Coy Wire is the type of player that teammates have to keep an eye on for his penchant for pranks and gags. He might hide in a car, or he might be waiting in a dark hotel for a teammate to come through the door and be greeted with a scare, but there's much more to the man known as the biggest joker on the Falcons roster
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — It's the end of another long day.
Linebacker Stephen Nicholas walks to his car, gets in and starts it up.
He pulls out of the parking lot, leaves the gates of the Falcons' training facility in Flowery Branch and heads down the road.
A few miles into his trip, there's suddenly movement in the backseat. But that can't be, can it? Nicholas left alone. There's no way anyone could be in his car with him.
The reality of being a teammate of Coy Wire says otherwise.
From the backseat, Wire pops up and scares the living daylights out of his fellow linebacker.
It's one of his favorite tricks — an old standby. He did the same thing to Lawyer Milloy when the two were playing together in Buffalo.
"He's real playful-like. I don't know how he does it. Sometimes, he'll end up in your car or your shower and just jump out and try to scare you," punt and kick returner Eric Weems said. "(But) he brings a lot of dedication to us each and every day. He comes out, practices hard, he plays hard. He's a guy that you can always count on and always has your back in winning the fight with you."
While the nine-year veteran has gained a reputation for being the type of teammate others have to watch their backs around, Wire is passionate about being there for his teammates.
It might be easy to assume that Wire is first and foremost known for his playful, mischievous ways around the locker room, but the truth is that his many other qualities and contributions trump his ability to keep his teammates on their toes with a good prank.
Wire, a former third-round pick by Buffalo in 2002, might be the most versatile player on the Falcons' roster. Picked up by Atlanta as a free agent in 2008, Wire is a mainstay at the linebacker position.
Which one? Try all of them.
Wire has learned the strongside, weakside and middle linebacker positions, making him an invaluable backup for players like Sean Weatherspoon, Curtis Lofton and Mike Peterson.
In Buffalo, Wire was drafted as a safety and spent three years learning that position after spending much of his career at Stanford as a linebacker — well, when he wasn't playing running back. Yeah, he did that, too.
"I think I always tried to be like a chameleon and try to adapt to different circumstances," Wire said. "I think just having an open mind in the sense that sometimes you have a plan and you think things are going to go one way. Then, life presents a situation where you have the opportunity to make a change in your life.
"I've always tried to accept change and be open to it and have an open mind, because I think if you try to resist change, it can be destructive."
That mindset has served him well throughout his career. Despite being so versatile on the field and such an asset off it with his playful attitude, Wire has had to battle each and every year to remain on the roster.
In training camp before the 2009 season, Wire was featured on an NFL.com show called "On the Fringe," which followed around and detailed the NFL lives of four players who may or may not become roster casualties at the end of camp.
Wire, obviously, made the cut. But the show was just a microcosm of what his career has been to this point.
"I know that I'm on the fringe every year," said Wire, who is on the Pro Bowl ballot as an NFC special teamer. "I have to prove myself every year that I can come back, that I'm still hungry and I'm still passionate about this and it's important to me. I treat it as if I'm a rookie coming in that the coaches know nothing about and I need to show them what I can do."
Off the field, Wire constantly shows what he's capable of. He's a leader in the locker room, and his teammates respect him not only for what he's accomplished in his career, but also for his outlook on life.
Wire can be a bit of a philosopher, as his Twitter followers know. He tweets inspirational quotes almost daily, and perhaps it would be surprising to know that he doesn't get them by looking them up on Google. Instead, the quotes Wire delivers to his followers come from his own book.
Wire is self-publishing a book that is currently in the editing process. The book isn't so much an account of his life in football as it is a story about life in general.
"Obviously, it has football in it because that's what I do," Wire said. "It's more just about the power of the mind and just reminding us that we're all more powerful than we know. If we tap into that potential within us, we're capable of doing great things."
His serious side is just one of the masks he wears — literally and figuratively. His penchant for pranks also earns him a good share of respect around the locker room.
Here's a small sampling of what Wire is capable of:
During training camp, Wire brought his Ghille suit — basically, a costume that is designed to make the wearer look like a tree or a bush. After dark, Wire hid near the entrance to the dorms on the grounds of the training facility and scared teammates as they came in from a long day of practices.
Sean Weatherspoon walked to his locker one afternoon to find his car keys immersed in a block of red Jell-O.
While in Buffalo, Wire hid inside teammate Josh Reed's house in the dark for more than a half hour, waiting for the wide receiver to arrive. When he did, Wire greeted him with quite a scare.
Wire set up a prank last month to scare Falcons Insider Niki Noto, who thought she was going to be interviewing Roddy White and instead met Wire wearing the mask he simply calls "Mike."
Even Wire's wife, Claire, has fallen victim to his pranks — only she taught him a lesson he'll never forget.
In Buffalo, the Wires went to visit an old abandoned psych ward. While Claire was looking out the passenger side window at the building, Coy took the opportunity to put a mask on. He waited until she turned around, and when she did, she was met by one of the many masks he collects.
Coy, however, was met with a punch to the nose.
"She taught me a long time ago that if you're going to do this, you have to protect yourself," he said. "If you ever see me, I always have my hands ready and I'm ready to jump. I'm more alert now."
That comes in handy when he's pulling these pranks on professional football players much bigger than himself.
"He plays so much, I tell him he needs to hurry up and have some kids," Peterson said. "He plays so much, I think if he had some kids and they were ripping and running through the house, he wouldn't come here with all of those jokes and playing. It's all in fun. You just have to keep your eyes open when he's around."