'Don’t let the smile fool you:' Why Levi Wallace is built for life's crossroads
The corner received zero offers out of high school, lost his father, wasn't drafted and now? He's fresh off a numbing playoff loss in KC. He'll respond like he always does.
PITTSBURGH — This feels like dangerous territory. Levi Wallace has not even taken a moment to look at his menu at Primanti Bros and, like a 2x4 across the face, here we are discussing “13 seconds.” He doesn’t tip-toe around the Buffalo Bills’ surreal 42-36 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
And that’s what’s great about Wallace four months later. He basically acknowledges that there’s no way to delve into his life, his rise, his next phase here as a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers — “Chapter Three,” as he calls it — without reliving the events of Jan. 23, 2022. Most parties involved are publicly sticking to the cryptic We Don’t Talk About Bruno chorus. Not the corner who was lined up too wide and too soft on the two pass plays that teed up the field goal to force overtime. You may recall teammates in this space rushing to Wallace’s defense when it comes to this “bad, bad situation.” They described the former walk-on… the former undrafted free agent… the quintessential student of the game as the absolute last player who’d ever do anything but exactly what he’s told with a game on the line.
Before each play, the Bills pieced together a coverage during a lengthy timeout and, each time, Wallace surrendered a healthy amount of cushion. It backfired.
This cozy, dim Primanti is tucked away on the corner of 19th and East Carson, not too far from Wallace’s new spot in Pittsburgh. He’s wearing a backwards hat, a white Henley with one button undone and — arms crossed, unafraid — he doesn’t attempt to steer the first topic any other direction. Wallace begins by saying he is not one who points fingers. He thought his position was sound. After all, this is how the play was designed. In retrospect, however, Wallace wishes he would’ve turned his head around and noticed that safety Jordan Poyer was lined up so far back. If he did that, he would’ve adjusted his alignment. Instead, for a split-second, he admits the two friends took their four years of communication for granted and were not on the same page.
“Rarely,” he adds, “do me and Poyer ever bust.”
Yet given those two timeouts before both plays and this detail-obsessed head coach and the stakes, isn’t Poyer coached to line up so deep? Wallace answers that, yes, this was “in the gameplan.” But he puts it on the players to realize KC only needed a field goal and believes guys were too caught up in the emotion of the offense scoring a touchdown. One thought was on their mind: We’re going to the AFC Championship Game. Tyreek Hill went for 19 yards, Travis Kelce for 25 yards, Harrison Butker kicked a 49-yard field goal and, into OT, the Bills’ No. 1 defense folded like a tailgate table. With one word — “yeah” — Wallace humbly agrees that this was how he was supposed to line up those two plays. No, he did not go rogue. But, no, Wallace is also not going to sit here and roast Sean McDermott because that’s not his style.
He’ll take accountability. (Even though he doesn’t need to.)
“If you guys want to put it on me, I’ll take it,” Wallace says. “I don’t really care.”
The aftermath understandably kept Wallace up at night because, as he says, this is the moment every NFL player dreams of.
What stung most was that players felt like they let each other down.
“Forget the city. Forget the team,” Wallace says. “The 11 guys on that field let each other down.”
For 48 straight hours, Wallace didn’t leave his bed in Orchard Park. If anyone was ripping him, Wallace didn’t see any of it. Nobody could comment on his Instagram unless he followed them and he didn’t re-add the Twitter app to his phone until mid-May. He more so wallowed in his own sadness than pay any attention to the hysteria. Eventually, Wallace reminded himself that football is only a game. In his younger years, he would’ve puked his lungs out, punched a hole through a wall and been a mess for far longer. After 48 hours, though, Wallace realized he left everything on the field, and as long as he does that? “I can sleep at night,” he says. Staying busy helped, too. He left Western New York, launched his foundation, bought a house in Arizona, geared up for free agency and soon inked a two-year, $8 million deal with the Steelers.
A position of strength for so many years in Pittsburgh was a major weakness in 2021. Wallace could be the cure.
This is his chance to respond and Levi Wallace is a man very familiar with crossroads in life.
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It’s strange to see the Bills move on. Wallace is a competitor any head coach, any general manager should prop up as an example to every single player in the locker room. He received exactly zero DI, DII and DIII college offers, walked on at Alabama and led the whole SEC in pass breakups. He went undrafted after running a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash and all Wallace did from there was earn a starting spot in Game 9 as a rookie and start 57 of a possible 57 games for one of the best secondaries in the league. He opted to stay in Buffalo last year on a cheap deal, turning down big money from the Denver Broncos. And the second time around, $4 million per year was evidently too steep for a team thinking Super Bowl.
The Bills did offer Wallace a contract, one he only says was less than this.
If the team’s lack of interest was strange to us, it certainly was not to him. For four years, it seemed like his employer was perpetually swiping right for a better option. Heads typically role after historic playoff calamities in the NFL. Often, it’s a coach. Often, a player. So, I ask Wallace if any part of him thinks the Bills — after banging the “execution” drum so hard at the podium, code for pinning a mistake on a player — are making him out to be a scapegoat for “13 seconds.”
“If they did that? Listen. That’s a question for them,” Wallace says. “I honestly don’t think they’re like that. If they are, listen, it’s your prerogative. I don’t beef against anybody because I’m not the judge…”
Tell Wallace that he’s being too nice, and he interjects.
“I’m not a nice guy. Don’t let the smile fool you.”
He cannot wait to return to Highmark Stadium as a visitor.
“There’s definitely disrespect. At the same time, what’s the saying? Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best.”
He has always lived this mantra because he’s had no choice. What’s inside of Wallace is forever unappreciated. Yet there’s something special in there, deep down, that keeps on smashing perception to help the Tucson, Ariz., native evolve into one of the sport’s smartest corners. There’s no lack of motivation into this 2022 season. Once more, Wallace was told he’s second rate. The Bills drafted Florida’s Kaiir Elam with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the draft.
Actions speak louder than words. The Bills are telling the world who the issue was that night at Arrowhead.
Fine by him. He wishes Elam well. He’s not stressing.
Nobody knows Levi Wallace better than the man himself.
Start with his game. What we see. It’s wrong to paint Wallace as a plucky underdog when he’s one of the best “off” cornerbacks in football. That is, he’s not the breed of corner to engage in any sort of bully ball on any sort of shutdown island. He wins with his brain. He sits a few yards off to read you, read the QB and mentally absorb the action in real time before pouncing.
It’s no secret why he slips through the cracks. As the adage rings, You can’t teach speed. Most all defensive connoisseurs believe they can coach up 4.3 speed. Wallace, however, has defied such logic. He dismisses the 40-yard dash as “BS” and claims that when people watch the tape — “and really analyze” — they realize he’s one of the smartest players on the field. His playmaking within a scheme comes naturally. There are exceptions. Tyreek Hill, for one, is the best player he has faced in his life and, frankly, leaves everyone in the dust. Most receivers who think they’re fast, however, aren’t toasting Wallace because it’s so hard for them to change direction on him.
Film helps, but it’s more of an in-game feel. Wallace can feel their speed to break before they break. Take the Bills’ win over the Seattle Seahawks two years ago. DK Metcalf ran an intergalactic 4.33 at his Combine — ridiculous with his musclebound 6-3, 228 frame — but harnessing that 4.33 into route running is more of a challenge. After a quarter or so, Wallace gained a feel for his speed.
“A guy that fast, he’s like stomping,” says Wallace, clomping his feet here to demonstrate. “He’s stomping when he’s about to break. I can read that. I’m breaking before he’s breaking because I can read it. By crunch time — third quarter, fourth quarter — I’ve already got you.”
He sees countless cornerbacks trying to press physical receivers like Metcalf, and that’s a death setence. They’ll throw you off, hit the gas, put that 40 time to use. Wallace usually decodes a receiver’s gameplan those first three steps. If they’re sprinting straight at him, damn right, he’s flipping his hips and sprinting. Otherwise, he’s staying in a disciplined backpedal. He’s shuffling. And he’s doing this while first reading the quarterback.
If it’s a three-step drop, the ball’s coming quick. A slant. A hitch. He knows he must close fast.
If it’s a seven-step drop, it’s likely play action. He’ll need to get on his high horse.
“It’s here,” says Wallace, pretending to look inside toward a QB, before turning them straight ahead, “and it’s here. Quick. And kind of peripheral, too. I’m looking here and I’m shuffling. I’ve got to get my eyes back to this receiver.”
When his eyes are back on the receiver, he’s anticipating those cuts. If he can, he’ll even glance at a nearby receiver to mentally process the larger route concept. Any clues, any tells caught on film are applied in real time.
His approach is cerebral and that’s a scary way to live. Get caught staring at that QB a millisecond too long and, peace. The receiver’s gone. You go viral for all the wrong reasons.
“That’s why you give yourself good space and you shuffle,” Wallace says. “You don’t just sit there and look. You’re backpedaling. But as soon as the quarterback stops — quick — my feet are stopping. And I’m getting ready to break. I don’t know where he’s going to break. When he stops, my eyes are back to you and my feet are stopped. Now, which way are you going? Are you going in? Are you stopping straight back down? Then it’s OK, how did you line up. What was your split? Were you lined up in the divider? Are you super wide — which means you want space inside? OK, how am I lined up? If I’m lined up inside, I can beat you to that spot. I’ve done that plenty of times, on film, just breaking on slants. Feeling it.”
Hearing Wallace dissect his job is something like Dennis Rodman breaking down the art of rebounding on the Last Dance, sans the lip ring.
This shuffling demands leg strength, too. With Tre’Davious White, the Bills’ No. 1 corner, Wallace started backpedaling 100 yards each practice. Now? He’s up to 300. Just this morning, Wallace got another 300 in because he knows the book on him as a read-and-react corner is out there. He has no choice but to sharpen his greatest strength.
Quarterbacks can sense weakness, too. A short memory is a must. This keeps Wallace lodged in a starting lineup as much as anything. His trick is to unstrap his gloves every time he’s on the sideline. He doesn’t take the gloves off but the tangible act of unstrapping them allows Wallace to completely leave the previous drive behind. Good or bad, it’s forgotten.
“The mind is a powerful thing,” Wallace says. “You can trick yourself into doing a lot of things.”
Of course, a sixth sense on the field alone isn’t what separates Levi Wallace. His mind became powerful for other reasons, too.
He never suppressed the trauma. By now, most know that Wallace lost his father to ALS when he was a freshman in college. Still, some days are harder than others. New decor inside his Arizona home helps him cope during the hard days. Wallace scrolls through the photos on his phone to show off two portraits he received for Christmas. There’s one of Levi, one of Walter and the similarities in their smiles? Uncanny.
Every so often, son wishes he could have a conversation with his father. It’s been eight years now and he can’t even remember the sound of his voice unless he watches a video.
“But,” Wallace adds, “the lessons are still there.”
Because those lessons were shared through action more than talk. He saw how hard Dad worked to provide for his family —never complaining — through his 21 years with the Air Force. He knows for certain this is instilled in him. Even though ALS is such a cruel disease with no cure, even as dad tried prepping his boy for his exit from the world, his death still caught Levi off-guard.
He always viewed Dad as “Superman.” He never pictured him dying.
“To wake up and find out he passed away,” he adds, “was gut-wrenching.”
Wallace was in Tuscaloosa by then. Growing up, that was his father’s dream for him — he wanted it more than Levi did. Until one day, it flipped. Until it became dad’s goal for his son just to graduate and he stopped caring if Levi played football or not. Walter didn’t encourage Levi to walk onto Nick Saban’s club, instead repeating three words: “You better graduate.” Maybe that was dad’s way of letting Levi down easy because no school at any level really gave a damn about him as a football player.
This zero-star recruit received zero offers from all levels of college football.
One NAIA school checked him out, but only offered a partial scholarship. The only school that came to chat in-person was North Dakota State and Wallace is pretty sure he screwed himself over that day. The visiting coach mentioned that they had won the national championship and Wallace was confused. Wallace said that he’s pretty sure Alabama won the championship, which seemed to visibly offend the coach. (Wallace didn’t know the difference between FCS and FBS.)
Walter received the diagnosis of ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, when his son was charting out this college path.
And Levi headed to Alabama where he started off playing nothing but intramural football during the fall.
Miles away, he could never grasp the day-to-day impact of ALS on his father in Tucson. Not like his mother and brother. Whenever he returned home, he did see Dad get “worse and worse.” Each time, Dad was smaller. Eventually, he was in a wheelchair and could not drive anymore but the one thing that never changed? “That great smile,” son says. Mentally, Dad was all there and he tried his hardest to talk to Levi a couple times a week… as slow, as difficult as that became. Whenever Walter started to get serious about his health, Levi would say he didn’t want to hear it. He’d tell his pops he was going to be around for years and years and, hey, let’s talk about this girl he just met on campus.
“I was in denial for a while,” Wallace says. “Now, it’s probably one of my biggest regrets.”
He never heard of ALS before, nor did Wallace attempt to educate himself. He’d only tell himself “He’ll be OK,” crack a joke with Dad and continue to live his best college life. So when the news hit, it hit like a ton of bricks. Walter died on April 18, 2014. Levi found out the morning of April 19 and — by then trying to make the actual football team — he decided to play on that same day in Alabama’s spring game. It’s what his father would’ve wanted. Levi believed he couldn’t sulk.
“I have emotions,” he adds, “but I know he’d want me to go out there and play football.”
These days, there are an infinite number of moments Wallace wishes he could call his father. Relationship questions. Football questions. And, to this day, he doesn’t know how to shave. He’d do anything to ask his father for advice both big and small. However, the tragedy did shape his worldview at a critical age: Wallace is overwhelmed with the need to give back. Helping people became far more fulfilling than winning a championship. After his Alabama team became champs in 2015 and 2017, Wallace remembers waking up the next day and asking, “Now what?”
That’s why he’s been so active with the ALS chapter in Western New York for four years. He tries to raise as much money as he can to fight the disease, auctioning off apparel. If he can help lessen the burden for suffering families by making their home wheelchair-accessible, Wallace wants to do it. He knows it can cost more than what’s available in that family’s bank account.
Many people have read about Wallace’s father and messaged him out of the blue. They share their struggle and always, he says, “it’s heartbreaking.”
His new foundation isn’t ALS-centric, either. Dad had “a heart for people” — he also started a daycare with his wife that still exists and is up to 100 kids — so Levi believes that passion was passed down to him. Turkey drives. Toy drives. Motivational talks. Raising money for scholarships. He has tried to change the lives of others every way he can. He only became a student at Alabama via the G.I. Bill. Far too many kids in Tucson don’t have the funds to attend college, so he wants 18-year-olds to have the ability to pursue whatever their passion is. Be it football or theater.
He also hopes his new football camp gives college coaches a reason to head to Tucson.
Wallace had seven interceptions as a high school junior but nobody cared. Nobody came to see him play and, to this day, he has no clue why. With a sense of pride, Wallace lists off a few names that’ve gotten opportunities since him: Bijan Robinson (Texas), Lathan Ransom (Ohio State) and Derick Bush (Coastal Carolina).
Then came one more awakening.
Last year, his marketing agent sent him 100 bags of Dot’s Pretzels. He ate one bag. And seeing no reason to keep 99 bags to himself, Wallace researched where the homeless population congregated near him. That Sunday, he headed off to a massive parking lot known as “Tent City” in Phoenix where — to his shock — there weren’t 99 homeless people here… there were at least 1,500. “Minimum,” he adds. Wallace could not in good conscience pull up with 99 bags and leave so many others without anything. The pain of telling anyone “I don’t have anymore” was too much, so he didn’t stop. He kept driving.
“It made me sick,” he says.
Feeling empty, Wallace phoned the Bills’ team chaplain, Len Vanden Bos. “What do I do?” he asked. “I can’t sleep. It’s upsetting me.” Vanden Bos recommended Wallace volunteer at the Buffalo City Mission when he returned to Western New York, and he did. For two weeks in July, Wallace sat down and listened to their stories.
It was not what he expected. One person told Wallace how she had never been homeless one day in her life. Her youngest child accidentally started a fire and, just like that, their house burnt down. She tried to give her family a sense of normalcy by living in a hotel room but soon all funds ran dry. They had no choice but to walk down the street, find a random foreclosed house and kick the door down to stay somewhere with a roof over their head.
They had no food, no water.
As a chef today, this woman is able to support her family. But she told Wallace that stories exactly like this one happen all the time. The chilling conversation implanted one thought inside Wallace’s mind: How many people are going through the same thing? To him, it only makes sense to give as much as humanly possible. Wallace feels like this is the only way to live and gets pissed at himself whenever he veers off track. The day prior to this chat, a man approached Wallace for money at a Target. In no mood to talk, Wallace told him he had no cash on him. He began driving away. Guilt set in. He drove back to find this person and hand him a $20 bill.
He's always paying for the person behind him at drivethroughs, even when that Starbucks cashier informs him it’s $40.
“We are called to help people,” Wallace says. “You never know what somebody else is going through.”
Words that weigh heavy over this lunch. Three days prior, a gunman killed 10 people at a Tops Friendly Markets in his previous city. Exactly one week later, another mass murderer would kill 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school. The nation is mourning and this is a familiar pain. Back at college, more tragedy struck on March 27, 2016 when Wallace’s best friend since the age of 5 (De’Antae Fuller) was shot multiple times and murdered in the parking lot of a Tucson apartment complex. Fuller was 20. Nobody knows the killer.
It’s not lost on Wallace that kindness is needed right now. He vows to never lose sight of the reality that football is only a game, and he’s called to do more. As the gravity of his father’s death set in — as he trekked closer to this realization — playing cornerback came easy.
So did proving the entire league wrong.
He’ll never forget those three days in the spring of 2018. Of course he expected to be drafted. Are you kidding? At the absolute highest of high levels — The SEC! Alabama! — Wallace had three interceptions, 48 tackles (4.5 for loss) and a conference-high 15 pass breakups.
A little pissed? His eyes get big.
“More than a ‘little,’” he assures.
Twenty-eight cornerbacks were selected on April 26, April 27 and April 28. Twenty eight. Denzel Ward got the party started at No. 4 overall to the Cleveland Browns. Keion Crossen brought it home at No. 243. A couple years later, eight of the 28 would be out of the NFL completely. Wallace was glued to the screen all weekend. “Who are these guys?” he wondered.
“I started seeing guys who played in weird divisions,” Wallace says. “I’m like, ‘Oh yeah? That’s what it is?’ It was a lot of pride. I shouldn’t be getting passed up by people like that. As I reflect now, it’s part of my story. Walking on. Going undrafted. It didn’t do anything but make me stronger. Where would I be now? Would I have the same fire and grit? I’m a hard worker. But would it piss me off when I’m working out? Would I still get pissed off the way I get pissed off?”
This revelation hits the bull’s eye.
We’re all a direct product of our experiences. If the road was smooth, if scholarships filled his mailbox, if he was incubated from all hardships, there’s a very good chance Wallace would be out of the NFL himself. He points out that both the Bills and Steelers also passed on him. “All 32 of them,” he emphasizes. Oh, some teams told Wallace they loved him during his Combine interviews. When it was time to put their money where their mouth was, the NFL declared this 6-foot, 179-pounder too slow in spandex to realistically compete on Sundays.
Save your “heart” and “grit” superlatives. When these words are brought up as traits teams failed to appreciate, Wallace cringes.
“Turn on the film. Whatever the 40 time is, show me a play where somebody’s running away from me. Show me one clip. Show me where I’m not big enough and strong enough to tackle in the SEC. Against these running backs. Show me where I missed tackles. I think people forget this is football, not the freakin’ Olympics.”
Quite obviously, all 32 failed to comprehend Wallace’s growth at Alabama. His first memory? Watching Amari Cooper in the weight room. He saw how hard the wide receiver worked and told himself he needed to do even more. Then, he guarded Cooper every day. Once Cooper left, he took on Calvin Ridley. Surrounded by 5-stars recruited since the embryonic stage of development, give or take a few months, Wallace was a playmaking machine. All he did was pick the ball off — constantly — and give Saban no choice but to take notice. The problem was grades. After his Dad passed, Wallace flat-out stopped going to class because all of those textbooks felt so trivial.
That’s when Saban invited Wallace into his office to say he’d give him a scholarship if his grades improved. Dad’s No. 1 goal for him ran through his mind, he hired a tutor, got that scholarship and made the SEC’s academic honor roll list.
After making the Bills’ squad, Wallace saw new faces cycle through the cornerback room nonstop. Buffalo has drafted six cornerbacks since 2018 and signed the likes of vets E.J. Gaines and Josh Norman. There’s always been bigger corners, faster corners. Beyond whatever flashes across ESPN, Wallace doesn’t study anybody else. Thus, he can’t compare his game to any other corner. He believes there are several ways to play the position and that he discovered a niche. True, not many corners rely this heavily on their brain. Not this young. Typically, you’ll see corners play off technique this much into their mid-30s.
Even as he started 57 games, it was never hard for Wallace to re-sharpen his edge.
After the Bills’ 15-10 loss to the New England Patriots last season, quarterback Mac Jones told him he’s lucky he didn’t throw the ball his way. Jones, of course, attempted all of three passes that night. Here, it doesn’t sound like Wallace interpreted it as a joke. He calls that dig “motivation.” Marinate this anger with the fact that everyone who plays for Buffalo possesses what he calls an “inherit hate for the Patriots” and, holy heck, Wallace could not wait for the rematch 20 days later.
He was mic’d up for this 33-21 Bills’ win, too, noting that the Bills’ media crew cut out his best stuff. F-bombs? “Possibly.” Some MF’ers? “It’s a rivalry.” Wallace does own the full, unedited footage for his personal collection… not that anyone can see it. He doesn’t want to throw off his good-guy image. On the field, he’s a different animal.
Losing White to a torn ACL didn’t hurt Buffalo nearly as much as it could’ve thanks to Wallace. He finished the year with 55 solo tackles, two picks and 11 breakups. If any quarterback for any team still wants to test him, Wallace welcomes it. The days of people viewing him as some sort of weak link are over. The more 4.4 corners from that ‘18 draft class evaporate from the NFL, the more Wallace’s 4.63 means nothing.
Scars from KC have evidently healed, too. He lacks zero confidence.
“If you try me early, and I knock the ball down early, it’s going to be a long day for you,” Wallace says. “You should probably stay away from my side.”
Granted, he asked for a hamburger instead of any one of Primanti’s loaded sandwiches. Right here sits a corner who had been with the Bills franchise since the dawn of this rebirth. Wallace was undoubtedly a major reason the Bills’ defense finished No. 1 in pass yards allowed, No. 1 in points allowed, and No. 1 in yards per play last season. There was always two ways for the front office to view him. Either, Wallace was part of what McDermott referred to as the team’s grandiose “story,” after 13 Seconds. Part of a future doc that chronicles the organization’s first-ever Super Bowl triumph because he is precisely the human being you want in your locker room in terms of personality, temperament, heart.
Or, he is an average football player. Or, this is the classic case of needing to challenge yourself to get better as a team.
The Bills chose the latter by letting Wallace walk to another AFC playoff team and drafting Elam. This may prove to be the difference between winning divisions and winning Super Bowls. This could also chip away at the team’s soul.
Initially, Wallace maintains he holds no grudges because, hey, “business is business.”
“If you want somebody else, it’s on you,” Wallace says. “You thought you made the best decisions you could make.”
Attempt to make a distinction between this spring of 2022 and that spring of 2018, ask if Wallace isn’t as pissed now as he was then, and… hold on now.
“I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that,” Wallace interrupts. “I just said I won’t take it personal today. When it’s time to go to Orchard Park, it might be a little personal. Football is an emotional sport.”
The Steelers travel to Buffalo on Oct. 9.
Again, Wallace makes it clear that everyone else was more surprised by the team’s snub than him.
“Year after year, it’s what they’ve done,” Wallace says. “They’ve tried to replace me year after year. Why would this year be any different?”
He can’t even verbalize the peanuts contract that the Bills offered him, only mumbling “It wasn’t… it wasn’t… anywho…” Wallace thanked both McDermott and Beane for the opportunity to play in the NFL. It hurt more to leave those other DBs he had been with since that 6-10 season in ‘18. They built a college-like camaraderie through three straight playoff runs. Firsthand, he saw the expectations in the entire region morph from hoping and praying to sneak into the playoffs to Super Bowl-or-Bust.
And with one loud “Ooo!” Wallace stands up in pain. Those 300 yards of backpedaling give him a throbbing charley horse and this is easily the worst one he’s had in months. Wallace stands up, cups a hand over the baseball-sized muscle spasm, walks around like the tin man and scans all nearby tables for a bottle of mustard. Yes, mustard. Wallace insists this works far faster than bananas to alleviate this pain.
With none to be found, he asks the (confused) server for some and sucks back eight mustard packets.
The worst charley horses strike when he’s asleep. Many nights, Wallace crawls to his refrigerator for mustard and, gosh, he doesn’t even enjoy mustard. But it works. So does pickle juice.
“When you’ve been an athlete as long as I have,” he says, “you find ways.”
Within a few minutes, this charley horse subsides.
Such is the story of his football life. Levi Wallace always finds a way. Pittsburgh feels like where he’s supposed to be. He was eager to play for Mike Tomlin, a head coach known for churning out the best corners in the sport. He cannot predict what’s coming in 2022 because, as he says, this part of the movie hasn’t been written yet. When Wallace spoke at length with The Athletic last January, he indicated that there is one chip to his shoulder that cannot be revealed quite yet. He said then it was “real deep” and, no, he’s still not ready to go there.
Shaking his head, Wallace only assures that it is not related to Dad or ‘Bama or Buffalo. It’s what he calls “the last little thing keeps me going.” Just know it’s on his mind all the time every day.
One day he promises to put it in a book.
He’s in control of this narrative, too. Those 13 seconds, be damned.
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Tremendous read, Ty. Great subject, especially for the readership. A fascinating guy all around.
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