ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins influenced by music
TEMPE — “You said that you think about me every day, Saturday to Saturday. You see that I’ve been going through it, hoping everything’s OK.” – Drake, “Since Way Back” (featuring PartyNextDoor).
From Saturday to Saturday, Arizona State football fans watch quarterback Manny Wilkins go through the ups and downs of college football, always hoping that everything is OK. Wilkins, meanwhile, finds peace through music, particularly Drake, PartyNextDoor and other artists under the OVO Sound record label.
Wilkins listens to more relaxing music on game days, rather than songs that get the adrenaline flowing.
“A lot of people listen to some turn up turn up music,” Wilkins said. “I get out there for pregame warmups and turn on some soothing music just to ease my mind. I don’t need to be too high or too low — just staying on this happy medium.”
In a tumultuous 2016 season for ASU football, it would have been easy for Wilkins to lose his cool on multiple occasions, whether from the injuries he suffered or six straight losses down the stretch. But he kept an even-keel approach throughout the heightened adversity.
Having a solid support system is helpful in the psychology of sports. Part of Wilkins’ support system are his friends on the team and off. And some of those friends talk to him through his headphones.
Wilkins developed a friendship with PartyNextDoor through mutual friend Adrian Martinez, a photographer and director that went to ASU and now works with OVO Sound artists. Wilkins said PartyNextDoor — whose birth name is Jahron Braithwaite — is a laid-back person who can always provide perspective.
“He comes from a very different background than the lifestyle he’s living now,” Wilkins said of Braithwaite. “I don’t even think of him as a music person. I’ve had some great conversations with him and all those guys.”
Among those guys is OVO’s undisputed leader, Drake, the performer Wilkins met after a concert and spoke with at length. Wilkins said it was “cool” to witness the platform that artists like Drake have to inspire people and sees plenty of parallels between music and sports.
Drake’s latest album, “More Life,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and is the Toronto native’s seventh consecutive No. 1 album. As he has evolved as an artist, Drake has adopted a number of personas within songs that range from rap to R&B to dancehall. Wilkins is a big fan of this versatility.
“Drake is definitely a character, that’s for sure,” Wilkins said with a laugh. “He does a good job making music that I’m sure he enjoys himself, and he’s got the game on locks so people are going to love it too.”
Wilkins and some of his teammates dabble in critiquing music, too. Wilkins, wide receiver Ryan Jenkins and former ASU wide receiver Frederick Gammage have a group message called “Music Crew” where they send each other new songs, share opinions and discuss the latest “underground” artists they’ve discovered.
The music spans across genres and is made up mostly of rap and R&B. It provides an extracurricular activity that Wilkins said takes up a lot of his time outside of football. Former teammate Edmond Boateng shared this passion too, and the pair would sit around and listen to music for hours on the weekends.
When it comes time to put on pads and lead his team onto the field, Wilkins carries a calm demeanor influenced by his favorite artists. It’s his second-greatest passion.
“I love music,” Wilkins said. “If I could play the piano or sing or something like that, I’d definitely be doing it.
“But football has always come first.”