Wiley pushes Cowboys to wade through deep water

Working to better every aspect of his athletes’ lives


Olivia Short

Coppell coach Antonio Wiley gets ready for the Coppell football game against Keller Timber Creek at Keller ISD Athletic Complex on Sep. 9. Wiley leads the team by building a foundation of trust and respect. Photo by Olivia Short.

By Olivia Short, Coppell High School

Intense, passionate and driven are traits that players, coaches and colleagues use to describe Coppell football coach Antonio Wiley.

Wiley came to Coppell with a plan, but didn’t put it into action right away, reserving himself in a powerful silence that spoke for his character.

“He came in and for the first month or so, he just observed,” running back coach Eric Hill said. “He got to know the coaches and the kids, then started implementing things we wanted to change.”

Change isn’t always easy, but Wiley understood the task in front of him. With winning titles, leading Wichita Falls Hirschi to a record of 12-1 and going to the state semi finals in 2021, he came in with a reputation but didn’t flaunt it, opting for observation and a slow transition.

“He wasn’t a guy who just came in here and changed things; he came in and let it play out,” Hill said. “The coaches and kids really appreciated that, he really gained their trust.”

With this newfound trust, players such as senior quarterback Jack Fishpaw, bought into Wiley’s mindset, which focuses on educating athletes about the idea of “deep water.” The principle behind this “deep water” ideology is to train and put oneself in uncomfortable situations.

To push yourself even in uncomfortable situations so you’ll be accustomed to playing in “deep water,” then when Coppell brings their opponents out to that same spot, they’ll “drown.”

“Everybody wants to work harder, everyone wants to be better,” Fishpaw said.

It seemed that as soon as he walked in, Wiley earned immediate respect from the players that caused them to not only want to be better in football, but also be the best version of themselves.

“He’s improved the way I look at things,” Fishpaw said., “He wants me to be better in every aspect of my life, [seeking] perfection in everything that I do.”

Wiley wants to cultivate his players not only in athletic skills but who they are as people. He defines success not only as wins and losses, but being able to turn his players into strong leaders of the community.

“What kind of young men are we putting out of our program?” Wiley said,

“What type of husbands are they? And what type of fathers will they be? I would gladly go 0-10 if someone told me every young man on my team is going to be an asset to society.””

— Coppell football coach Antonio Wiley

Wiley’s charismatic personality started early on in his life, dating back to his time at W.W. Samuell High School in Dallas where he played football. His football coach,Steve Pierce, who still coaches at Samuel, viewed him as someone the team could rely on due to his strong work ethic and energy.

“He always stood out,” Pierce said. “The way he carried himself, his attitude, work ethic and when he turned it on when the lights came on, on Friday night, he can make you look like you’re a good coach.”

For Wiley, there was never a moment of not giving everything he had.

“Every day during practice, he would consider it as a game,” Pierce said. “He was a fierce competitor and that’s what made him one of our better players and leaders.”

Every practice and moment before he went on the field was used as an opportunity for improvement, which can be seen now in what he teaches to Coppell athletes. Just as he gave it everything he had, he wishes for his athletes to do the same because the feeling of Friday night lights only lasts until your final game as a senior.

“As long as we can look ourselves in the mirror and say you gave it all you had, you left it there for your team and for your brothers, that’s what I want for them,” Wiley said. “And whatever their dreams and aspirations are, that’s what I want for my kids.”

Coppell coach Antonio Wiley talks to the defense during the Coppell football game against Sachse at Homer B. Johnson Stadium on Aug. 25. Wiley leads the team by building a foundation of trust and respect. Photo by Olivia Short.
(Olivia Short)

With a competitive foundation built from his youth, Wiley’s spirit to achieve perfection in himself was infectious to his peers and continued to inspire others down the line in his football career. For Wiley, it is all about cherishing every single second on the field, and leaving Coppell football as someone who holds no regrets. Leaving as someone who lives life like they play the game, putting their all into everything they do.

“Maximize the moment, [for seniors] this is their last ride, their last chance to leave their mark on this program” Wiley said. “Play for each other, no regrets, let’s see where we are when the dust clears.”

This story was originally published on Coppell Student Media on September 27, 2022.