Levi Wallace has heard the underdog narrative before. He has grown accustomed to being overlooked, yet proven time and time again he shouldn’t be.
Wallace was an unknown recruit out of Tucson, AZ, and had to claw his way onto an Alabama roster stacked with four- and five-star defensive backs like Marlon Humphrey, Trevon Diggs and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Two years after Wallace made the roster through an on-campus tryout, Tide head coach Nick Saban awarded the cornerback with a scholarship in 2016.
Wallace responded by playing his way to the top of the depth chart and became a full-time starter in his senior season. He shined with 59 total tackles (4.5 for loss), 2.0 sacks and a team-leading 15 pass breakups and added three interceptions, one for a 66-yard touchdown.
Even after having success as a walk-on at a university with Alabama’s pedigree, Wallace had to prove himself in the NFL ranks. He was projected to go in the late rounds of the 2018 NFL draft but never heard his name called.
The Buffalo Bills signed Levi Wallace as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and, over four seasons, started all 55 games he’d played in (including playoffs). He ranks fifth in regular-season starts by any undrafted defender.
Read More From Heavy
Place a ‘No Sweat First Bet’ on the NBA This Summer
In 52 regular-season starts, Wallace brought down six interceptions, 30 defended passes, a fumble recovery and 219 total tackles.
Yet the Bills repeatedly tried to replace Wallace through the draft or free agency, but he kept holding on to the starting spot opposite Tre’Davious White. When White went down with a season-ending ACL injury in November, Wallace stepped up big and was a significant reason the Bills’ defense finished first in pass yards allowed, points allowed, and yards per play in 2021.
Buffalo didn’t want to pay Wallace accordingly this offseason, so the Pittsburgh Steelers took advantage. They offered him an offer when he went undrafted in 2018, but Wallace chose Buffalo. Hours after the free agency window opened in March, Pittsburgh snapped him up.
Now Wallace is faced with replacing Joe Haden, a challenge he’s more than willing to tackle.
“I walked on at Alabama, and nobody expected me to start there, win a championship, or get a scholarship,” Wallace said in his first press conference as a Pittsburgh Steeler. “It’s just the same here. I’ve got a fighter’s mentality and a fighting spirit. I look forward to challenges. This is another chapter, another challenge. I’m looking forward to taking it on.”
Levi Wallace felt slighted by the team that once believed in him. He’s classy enough not to disclose the lowball figure the Buffalo Bills offered him to stay, and he’s not surprised by it, either.
“Year after year, it’s what they’ve done,” Wallace told Tyler Dunne of Go Long in May. “They’ve tried to replace me year after year. Why would this year be any different?”
Wallace will have to use that chip on his shoulder as he always has when the Pittsburgh Steelers go to Buffalo in Week 5. Josh Allen will throw in Wallace’s direction every chance he gets.
“When it’s time to go to Orchard Park, it might be a little personal. Football is an emotional sport.”