MOBILE – He’s heard it before, and it never stopped him. He has no reason to think differently now.
Levi Wallace remembers sitting in his dorm room at the University of Alabama and sharing the decision that he was going to walk on for the football team. The responses were nearly unanimous: “You’re a little too skinny to play SEC football.”
At 176 pounds at the Senior Bowl this week, Wallace is again facing the same looks as he tries to make a career in professional football.
“I just never forget that all the way up until today,” Wallace said. “That definitely motivated me even on weekends when I was lifting by myself. I definitely played those words over and over in my head.”
At 176 pounds, he’s actually up nearly 10 pounds from the weight he played at in the national championship game. A rampant flu virus ran through the team and Wallace was hit hard. He had a hard time eating and played the game at around 167 pounds.
To recoup he starting eating. And eating and eating. He’s currently on a 4,000-calorie-a-day diet in an effort to get to around 185 pounds.
In interviews, Wallace’s smarts have impressed as he’s ahead of other corners from an experience standpoint. That advanced knowledge came because he played at Alabama under secondary specialist Nick Saban.
“The scouts are kind of surprised at what we run at Alabama because they are so many variations, variables and adjustments,” he said. “I (went) to the board and explained a couple of basic coverages we run at Alabama. They were impressed.”
It also helped that he had the experience of covering perhaps the best wide receiver in college, Calvin Ridley, daily in practice.
“We went through a lot of one-on-one matchups, especially back at Bama going against Calvin, Rob (Foster) and guys like that. I’ve definitely had a lot of practice in that area so I feel comfortable in one-on-ones,” he said.
“Calvin’s probably the best receiver in the nation. He’s got a skill set that’s unmatched, I think. Going against the all the receivers this season I played, I think Calvin stands alone. Him being able to stop on a dime, that almost hurt me in practice a couple of times.”
Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage said Wallace has a chance to excel this week, but he must nail two certain aspects.
“Levi is a very technique-oriented player,” Savage said. “I thought he was the MVP of the defense, quite frankly. They have a void at corner at the very beginning of the season and he stepped in and played well. I think there’s a lot of substance to him as a player. I think the bottom line with him is in terms of draft value is how he performs here in the one-on-ones and then what he runs in the 40.”
As for next year’s UA secondary, Wallace said he has confident in Trevon Diggs, whom he beat out for a starting corner job this year. Diggs started the Florida State game before giving way to Wallace, who started the rest of the season.
“Diggs is a great competitor, a great athlete,” Wallace said. “I think he just needed little bit more experience at the corner spot, moving from receiver to corner. Definitely an athlete, a competitor. I think he’s going to be a great player next year and a great asset for Alabama definitely.”