Abraham Wallace to Texas Tech: Former LSU DB makes ‘business decision’ for future
The difficulty of the decision continued to weight visibly on Abraham Wallace’s mind even in his final hours before moving away from the only hometown he’s ever known.
Three years at LSU have been a childhood dream come true against the odds for the local small-school product.
But, with two years of eligibility remaining, Wallace couldn’t help but feel his best opportunity for the future lay 11 hours away from Baton Rouge — at Texas Tech.
“It was always my dream to play at LSU, so any time you have to leave a place that you truly love, it’s always hard,” he said Thursday night, playing with his freshly bleached hair. “It took me a lot of time thinking, because it was like, ‘Should I follow my dreams or make a business move?’
“Just leaving all my friends, all the people from the training staff to the equipment managers, all the people I developed great relationships with, it was hard for me to just walk away from that. And just playing in Tiger Stadium, that’s 100,000 people every week. DBU. All of that. I mean, it was very hard.
“But when I sat down and just looked at the facts, I had to make the business move.”
Wallace officially received his bachelor’s in general business from the university Aug. 4, allowing him the potential to transfer to another program as a graduate student.
Baton Rouge remained his primary focus, but was not his only option.
“I wanted to give it a chance at LSU and see how things would go this fall,” he said. “And when I could see that I had a better opportunity somewhere else, I wanted to pursue that.”
Teammates admitted they were surprised last week when the 6-foot-0, 189-pound defensive back announced his intentions to transfer with a Twitter post he said brought tears to his eyes.
The walk-on played in seven contests in 2016, primarily on special teams, and tallied a lone tackle as a redshirt sophomore.
Four standouts from that secondary — Jamal Adams, Dwayne Thomas, Rickey Jefferson and Tre’Davious White — either graduated or left college early for the NFL.
And some strides Wallace has made during his LSU career, such as his physical stature alone, are clear.
But Wallace received mixed signals about how much playing time he might see this fall and — more importantly — whether he might ever become a scholarship player for the Tigers.
After a conversation Tuesday with coach Ed Orgeron, he decided leaving his dream school behind might be his best overall route.
“I want my master’s,” Wallace said. “The business side of it was, ‘OK, I’m gonna walk-on, and the worst-case scenario here is I don’t ever play.’ The worst-case scenario someplace else is, ‘I don’t play.’ But the difference was if I decided to stay here, I would be building up a whole lot of student debt by not having a scholarship. And if I was to go somewhere else, I would be steadily putting money in my pocket.
“So that was one of the major things, because I know how it is to get hurt. And I know that I’m one injury away from a bad situation.”
Wallace completed his high school career at nearby Dunham as an underrated college prospect that saw his opportunities take a late hit when he suffered a knee injury in the Tigers’ playoff loss at Catholic-New Iberia.
“The last high school game of my senior year, in the playoffs, on about the second play, I went in on a blitz,” he said. “Tore my ACL.”
A role as a preferred walk-on at dream school LSU was one of his few remaining options.
Wallace expressed gratitude to then-coach Les Miles and his staff — particularly recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson, now the head coach at Texas-San Antonio, and defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, still in Baton Rouge — for taking even that chance on him.
But the obstacles weren’t finished just yet.
“I rehabbed up and was ready to go for the summer, that summer going to LSU,” he remembered. “And when we did the physicals going into camp, I got mine back, and it said that my ACL never really, truly repaired, so I had to have a second surgery on my ACL. So it was really all one injury, but it took a year and a half total to rehab.”
Wallace took lessons from the unfortunate slow start.
One in particular stuck with him as he considered his options for graduate school.
“It taught me something can change any day,” he explained. “Like, the reason I would be staying at LSU would be that I really love to play in Tiger Stadium. But that can be taken away one day in practice.
“So that played a role, because I want to have security and have a Plan B. My Plan B is getting my master’s degree. It’s going to school, getting the best education. But if I were to stay here, then my Plan B, I would be having to pay for that out of my pocket.”
The heavy contemplation gave way to a bit of a whirlwind.
But only one program ever gained much traction.
Wallace immediately contacted Texas Tech associate head coach Jabbar Juluke, who joined the Red Raiders in February after spending last season on the LSU staff.
“Once I got my release papers and decided to go forward, I gave him a call, and he told me it was all good,” Wallace said. “Him being up there gave me a familiar face, because the last four years I’ve been pretty much around one group of guys, so me not being around them anymore, I would be kind of nervous had there not been someone I had a previous relationship with.”
Juluke played college football at Southern University with Abraham’s father, Sean Wallace — a Southern University Sports Hall-of-Famer and former SWAC Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’ve known Juluke since before I even decided to play football,” Abraham said.
Mississippi State, SMU, Texas and Texas A&M were the other most notable schools he said he considered, “but I couldn’t go to the SEC.”
Wallace needed less than a day to decide to join Juluke in Lubbock, Texas.
He announced his intention to transfer Wednesday evening, booked his flight Thursday night and was en route Friday.
This weekend marked Wallace’s first-ever trip to Lubbock.
All of his expectations come from Juluke, a pair of former Texas Tech players now in Baton Rouge and a 2015 AdvoCare Texas Bowl matchup.
“With the bowl games, you have a lot of time to prep for teams and get to watch a lot of film on ’em,” he said. “So with the film that I watched of their offense, I could tell they have a lot of firepower and they’re gonna sling the ball around.
“And I have two teammates of mine (defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko and wide receiver Jonathan Giles) who have transferred from Texas Tech. They told me it’s gonna be different than LSU. The style of play over there is more offensive-oriented, and over here’s more defensive-oriented. And there’s not as many eyes watching. But all in all it’s gonna be a great experience.”
The Red Raiders ranked No. 125 among 128 Football Bowl Series teams in 2016 in passing yards allowed with 315.8 yards per game.
Their 13.98 yards allowed per completion ranked No. 126.
“I’m expecting for (Big 12 opponents) to throw the ball a lot, so a lot of opportunities for me to get my hands on the ball,” he said. “I know their defense is trying to improve, so I think I can being some leadership in that area. I’ve never been to Lubbock, but we’ll see. But with the football team, the opportunity is there.”
Wallace knows that plenty of work remains now to learn Texas Tech’s schemes and play-calling.
But he hopes to transition quickly and make an impact sooner than later.
“I’m excited because I know the amount of things I’ve learned here from all the great players I’ve been around here that have helped me out — from Jamal to Shaq (White) to Dwayne, all those guys,” he said. “I just wanna take what I’ve learned here and take it with me where I go, so I can show everybody that I am a good player.”
Even in the 24 hours following his initial announcement, Wallace had heard the criticisms and question marks.
“A couple people have asked me, ‘Man, why would you leave right now?’ You’ve worked this hard to get this far up,'” he said. “A lot of people are supportive of my decision, but some people ask me, ‘Why would you leave when you were just about to play? You were moving up the depth chart. Why would you leave now?’ But I just had to make the decision for myself.”
With the counsel and support of his family, Wallace always had.
He remembers plenty questions of his decision to attend LSU three years ago.
“Even when I was in high school and I said I was gonna go to LSU, people said, ‘That’s too big. Don’t go to LSU. They’re gonna bring in five-star recruits every year. You’re never gonna see the field,'” he said. “Then once I got to LSU and started to practice, all my teammates were like, ‘Man, they’re not gonna give you a chance here. Man, you need to transfer.’ So, by me being able to go to LSU and even play the little bit that I did, I view it as a success and that I proved a lot of people wrong.”
Wallace said he will keep an eye on the Tigers as much as he is able.
“A lot of those guys are my friends and my brothers outside of football,” he said. “So even though I won’t be there with them, I’ll be cheering ’em on, because I want what’s best for them.”
Expectations of a strong season makes his departure all the more difficult.
Wallace ultimately couldn’t ignore the reasons that, to his and others’ surprise, pointed him away from his hometown and dream school.
But he said he’ll also never forget the experience and its impact on his life.
“Man, when I look at the time at LSU and I look at me coming in with a torn ACL, nobody really wanted me, and from coach Miles to coach Frank, Juluke, Raymond, they helped mold me into a guy that has the ability to go play major college football,” Wallace said. “So when I look back at that, I’m very appreciative and grateful for it. I got the opportunity to get my degree, and I developed a lot of great relationships while I was there. To fulfill my dream of playing at LSU meant the world to me, because at one point when I started playing my junior year, it was such a far-fetched deal for me.
“When you look at certain moments in time, like as a junior in high school, the ultimate goal was to get to LSU. And I believed that I could, but at the same time, I couldn’t. And there were times when I first got here when it was like, ‘I wanna have a scholarship,’ and I just couldn’t believe it because it was so far-fetched. And now me going to another school, I’m gonna have that opportunity to play. At one time, it seemed so far-fetched.
“But I think each moment helped build me for the next, coming from a small school, going to a big school, then from not playing at a big school to getting ready to contribute to another school. It has all pretty much molded me.”
Jerit Roser can be reached at Jerit@DatBoot.com.