It’s never easy being the new guy in town. Nothing is familiar. You don’t know that many people. Driving around town can be a GPS-dependent adventure.
Mike Wallace knows that feeling.
The Vikings traded for Wallace a month ago, but he is still getting to know his new teammates, coaching staff and the employees at Winter Park. He was familiar with a few of his new teammates, including Phil Loadholt, Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn, but Minnesota has been a new experience for him because he’s spent most of his life in the southern U.S. and Minnesota is something of a culture shock for him, as he meets a ton of strangers he will soon get to know well.
“This is way up north, man,” Wallace said with a grin. “There’s not too many guys that I knew way up here, so I’m getting to know everybody. Every single person who I’ve passed has been real positive, have been talking to me and are excited to have me. And I’m excited to be here. It’s a fresh start.”
Wallace is no stranger to fresh starts. From his final two seasons in Pittsburgh to both seasons he spent in Miami, Wallace has had a different offensive coordinator in each season of his five years. Getting adjusted to Norv Turner’s offense isn’t going to be something he believes he will struggle with because he has had to adjust to a new system and new terminology every year for far too long.
“For the last five years I’ve had five different offenses, so eventually they’re going to start running together,” Wallace said. “It’s not going to be too bad, but it takes time (to learn) the names of the play, not really the concepts. There’s only so many different concepts you can run in football so that’s not hard. It’s just getting the names of the plays down. It takes a little while, but I don’t know anybody up here. I have a lot of time to study. I have a lot of time on my hands right now.”
Among the new friends Wallace is making are his wide receiver teammates. Jarius Wright has become close with Wallace right out of the gate, much in the same way he befriended Greg Jennings when he arrived in Minnesota.
As Wright sees it, younger players can always learn from veterans, but the one thing Wright can’t be taught is Wallace’s greatest asset – blazing deep speed.
“He’s a guy who has not only proven himself in the league year in and year out, but he’s a guy that can run that brings so much speed in the field,” Wright said. “With Teddy being able to stretch the field, with the running backs we have, we have a great chance to be a dangerous offense this year.”
Wallace has assimilated quickly with his new teammates and has already started to develop a rapport with them that doesn’t have them thinking of him in terms of being the new guy. He’s just one of the guys.
“We’ve welcomed him with open arms, just like we played with him last year,” Wright said. “It’s kind of funny. When we’ve hung around and been talking, you’d think he’s been here forever. We’ve enjoyed Mike and he seems like he enjoys us. I enjoy the way he’s come in ready to work to make us better.”
As Wallace continues to integrate with his teammates, the joy of playing football is coming back as he has been embraced by his new teammates, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. While football is a business, things go a lot smoother during the early dog days that mark the start of a new season when everyone is enjoying what they’re doing and it doesn’t feel like drudgery.
While still in the early stages, Wallace likes what he has seen in the organizations and his teammates, especially the young quarterback with which he hopes to build a quick and strong rapport.
“I think this is a great group of guys,” Wallace said. “Everybody seems like they’re on the same page as far as being together and having fun. That’s a big thing for me, just having fun when I’m playing football. If it’s not fun, it’s going to be tough. I think the guys are doing a good job of that, just having fun. I’m just getting to know them. Teddy just seems like a great guy. I know a lot of different people who’ve worked with him, different wide receivers, tight ends, a lot of guys from down south who know him. Everybody always says great things about him: ‘You’re going to love him.’ He’s just a great guy overall. All positive. Not one negative.”
Being the new kid in town is never an easy process, but, as Wallace sees it, coming to the Vikings has been about as easy a transition as he has experienced since coming to the NFL. He sees coming to Minnesota as a fresh start for his career and for him as a person and, albeit a small sample size, he likes what he sees and is looking forward to see what this team can do in 2015.
“Every time you go to a new spot you kind of feel like a rookie again,” Wallace said. “It’s kind of just standing around and watching other people and how they work and move. That’s the toughest part, just not knowing anybody. I knew a couple guys, but not too well. But it’s a great group of guys so it’s not taking me long to learn them at all. The guys have been really embracing me around here, and it’s been all positive.”
Wallace adapting to another ‘fresh start’
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