Maybe you’re one of those folk that hides under rocks and you haven’t heard about Levi Wallace. Or maybe you have and you just want to hear it again. I don’t blame you. His college career is the kind of story that every media outlet salivates over. It’s the story of the little guy making it big-time, and who doesn’t love that story?
Wallace didn’t get any scholarship offers from any college while playing football in Tuscon, Arizona. He weighed all of 140 pounds as a senior, and just wasn’t cut out college ball, despite being a pretty productive high school player. His father had grown up around Tuscaloosa before relocating due to his service in the Air Force, so Levi knew from early in his life that he would one day be a part of the University of Alabama.
So he did, and got involved with the intramural flag football leagues his first semester on campus. From there, he worked up the nerve to try out for the team to be practice squad fodder, and wound up making it on the team. For two years after that, he toiled on the scout team, working his way up in the minds of the coaches and making good impressions whenever he could.
How Levi Wallace went from a walk-on to a star at Alabama
Linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Anfernee Jennings saw Levi emerge and understood early that he wasn’t your typical walk-on. Star wideout Calvin Ridley arrived on campus a year after Levi tried out and was confused why he was on the scout team to begin with.
“I was like, ‘This guy is really good. I don’t know what we’re doing,’” Ridley said.
Then, before the 2016 season, he was awarded a scholarship as a reward for all of his hard work and a mark of his improvement. He became a regular contributor on special teams as a junior that year, and his name started showing up on depth charts and media guides more and more often. When Marlon Humphrey went out of the game with an injury against Auburn, it wasn’t one of the many 4-5 star freshmen that took his spot, it was Levi Wallace. He held his own on a huge national stage, and let the world know that he was no longer an unknown walk-on, but a capable back-up.
2017 started, and converted receiver Trevon Diggs got the nod as the starter to replace Humphrey. However, Diggs struggled to diagnose plays correctly and gave up his fair share of big plays in the first quarter against Florida State, and all of a sudden, Levi Wallace was playing every single snap at right cornerback for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Not only did he do his job well— he was exceptional. He broke up one pass and helped break the FSU spirit by nabbing his first career interception.
He never looked back. Wallace not only locked down the starting job the rest of the season— he flourished. A few weeks later, he had a multi-interception game against Ole Miss, including his first pick-six.
He played with a scrappiness in press coverage and pass contesting that really could only have come from the heart of walk-on guy. No receiver all season caught a ball on the left side without having to fight through Wallace’s persistent hand-checking. He had at least one pass-breakup every game, and often more. He ended up first in the SEC and 21st in the nation is passes defended, with 18. He also finished the year with 3 interceptions, 2 sacks, and 48 tackles, and became a semi-finalist for the Thorpe Award: a trophy awarded to the best defensive back in the nation.
Now, Wallace is preparing for the NFL. He’s going to be overlooked again for the very same reasons as he was in high school: too small. Too slow. However, he’s had to overcome that by mastering his technique and football instincts far past what many other star players ever have to. He’s made quite the impression on many scouts in the interviews for the Senior Bowl this week, and has a good shot at getting drafted in April.
From intramurals to walk-on to starter for a national championship squad, Levi Wallace’s career has been amazing to follow. And it’s not over yet.
Roll Tide, Levi!