It was mid-May in 2015. Despite an open roster spot, the Kansas City Chiefs weren’t going to sign Wallace, who had participated in a weekend rookie minicamp on a tryout basis as an undrafted free agent. His NFL dream was all but over, though there were playing opportunities elsewhere, namely from a few teams, including the Toronto Argonauts, in the Canadian Football League.
But Wallace knew it was time. His life plan for as long as he could remember was to play football as long as possible before transitioning to coaching. Wallace spent the 2015 season as an assistant football coach at the Episcopal School of Dallas, followed by a season as the quarterbacks coach at Marshall County (Tenn.) High School. He was hired to assist the quarterbacks and offense by his old junior college head coach, Buddy Stephens, at East Mississippi Community College in January.
“It’s cool, man. I’m back where it all started,” Wallace said. “I think, looking back at my career after I left Arkansas State, I was just going to transfer to UT-Martin and play for them. I came down here, and then this place gave me so many opportunities. I was able to go get SEC offers and all kinds of stuff like that. This place is really special to me. I can’t tell you how glad I am coach Stephens trusted me with the quarterbacks and helping with the offense. I’m really appreciative of everyone on this campus that wanted to bring me back.”
Wallace quarterbacked the Lions to an NJCAA national championship in 2011, the same season in which he was named NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year. Wallace established new NJCAA single-season records for passing yards (4,604), total offense (4,810) and passing touchdowns (53).
He went on to start all 39 games in his Ole Miss career, leading the Rebels to three straight bowl games. He set school records for total offensive yards (10,478), completion percentage (63.0), passing efficiency (140.8) and 300-yard passing games (11), and he finished his career ranked second in school history in passing yards (9,534), completions (747), attempts (1,186) and passing touchdowns (62).
“My whole life it was I was going to play as long as I could, then I was going to coach,” Wallace said. “My favorite thing is to scheme somebody else. When I was in college, I tried to be around the coaches as much as possible to learn and things like that. My whole life I knew I was going to play or coach. I have to have that competition. I have to try to get better at something every day.”
Wallace said his coaching style is similar to that of former Ole Miss quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner.
Werner coached Wallace in all three of Wallace’s seasons as a Rebel. Werner was fired by Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze following the 2016 season and replaced by former Sam Houston State offensive coordinator Phil Longo. He was recently hired as an offensive analyst at Alabama.
“I think you naturally take to the way you were coached,” Wallace said. “I think I’m a lot like coach Werner. I’m not going to get in your face and cuss and yell, but I’m going to hold you accountable for all the decisions you make on the field and off the field. If I have to get in you, then that’s what has to happen. Coach Werner was a great balance of that for me. I think naturally you pick that up from being around a guy for three years. You have so much respect for him and learned a lot from him. The guy was at great places before that. He’s a football-knowledge guy. You naturally go into that mentality and personality when you get out on the field.”
Wallace has been a frequent visitor to Ole Miss in the years following his playing career.
The Rebels are currently two weeks into spring football practices. Wallace was in attendance day one. He’s attended a handful of games, too, and he said he’ll attend many more. He’s looking forward to the upcoming season. He’ll be watching.
Because Ole Miss will always be home, no matter where Wallace finds himself as he climbs the coaching ladder.
“Me and coach Freeze, especially with me being down here, we probably talk at least once a week, and sometimes two or three times a week,” Wallace said. “My recruiting area is up there. I think we still have some athletes. It’s going to be up to the defense to stop guys, but you look at that offense, you’ve got D.K. (Metcalf), he’s unbelievable. He’s a specimen. And then you’ve got Shea Patterson, A.J. Brown, Tre Nixon, getting Jordan Wilkins back, the whole offensive line is back. We can win games.
“My hope is we stop some teams that have a chance to play for a national title. With the bowl ban, that’s what this season’s going to be about — ruining people’s seasons. That’s the team’s mindset right now, and from what I’ve seen, we have the athletes to win a lot of games. I’ll be supporting them. I’ll be at games, and I’ll be a Rebel until the day I die.”