Experts share advice with campers
Published 5:45 pm Monday, June 4, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s not a complicated life philosophy, but it’s one that’s worked pretty well for Steve Wallace.
The 53-year-old Wallace has accomplished great things in his life, most notably on the football where he won three Super Bowl championships as an offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers.
Wallace, speaking to the assembled boys and girls at the West Georgia Superstar Football Camp on Friday evening at Callaway Stadium, shared a moment from early in his life that he believes helped shape the person he would become.
Wallace is one of the many former college and NFL players who has helped out at the camp over the years.
“When I first went to school, I was afraid,” Wallace said, using his booming voice and charisma to hold the attention of the campers. “I kind of hid from everybody, because I wanted all my friends around me to like me. I was really a chicken at heart. I was afraid to stand up on my own two feet and do the right things that I was supposed to do. I thought you went to school to play. And then one day, I heard a gentleman come in and talk about giving it your all. He told me simply to try, in everything I did.”
That was a point Wallace drove home consistently during the few minutes he was speaking.
“What’s the most important thing,” Wallace would ask repeatedly.
The response from the campers, “to try.”
Wallace is someone who never let up in life, and that commitment was evident on the football field.
Wallace starred at Chamblee High School in DeKalb County, and he then went on to excel at Auburn University.
In the NFL, Wallace was one of the best offensive linemen in the league, and he was a part of three championship teams with the 49ers while protecting Joe Montana and Steve Young.
While Wallace was clearly blessed with certain physical tools, he believes his willingness to listen to those who were willing to help him was a critical part of his success.
“Set goals for yourself,” Wallace said. “I want to be a better person. I want to do the things my parents asked me to do, my coaches asked me to do. More than anything, what my teacher asked me to do. If we can do those things, you can do all these things that these gentlemen (the other instructors at the camp talk about doing in life.”
Wallace, pointing to the other instructors, many of whom played college football and in the NFL, said “all of these guys are stars because they worked their butt off. No one can stop you from learning. Nobody, but yourself.”
Many of the instructors share a connection as former Auburn football players, and that includes a man who had a powerful testimony to share.
Victor Hall was a tight end for Auburn, and his primary claim to fame was his nine-catch performance in the 1990 Peach Bowl against Indiana.
Hall went on to play professional football in the NFL, the Arena Football League and NFL Europe.
After his playing days were done, Hall earned a master’s degree as well as a PhD, and he became a school principal before going into coaching, and he’s in his first season as the offensive coordinator at Middle Georgia State University.
Hall achieved all of that, and his resume is long and distinguished, after nearly dying as a junior in high school.
Hall shared that memory, that cautionary tale, with the campers on Friday.
“I was in the 11th grade, during the spring break,” Hall recalls. “I was the number one defensive end in the nation, and the number two running back in the nation. Emmitt Smith was number one.”
Hall remembers some friends of his asking him to go out one evening, and against his mother’s wishes, that’s what he did.
“I told my mom, I’ll be back,” Hall said. “She said, you don’t need to go nowhere. At 12 my mom got a phone call. Your son is in the hospital. I had a car accident and got my left ear cut off. I died twice in the hospital.”
The surgeons reattached Hall’s ear, but he was faced with nearly six months of rehab and he underwent multiple operations.
For Hall, there was a happy ending.
“I was fortunate that the colleges were looking at me were giving me a chance,” Hall said. “So I went on to Auburn. I had a chance to get my education.”
The accident drove home a few things for Hall.
Number one, as he told the campers, parents know best.
“My mom told me not to leave that night,” Hall said. “I disobeyed my mom. And I’m sure everybody here has done it to their parents, disobeyed them. I’m telling you, it’ll come back.”
Secondly, the accident was a stark reminder to Hall that a person’s life as an athlete can end in an instant.
Hall was able to return to the field and remain an elite player, but his life could have easily taken a different path.
“It doesn’t matter what sports you play,” Hall said. “In an instant, it can be taken away from you. But the education part can not.”
Ron Stallworth, who was a defensive lineman at Auburn, offered a similar sentiment when it was his turn to speak to the campers.
Stallworth spoke of the importance of “pushing yourself out there every day.”
“It’s not only pushing yourself in sports, but in the classroom,” Stallworth said. “Just because you play sports doesn’t mean you have to be average or below average in the classroom. Education is what’s going to carry you for the rest of your life. Education is what we all need. Be willing to learn.”
Stallworth, who is a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch in Montgomery, Ala., added that “the (decisions) you make today will affect your tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after. The decisions I made 18 years ago I’m paying for today. Some of them are good. Some of them aren’t. You’ve got to learn from them.”
Another member of the Auburn club is Gerald Robinson, who was a big-play defensive lineman for the Tigers in the 80s.
Robinson went on to play in the NFL after he was taken in the first round of the 1986 draft by the Vikings.
Robinson’s message to the campers was about the importance not just of setting goals, but of creating a way to achieve them.
“I don’t know anybody in this world who planned to fail,” Robinson said. “But I know a lot of people who failed to plan. That’s where the problems come in.”
Robinson added that “if you believe in yourself, don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do. I hate when somebody says you can’t do this or can’t do that.”
Alex Smith, who was a running back at Auburn and in the NFL, keyed in on the importance of doing things the right way, on the field and off.
“When you start a job and do a task, do it right and do it to the best of your ability,” Smith said.
Smith, who owns his own cargo service, added that “a positive attitude, that’s the number one thing.”