The Legend of Seneca Wallace

One of the unique characteristics of collegiate sports is the endurance of an athlete's legacy. Unlike the heroes of professional sports, collegiate athletes are hardly, if ever, seen on the downsides of their careers. Heroes of Saturday are forever remembered as prolific, young, vibrant and special.

While warriors of Sundays fall victim to age, decreased skills, media snafus, contractual squabbles, and windows in to their all-too human flaws.

Mention Marques Tuiasosopo and I don’t envision him as the victim of Al Davis’ quest of the quintessential Tecmo Bowl offense. No, I remember the man who single-handedly legitimized Rick Neuishesiel’s hiring, by running, passing, leading, and willing the Huskies to victory.

Steve Emtman was never got carted off the RCA Dome field, in my mind. Joey Harrington and Ryan Leaf never got run out of their respective professional towns. All their legacies are intact and untarnished in my mind.

While the aforementioned are legends in their own right, occasionally players emerge that transcend even geographic boundaries. They capture the spirit and imagination of entire coasts, conferences, or even the country. Tim Brown, Randy Moss, Raghib Ismail, Barry Sanders, Bo Jackson, and Marshall Faulk all fit those criteria in my opinion. There’s also one other who belongs in the above category. None other than current Seattle Seahawks backup QB extraordinaire, Seneca Wallace.

While I personally never got to see him play too often, I always remained mindful of where he was playing, the potential ramifications, and cognoscente of his stats compiled. I watched every highlight show I could find, just like I did with the others, to peek at his many jaw dropping highlights. Wallace became an icon or phenomenon of our ESPN age with his slight stature, dazzling feet, and prolific arm. How much so?

In my past corporate life, I was responsible for nurturing and developing a relationship with a major bank, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. During that time I went on a few trips, hosted many live or teleconferenced meetings, and attended numerous dinners and functions with these culturally unfamiliar Iowans. No matter whom it was, what the situation, or how tenuous our business relationship currently stood, one thing I could always count on was the name “Seneca Wallace” to break any ice.

Countless times I found myself reaching for and using his name to dissolve an uncomfortable silence. His name became the lowest common denominator to befriend any such associate within my proximity. And it didn’t matter whether it was a man, woman, child, sports or football fan. Every time, they smiled and gladly reminisced about the man who brought awareness to the mostly unnoticed program, Iowa State University.

Even to this day, the love affair of those who watched Wallace routinely on Saturdays, has endured. When I was in Kansas City, I met many individuals that had traveled the 230 or so miles from Ames, Iowa to witness Wallace in his pro debut. Routinely they painfully acknowledged that Wallace’s debut in Kansas City would be their bowl game. Some even wore jerseys, t-shirts, or hats bearing #15 for the Seahawks. The oddest was an officially licensed t-shirt from Super Bowl XL, displaying only Wallace’s name and number in Seahawks colors.

Fans of the Kansas City Chiefs seemed weary of the one-time Cyclone great. On two separate occasions I was reminded by Chiefs fans that “no lead’s safe with Seneca on the field” or the ever poetic “don’t sleep on Seneca now”. Wallace had more respect from the opposition and their fans then he did from the Seahawks fan base. It speaks volumes to the man and the legend that Wallace was so superior in Big-12 land, that even natural rivals were in awe of his talent.

In the four games Seneca played for the Seahawks all of us witnessed the potential Wallace has within him. In my biased armchair coach opinion, he did well considering the circumstances unfolded onto him.

With Shaun Alexander out, Mike Holmgren all but abandoned the running game at times. That absence led to questionable play-calling from the usually devastating offensive “guru”.

Sure, at times Seneca appeared to lock on to a receiver, or fail to fully progress to the third, fourth, or sometimes even fifth option in his throws. But, name me a QB who can avoid those errors with that limited experience?

I’m sure I wasn’t alone when I screamed, “run, Seneca, run!” at the television But it’s easy to understand why Wallace didn’t run. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to envision Holmgren administering Clockwork Orange “training” techniques to convince Wallace that the pocket’s his friend - and safe to occupy.

And by game four, when he finally understood when and when not to run, he fell victim to the demon many young gunslingers do. That would be trying to do too much by themselves. Understandable, when you realize that’s what he had to do, many times, on Saturdays.

Despite those circumstances, all excusable, Seneca wowed and amazed us for those four games with his pocket presence, inspiring scrambles, and lethal long-balls. Enough to convince me that either during the next draft, or next off-season someone will be calling Mr. Wallace to further his legend established on Saturdays on their field on Sundays. Miami? Atlanta? Minnesota? Detroit? Philadelphia? Oakland? Who knows….

I’ll end this portion with some comments on Wallace posted on the ISU message board, per my request. I didn’t bother verifying or researching any of the stories because it doesn’t really matter. Just because Paul Bunyan doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean he’s not 35 feet tall in our minds.

From burn587:
Go on and look for his run against Texas Tech. It was the play of the year on espn for 2002. My best memory of him was the way he led the comeback against Iowa (a vastly superior team that year). He made tough throw after the tough throw and led ISU back to win the game. Rolling to his left or rolling to his right, I've never seen a stronger or more accurate arm on the rollout than Seneca.

From michclonefan:
The one that sticks out in my mind is the game against FSU. It was at arrowhead stadium and one of the few times I saw him in person. He started the game slow but lead us back and dominated the second half. And as anyone on this board can tell you, he scored the tying touchdown with about 5 seconds left. They rule him out at the 1. They say he stepped out of bounds. When he jumps from the 5 yard line and reaches the ball over the pylon and no part of his body hits the ground. I remember all the Florida State fans around me just embarrassed. They knew we outplayed them and should have had the win. They stopped the tomahawk chop about start of the third quarter. I also remember that you could drink beer in the stadium because it wasn't a college stadium. That was awesome.

From TheJackass:
Hawkeye fan here, and I will vouch for Mr. Wallace. While I really dislike your coach, your program, your uniforms, and your stadium (cheerleaders are hot and band is sooo much better than ours), but Seneca is a player who transcends rivalries and I thought I'd pipe in.

Seneca is my all-time favorite Cyclone (granted, it a very short list, like...two guys, and the other is a former qb who is my neighbor) Anyway, Seneca is a fabulous football player and I've been waiting to see him get some meaningful action. He is one of the few opposing players who still gets talked about admiringly in Iowa City on gamedays.

Guys, help me out in that Iowa game. Didn't the big comeback start with ISU deep in Iowa's territory facing a third and long...and Seneca did his magic for a huge conversion to get the Ol Mo going? That would be a pretty good clip.

Also was at the FSU game, and you guys got so hosed. I was down near that corner and there was no doubt that he was in.

From Flander1649:
My favorite play in that Iowa game was when Wallace gave Bob Sanders a fake pitch and he went diving at air and Wallace walked into the endzone. I really liked it because it made Sanders look bad.

From Ryeisele:
Also in only Seneca's 3rd game as a Cyclone he completed 18 (I think, may not be exact) straight passes and finished like 22 of 24 in a 41-0 victory. Before that we all thought he was more of a running QB. At the time this was a Big 12 record for consecutive completions and I think it still stands, though it is in danger every time our D steps on the field this year.

His team also knocked my team out of the Iowa Games back when I was in college. I am sure thats one of his greatest football memories too.

From cydlines:
Second half went TD, TD, TD, safety and it was 30-24 to start the final stanza. The pass to Whitver came in the early stages of the 4th quarter.

Third-and-11 from the ISU 5. Rollout left in the endzone, ratchet the torso around and fire one between the 2 and 6 for a first down. There was a great still frame of it on the broadcast. Just prior to the throw, his shoulders were parallel to the sideline while his lower body was still pointing downfield. Amazing.

The 2001 Baylor game was also mentioned. Started 18-of-18 en route to 22-of-24.

He also put up over 340 at Texas A&M in 2001, and this was before aTm's secondary went to heck.

2002, there was a TD run against Nebraska that could have been a sign of better things to come two weeks later against Tech.

From eclones:
Seneca is just the man to get the job done. It will be a pleasure to watch him.

From Cyclerz:
My son and I are headed to KC to see the game. We are treating it as our bowl game for the year and it will be great to see Seneca at Arrowhead for the second time.

On the seahawk website there is a story that Seneca outjumped several on the team and even touched a water pipe that was at 12 foot high.

My favorite Seneca game I saw was against Texas Tech. Since then I must have listened to Pete a million times calling that play.

My least favorite game I saw was at KState when he threw three picks in a row to Terrance Newman for touchdowns.

Ryan Davis writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. He can be reached here. Top Stories