a 2012 Midland graduate, gave a one-day clinic last July at Midland Stadium for fifth- and sixth-graders. His message: Be hard workers, even if you're not crazy about it.
Wylie's high school coach, Eric Methner, was at the clinic and noted Wylie flashed his potential with the offensive line of the Chemics.
Methner said to the Midland Daily News: "Oh, yeah, he had all the tools. He had the size, and he's a tremendous athlete, which is probably the biggest thing. ... When he was at Midland High, he was a basketball player, a shot putter and a football player. He could dunk. At 290 pounds (in high school), he could stand underneath the rim and jump up and dunk a basketball. ... And he comes from a great family with a great work ethic.
" ... It takes breaks and perseverance for something like (Wylie's ascension to the NFL) to happen. He went through some trials and tribulations with some other teams, but he kept believing in himself, and when he got the opportunity, (he took it)."
At Midland High, Eric Albright, the Chemics' athletic director, wrote Saturday to The Detroit News in an email, "We do not have a school-wide buzz at this point. Unless one is a big sports fan, most of our students likely have no idea who Andrew is. He doesn't live here in the offseason so his notoriety is limited. Our football coach ... has been in contact with Andrew and has wished him well."
Wylie, from Hemlock, Michigan, started 44 games in four seasons at EMU, at guard and tackle.
"We are so fired up for Andrew Wylie," Eagles coach Chris Creighton said in an email to The Detroit News on Jan. 20. "He was a huge part of the senior class that led Eastern Michigan football to our first breakthrough by going to the Bahamas Bowl in 2016.
"He went undrafted and bounced around the NFL his first season. He persevered and now (is with) ... the Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs. He is made up of all the right stuff, and we couldn't be more proud of him."
EMU's Super Bowl appearances
* DL Dave Boone - Vikings - 1974 (Super Bowl IX)
* DL John Banaszak - Steelers - 1975 (Super Bowl X), ring
* DL John Banaszak - Steelers - 1978 (Super Bowl XIII), ring
* RB Ron Johnson - Steelers - 1978 (Super Bowl XIII), ring
* DL John Banaszak - Steelers - 1979 (Super Bowl XIV), ring
* RB Ron Johnson - Steelers - 1979 (Super Bowl XIV), ring
* DB Clarence Chapman - Bengals - 1981 (Super Bowl XVI)
* DL Lional Dalton - Ravens - 2001 (Super Bowl XXXV), ring
* LB Jason Short - Eagles - 2004 (Super Bowl XXXIX)
* QB Charlie Batch - Steelers - 2005 (Super Bowl XL), ring
* QB Charlie Batch - Steelers - 2008 (Super Bowl XLIII), ring
* OL TJ Lang - Packers - 2010 (Super Bowl XLV), ring
* QB Charlie Batch - Steelers - 2010 (Super Bowl XLV)
* OL Andrew Wylie - Chiefs - 2019 (Super Bowl LIV)
Art Brooks is a retired Detroit News sports copy editor and was a longtime volunteer adviser at the EMU student paper, The Eastern Echo. Chiefs communications director Brad Gee, communications department staffer Danny Markino, Greg Steiner of EMU athletic media relations and Chiefs beat reporter Herbie Teope of the Kansas City Star helped with this story.