Long before Stalley linked up with Rick Ross and the Maybach Music Group, long before the bearded rapper even started writing music, he was a football man. After all, growing up in Northeast Ohio—he went to Washington high school, a pigskin powerhouse, in Massillon—he almost had no choice.
“Even though I was a basketball player, football was really what kept my city going,” Stalley told us over the phone recently. “Canton is where the football Hall of Fame is, [and] we are about eight miles away.”
Though Stalley is currently on the road and hard at work recording his debut album, the friendly and honest rapper took a momentary break from music to discuss his city’s first love with us.
TD: I’ve seen videos on YouTube of football players coming out to your shows . Are you big into football?
Stalley: Yeah, man! Growing up where I grew up, high school football was everything. Like, that was more important than any other sport. Even though I was a basketball player, football was really what kept my city going. Canton is where the football Hall of Fame is, and I don’t know if you’re familiar, but we are about eight miles away.
Actually, Paul Brown went to my high school, played for my high school and coached at my high school. I mean, this is the guy who also coached the [Cleveland] Browns and the [Cincinnati] Bengals. You know, Chris Spielman went to my high school—there are a lot of ex-pros and current pros who went to that program. So it’s just real big and I’ve always been a fan.
Personally, I played up until I was a sophomore. I played quarterback and receiver. I was good, but when I got into basketball and AAU and was splitting my time I had to decide to do one or the other. I chose basketball.
TD: Cool. Knowing all that, is it safe to assume you’re an Ohio State Buckeyes fan?
Stalley: Oh, man. Like they’re one of the only two teams that get me emotional. Not as far as crying, but just getting me tight. When I watch Ohio State and when I watch the Cavs—the Indians, too—I watch and I get pissed off (laughs). With the Browns, I’m just used to disappointment.
TD: So you’re excited about that new coaching situation at OSU, right?
Stalley: I’m loving it, man. You couldn’t pick a better person. Urban Meyer is an Ohio dude—Northeast Ohio, too, where I’m from. It’s just always good to have that guy. We have so many great football coaches that are from Northeast Ohio, alone. From Lou Holtz to Nick Saban, Les Miles to Urban Meyer, we definitely have the gurus (laughs).
TD: Did you get to go to any OSU games when you were a kid , and do you get to go to any now?
Stalley: Nah, but I think I’m gonna go to a Ohio State-Michigan game. My homie Devin Smith plays for them right now; he’s the one that caught that great catch [in] their first game. Yeah, he went to my high school and he’s a fan of mine, and we’re both from Akron so it’s all good. One of my first times meeting him, I did a show down in Columbus, and he came to an in-store at a place called Homage. He was like, ‘Man, I just wanted to meet you.’ He’s younger than me, so I was gone by the time he was doing his thing out there in school. I’ve kept in touch with him because anybody from my area that’s doing something positive and trying to make it for their family and do good, I try to stay in touch.
TD: How cool is it to perform in a place like Columbus and have all the Buckeyes come out?
Stalley: Man, it’s beautiful. That’s one of the craziest things. I’m a fan of sports, especially Ohio State, so for those guys to come out and support me—Devin always says Braxton Miller plays Lincoln Way Nights in the weight room and on gamedays—it’s just dope.
TD: And the Browns are your NFL team, right?
TD: At least the Browns have a ray of hope; Trent Richardson seems to be that dude.
Stalley: I’m so excited about him and [Brandon] Weeden. I thought we were gonna do better than we are doing right now; I thought we were at least a .500 team. We have a lot of pieces we’re missing. The defense is good; the O-line is good, too, but I don’t know what’s been going on there.
TD: I feel like that if they get a top pick next year and maybe a new coach they could make a quick leap. Like, they could be 9-7 or something next season.
Stalley: I agree. I definitely agree. Like you said, we get a good pick in the first round, and second round and get a new coach, I really think so. I mean, we’re only a few pieces away. We need another receiver and another lockdown cornerback. If we get another cornerback to play with [Joe] Haden, we’ll be straight. It’s just a couple of missed plays, missed opportunities and dropped balls. It’s a couple of things, but we’ll be alright. I’m excited.
Tzvi Twersky is the senior editor of SLAM Magazine and TD Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @ttwersky.