Richard Davenport has been a recruiting columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2007.
Wallace and parents are proud Razorbacks
Offensive lineman Brian Wallace Jr. signs an autograph for a young fan after the U.S. Army All American game.
After months of the recruiting process, offensive lineman Brian Wallace Jr. was relieved when he announced his commitment to Arkansas on national television at the U.S. Army All American game on Jan. 4.
“I feel like I have a lot of weight is off my shoulders,” said Wallace, who along with his parents officially visited Arkansas on Dec. 7.
Wallace, 6-6, 304, 5.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of St. Louis Christian Brothers College High is considered one of the top prospects in the nation and is rated a 4-star prospect by national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network. He chose the Razorbacks over Alabama, Iowa and Missouri after visiting all four schools.
He said being able to hang out his host and offensive lineman Dan Skipper and other players had an impact on his decision.
”They accepted me into their circle,” Wallace said.
Wallace said Skipper gave him a good idea of what life is like as a Razorback.
“He told me Arkansas is a good place and everything thing he said was actually true,” said Wallace, who visited Fayetteville with his father during the summer. “We kind of hit it off even more the second time because I got to hang out with him even more. I hung out with him and his roommates and other people from the team.”
Wallace Sr. said he and his wife, Leslie wanted their son to make the most informed decision possible.
“One of the things that we always promoted in regards to Brian in the decision making process was that you don’t want to be one of these guys going back-and-forth and doing all kinds of other stuff,” Brian Wallace Sr. said. “This is the reason why we had him to go on all those official visits in order to make a solid decision.’’
After visiting Arkansas, Leslie Wallace said she now knows what Coach Bret Bielema means when talking about wanting uncommon men in the program.
“I never knew what it meant into it until now,” she said. “The whole staff, the whole program, they’re a great bunch of people. When I was there I really had a wonderful time.”
She believes Bielema and his staff look out for the best interest of the players.
“You can tell he really cares about his players and he’s really trying to develop them and to be the best,” Leslie Wallace said. “But what really impressed me about Bielema and Sam Pittman and all the others on the coaching staff that we met it wasn’t about business, it is, but it isn’t. They really seem to be sincere and really care about their players.”
“I know the recruiting process is something they’re suppose to be doing, but they seem to really, really care about Brian and genuinely really wanted him on their team. They really established a very good relationship with him to the point he was so comfortable that he wanted to be a part of that family and I couldn’t agree more. I just love the way they made us feel and it was genuine. I wasn’t ready to leave.”
Wallace Jr. said he heard good things about Pittman and was able to experience it firsthand.
“I believe he’s pretty good coach from what he showed me,” Wallace Jr. said. “As a person, he’s awesome. He’s funny and he’s easy to get along with him. He’s just a great person all around.”
Arkansas’ offensive line statistics were among the best in the SEC and featured two Freshman All Americans in Skipper and Denver Kirkland. A chance to play and enhance the offensive line play was on Wallace’s mind.
“That actually did come to my mind,” Wallace Jr. said. “That was actually a factor for me. I can help build something into greatness, so that did come into my mind.”
His teammate, defensive lineman Armon Watts committed to the Hogs in August, but didn’t play a role in his decision.
“I talked about this with my parents and they said don’t decide where to go just because some someone like a friend is going there,” Wallace Jr. said. “The thought of having him there with me at school was nice.”
While at the Army All American game, Wallace Jr. became friends with Hog defensive line commitment Bijhon Jackson. After the game, Wallace Sr. was able to meet Jackson and was very impressed.
“In just within five seconds of talking to him, I could tell he’s a very decent young man,” Wallace Sr. said of Jackson. “Brian was already talking about I got a new roommate. So he’s already picking. He’s already talked to Armon. He hasn’t had a chance to talk to Rafe Peavey, but he’s talked to Armon and Bijhon. The way Brian introduced me to Bijhon was ‘Hey this is my new roommate’. “
Leslie Wallace said Marcus Sedberry, director of student-athlete development gave them insight to his program.
“He touched on different sections in a book on how he runs his program and what they do for their students,” she said. “It’s just amazing to me.”
A panel of Hog players gave Wallace and his parents an idea of what it’s like being a student-athlete at Arkansas.
“They just did a good job of answering your questions,” Leslie Wallace said. “They didn’t mind doing it and didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get out of it. They just seem like a bunch a great young men.”
Leslie Wallace, who accompanied her husband and son all the official visits expect for Iowa, believes her son will be in good hands over the next four or five years.
“Arkansas stood out to me,” she said. “I do believe Brian will be well taken care of. He can go to any of those coaches, go to anyone in the academic development office if he has a problem and if he just wants to talk. I believe he’ll be able to do that.”
While Wallace Sr. and Jr. were on their way back home after the Army All American game, Leslie decided to open a Twitter account.
“I wanted to see what people were saying,” Leslie Wallace said. “It was awesome, it was really awesome.”
She’s pleased with her son’s decision to be a Razorback.
“Even though we told Brian it was his choice and we helped guide him to make a good decision for himself and I believe he did and I’m happy with his decision,” Leslie Wallace said. “I’m excited. I’m really going to look forward to going on road trips with my husband and anybody else that wants to come along and see him play and be in that environment again.”