Every player doesn’t get to the front of the line immediately. It takes patience and dedication to stay motivated to still do the little things, even when you’re in the back of the line or, in this case, a walk-on. But, for redshirt senior defensive back, Deuce Wallace, doing the little things and continuing to stay hungry is the reason he now leads the line from the front.
Wallace is a hometown kid. The 5-foot-10, 207-pounds senior began his football career at St. Thomas Moore High school. During his high school career, he wasn’t on the defensive side of the ball but played running back for the Cougars. Wallace was a two-sport athlete, collecting accomplishments such as second-team all-district and was captain his senior year, also, helping the cougar's basketball team reach the 2013 Class 4A state championship.
But, Wallace's name is not unfamiliar in the halls of the Ragin’ Cajun football program. His father, Don Wallace, cemented his legacy with Louisiana by lettering as a quarterback from 1981-1984 and is still ranked 10th in Ragin’ Cajun school history in passing yards with a total of 2,701.
Despite this rich history, Wallace was not given an automatic spot in the lineup; he had to earn it. And, with having to earn it, this meant the former Cougar running back would have to adjust to being a Ragin’ Cajun defensive back. Wallace did not see any playing time during the 2015 season and became a redshirt freshman for the 2016 season. In the 2017 season, Wallace appeared in 11 games and was a member of the special teams cover unit. He finished the season with 11 tackles, eight solo tackles, and a career-high six tackles against Georgia Southern.
After earning his first letter from the 2017 season, the junior defensive back was ready to use that same motivation in the 2018 season. But, before the season could begin, there was one thing to get off the agenda.
In last year’s spring game Louisiana football head coach, Billy Napier, decided that Wallace was deserving of removing walk-on from his name and titling him as a scholarship athlete during the 2018 Vermillion and White Spring Finale, a decision that Coach Napier believes was only right because of the hard work and character that Wallace has displayed.
“Deuce was kind of the leadership of the crew and the guy back there handling a lot of our communication and to make sure a lot of guys are doing what they were supposed to be doing,” Napier said. “He really took over that job of coach on the field. It kind of starts with him.”
Wallace doesn’t constitute himself as doing anything special but is just willing to always evolve into a better player despite the recognition, while also becoming a leader by simply just being a morally good person.
“It’s definitely amazing and humbling,” Wallace said. “I never really carried myself as a walk-on. I always felt like I could play. I sort of stay in the mindset of ‘You’re not quite good enough,’ so I always find myself looking for more to get better at.”
“And being a leader isn’t a confusing equation that people lose sleep trying to find an answer to,” Wallace said. “I simply focus on being a man of character and treat people with respect. I don’t feel like I do anything out of the ordinary. The football part will handle itself.”
The 2018 season showed that the football part did handle itself for Wallace. He had a career year with the Ragin’ Cajuns, appearing in all 14 games. He calculated 40 tackles, three for a loss and one sack. With that, he also has one interception, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble, becoming the only member of the Louisiana team to record at least one tackle, tackle for loss, sack, interception, a forced fumble and pass breakup.
With an impressive season as a starter, Wallace still struggled with placing unnecessary pressure on himself and had to learn to just play the game as its given to him.
“What I struggled with last season is self-inflicted pressure,” Wallace said. “I am my biggest critic and being a starter last year after spending the earlier part of my career on scout team, I always put unnecessary pressure on myself and I felt that affected my play at times. You can’t play efficient with pressure. It’s the same game I’ve played as a kid. I had to learn to trust the gameplay, my coaches and my preparation."
Now with 2019 season underway and in full swing. Wallace made his goals for the season very early during the offseason, as his focus is on making big plays, but also helping the defense in any way possible.
“My focus this year is to have full mental clarity of our defense,” Wallace said. “I want to be an extension of my coaches out on the field so we do not miss a beat. Another thing I want to do is make big plays; not just make plays but big, game-altering plays.
“I feel like I left a lot of plays out on the field. I also feel like I had opportunities to make the big plays but settled for just the ‘sure tackle’ or the ‘sure pass breakup’ just to be safe,” Wallace said. “I simply want to take more chances within the realm and safety of the defense.”
Wallace currently has a total of six solo tackles in the season, gaining two solo tackles in the Texas Southern game and one tackle for a loss. He also added another two solo tackle games against Arkansas State while assisting the defense.
Even though the football accomplishments are of great value to Wallace, he also prides himself on his service in the community. Before the beginning of the 2019 season, Wallace was named to the Wuerffel Trophy Watch List. The Wuerffel Trophy is known as the “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service” and is awarded to the student-athlete that shows exceptional community service efforts with athletic and academic achievement.
Wallace is one of 91 players to appear on the watch list and is just one of 10 athletes to appear on the watch list for the second consecutive season.
In addition to his overall effort to be a complete player, engaging student, and a person of good character, Wallace has not forsaken the goal for the Louisiana team this year.
As the Ragin’ Cajuns are currently 5-2 for the season and 2-1 in conference play, ranking them first in the Sun Belt West division standings, Wallace made it clear during Sun Belt Media Day that the goal for the current season is to finish games and to finish strong:
“This season we need to finish games. We need to have the same level of energy throughout the games,” Wallace said. “Even though we would win them, we also allowed for other teams to come back in the game. We need to start strong and finish strong.”