Nov. 29, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. -
“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!”
For senior offensive lineman Andrew Wallace, the quote represents his outlook on life and defines his football career. Wallace was cut from his middle school football team in seventh grade, and remembers it only making him work twice as hard.
“I started playing football in eighth grade, I got cut my seventh grade year and I’ve been playing every since,” Wallace said. “I just worked really hard to make the team. I was never able to play pop-warner because of the league restrictions, so it really bothered me that when it was my time to play I didn’t make the team.”
Wallace’s hard work between middle school and high school paid off when he was offered a scholarship to NC State to play football. He was a highly touted prospect coming out of Olympic High School in Charlotte, N.C., after claiming numerous honors.
The lineman was named team captain as a senior, earned Queen City all-conference honors as a junior and senior, All-Mecklenburg honors as a senior and was also named to the 3A all-state team.
The Charlotte native decided to commit to NC State because of the new coaching staff in place and the direction the program was heading. He was a member of the recruiting class after Coach O’Brien’s inaugural season.
“I decided to commit here because I thought Coach O’Brien had the program going in a positive direction, with all of the resources available to be successful,” said Wallace.
As a senior on the team this year, Wallace realizes the leadership that he plays within the offensive line and on the team as a whole. Fortunately for Wallace, he has other senior leadership in his counterparts Cam Wentz and R.J. Mattes.
“It’s been great being a senior on the team this year. This team has a lot of seniors which is great so we have a lot of leadership.”
Wallace redshirted his freshman campaign before seeing action in every contest as a redshirt-freshman, including making a couple of starts at left tackle against Gardner-Webb and Maryland. He recalls his redshirt sophomore season being the best of his time here as a member of the Wolfpack football team.
“That season was a really good one for me even though I got hurt at the end of the season,” Wallace said. “The Champs Sports bowl was a really memorable experience for me. I got hurt in the practices leading up to the game, but we still had a great time and we won.”
Unfortunately, Wallace suffered a knee injury in the practices leading up to the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl and was unable to play. During the regular season, he started all 12 games at left guard. His 773 snaps for the season were among the highest totals on the team.
Wallace says that offensive line coach Jim Bridge, has really helped in his development both in the running game and pass protection. The blocking schemes in the Pack’s offense are complex at times, but the coaching staff has instructed the linemen on their roles based on the defensive package.
“My success starts with the coaching staff,” said Wallace. “They get us in the right positions and teach us the right technique. As athletes its up to us to make plays after we receive all the instruction from the coaches. We have to know where to go and who to block each play.”
Blocking in general is very tough and it becomes even more challenging when you mix in the different rotations of the defensive lines. Also, linebackers will delay blitzes to confuse the offense. The advantage of the offense is that they know the snap count of the play and where they should be sliding their protections.
“We get the play in the huddle, then we walk up to the line and read the defensive coverage,” Wallace said. “We communicate the coverage to everyone on the line so we’re all on the same page. If we have to make a change in the blocking scheme after the play has been called, then Cam (Wentz) will call it out and we will adjust.”
The senior says that ‘pulling’ is his favorite part of blocking. In these scenarios, an offensive lineman leaves his original spot on the line to run and get in front of a ball carrier to block in open space. The linemen essentially form a protective wall in front of the running back to create more running room.
“I’ve always enjoyed pulling as a blocker. I’m pretty quick, so I get off the ball well and get in front of the play,” said Wallace. “Also, you’re usually going up against a smaller opponent so it’s nice to get a break from blocking the defensive tackles, ends and linebackers.
“The only downside to that is the defensive backs are usually a lot quicker than the lineman so they try to go around us and are tougher to square up on a block.”
While Wallace loves the art of pulling and run blocking, he realizes that pass protection is also another essential element of an offensive lineman. Figuring out a way to block opposing lineman without getting flagged for a penalty is often difficult.
“Our first responsibility is protecting the quarterback. If we keep the quarterback clean than he is able to make his reads and deliver the ball accurately,” said Wallace. “We also have to make holes for the running backs to make their job easier. It feels great when you have a running back run through the hole you just created and break a big run.”
Since his redshirt freshman season, Wallace has been listed as a starter on the offensive line heading into the fall practice. Disappointingly for Wallace, injuries have plagued his football career.
“I got hurt during my redshirt sophomore and unfortunately I wasn’t able to return as early as I wanted to in 2011,” said Wallace.
The injury bug once hit Wallace in the Citadel game, as he suffered a foot injury that forced him to miss action in the next few contests. He returned to action in the game against Virginia and started the past three games at left guard.
A science, technology and society major, he recalls how great his undergraduate experience has been. After graduation, Wallace is not sure what exactly he wants to do, but says that supporting himself is a top priority.
“NC State has been a great place to be as a student. Unfortunately I’ve had some injuries in football, but overall it’s been great.”
The atmosphere at Carter-Finley Stadium has also been something that Wallace has enjoyed throughout his tenure as a member of the team. The adrenaline rush he gets from walking through the tunnel and hearing the fans cheering always makes him excited for the start of the game.
“The fans here are great. I love running out the tunnel with all the fans cheering to all the fireworks. The students are always beating on the canopy above the tunnel and it just shows us how much they care about the game. Our fans are great and the advantage we have when we play at home is great.”