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Tabari Wallace – A Picture of Pirate Perseverance


Pirate Time Machine No. 1

With Ron Cherubini
©2001 Bonesville.net

Like many ECU football fans, it is hard for me to think of the 1994-97 era without thinking of one particular player who truly epitomizes the never-say-die, against-all-odds mindset that has served the football program so well over the decade of the ‘90s.

Tabari "Snoop" Wallace walked his way into Pirate lore by reminding the Pirate faithful that if you want something bad enough and are willing to work hard enough, great things can happen. Along the way, Wallace turned out to be a pretty good football player. So much so that today, the 6-0, 185-pound defensive back is still playing football and still chasing his dream of playing in the National Football League.

Wallace was an exceptional prep athlete when he roamed the defensive backfield at New Bern High School in the early ‘90s. College coaches were aware of him, but he had a couple factors working against him. First, he was a bit of a feather merchant, tipping the scales in the low 160s, and second, he played with the likes of Brian Simmons, Jeremy McDaniel, and Stacey Whitehead— all Division I recruits and two still playing in the NFL.

“(ECU) was looking at me when I was at New Bern, but I was just 165 pounds," explained Wallace. "I was overshadowed by Brian and Stacy, but it's because of them coaches also saw me... But I was like, saying, ‘Damn it, I’m going to play football.’ Coach (Steve) Logan basically told me to come on in and work out and we’d see what happened from there.”

Wallace made good on his promise to himself, earning a scholarship in his red shirt freshman season. After both Hart twins went down to injury against Central Florida and a trip to the Liberty Bowl hung in the balance, the smallish walk-on “Snoop” Wallace intercepted a pass sent his way, ensuring a win in the closing moments of the game— leaving an instant-lasting impression. The rest, as they say, is history as Wallace went on to earn a starting position his junior year and finished as one of the great stories of Pirate perseverance paying off.

Today, Wallace is the same guy, driving toward a new set of goals. He is a little older at 25 and a little wiser with a B.A. in physical rehabilitation and a Master’s degree in the same discipline. He is presently working towards yet another Master’s Degree in Education, and is no less driven to attain his dreams despite the seeming mountain before him.

“The feeling that you have really succeeded is greater when you had to walk on, when you weren’t supposed to be a real player,” said Wallace. “That is a great feeling because of all the people around, you had to believe in yourself more to succeed.”

Snoop’s belief in himself took the defensive back on a roller coaster ride of a football career since he last strapped on his Pirate gear. After graduation, he sat through the NFL draft, thinking he might hear his name as a late rounder, but ultimately was disappointed.

A phone call did come that day, however, as he signed a free-agent deal with Pittsburgh and headed off, once again, to prove himself. What he learned was more than he ever imagined.

“You learn right away why (pro players) get paid the big bucks,” he said. “Every day is a war out there," he explained, "every minute is structured. I was waived on the second cut down after Chad Scott blew out his knee and (the Steelers) decided that they needed a veteran. I tried to catch on with another team, but that late in camp it is difficult. I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I went back to get my Master’s.”

It wasn’t long before he was at it again, this time in the Arena League II. Lifelong friend and co-Pirate Whitehead was playing in Peoria, Illinois and called Wallace.

“He told me that he had been talking me up to the coach,” he said. “Stacey told me that they were looking for DBs. Coach (Bruce) Cowdry saw the one tape I sent him and the next thing I know, I’m on a plane for Peoria.”

Wallace quickly learned that to succeed in AII, you really had to love the game because you weren’t going to make a load of dough.

“That was a huge change from where I had just left,” he said. “You make a nice chunk of change in an NFL camp, enough to run me for a year. It isn’t like that in the Arena League (II). But, it is a good developmental league.”

Strong performances in Peoria begat a three-year offer from an expansion club in the Arena League first division with the Houston Thunderbears last year, where the payoff is two-fold. First, the pay is enough to live a little better; second, in the wake of St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner’s jump to the NFL, the Arena I league has become a picking ground for NFL clubs.

“The Texans called me and I plan on being in camp for next season. I was ecstatic. I’m going to make this one. Now, I just got to prepare, use everything I learned in Pittsburgh,” he said. “I haven’t given up on playing in the NFL, not at all.”

In the interim, as he has over the past two seasons during the Arena off season, Wallace is a coach at New Bern High School, serving as defensive backs coach. The coaching means a great deal to Wallace, who takes great joy in watching kids who love the game.


Tabari "Snoop" Wallace. Photo by Chris Whitford.

“It really reinforces the game in me,” he remarked. “Coaching… it’s great. You look at these kids on Friday night and it just kills me. You see them make a play and you know, ‘there it is, they really got it that time.’ Of course, it also gets at you because you just want to go out there and play. Show them everything you have been trying to teach them.

“I think being close to their age and still playing helps. Players hate it when a coach never played. They want to question that coach because they don’t know if he really knows what they are feeling, from a player’s angle.”

Talking to Wallace, you get the feeling that he wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he weren’t completely busy. To that end, he is in Graduate School, again. He is coaching. And, as always, he is training, training, training— in preparation for another season of Arena I and, somewhere out there, another shot at his dream.

“If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be because I didn’t give it everything I had.”
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TABARI WALLACE BIO BOX
Photo by Chris Whitford.Name:

Tabari "Snoop" Wallace

Houston Thunderbears

Age:

25
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Sport:

Football
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Years at ECU:

1994-97
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Position/Jersey No.

Defensive Back/ No. 28
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Hometown:

New Bern, NC
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Currently Resides:

Greenville, NC
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Occupation:

  • Professional Football Player (Houston Thunderbears of the Arena League I)

  • High School Football Coach/Administrator (New Bern High School)

ECU Degree(s)
  • BA Rehabilitation

  • MA Physical Rehabilitation

  • M Ed ongoing

Marital Status:

Single
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Photo by Chris Whitford.
Photo by Chris Whitford.

TEN QUESTIONS

1. Who is your favorite current Pirate and Why?

“I gotta go with David (Garrard). You know, he was there when I was there and he was the scout team quarterback. We tore his little fat tail up back then. But, he’s got something. That Pirate pride.”
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2. What do you miss most about ECU?

“I miss the atmosphere of college life. Those years really are the best of your life.”
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3. Where is your favorite spot on the ECU campus?

“On the yard…definitely. In front of the Student Store. You know, I was a Kappa Alpha Psi and we took step shows to the yard.”
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4. What was your dorm room and favorite dorm story?

“311 Scott Hall. I was in with Dwight Linville. The Hart twins kinda brought me into the suite, you know, initiated me, but MoFo (Morris Foreman) was definitely the daddy. He ran that suite. E.J. Gunthrope was there. Life was different in that suite, no doubt. There were many card games and the court yard was great.”
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5. Greatest Moment as a Pirate football player?

“The game against Wake Forest. Right before the game, when we were stretching, they came to the middle of our field and did that ritual they did. They came across our 45 and one of their players thumped me. It got to my pride and there was nearly a brawl right there at midfield. That same guy was in my head all day and then I picked off a pass and then our team scored… it was great.”
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6. Most disliked opponent?

“Easy – I hate State.”
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7. Athletic Influences?

“My brother Carnell. He played with for Winston-Salem State and then Tampa Bay for three years. I remember all his trophies in the trophy case at our house. There were four of us brothers, all fighting for mom’s attention, I always wanted to get more trophies than him. Seriously, he has always been with me and is my biggest fan now. I call him and we talk about everything, anything.”
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8. Favorite coach?

“Jim Fleming. He is at Vanderbilt now, I think. He was my position coach at ECU. He is the one that took a chance on me and put me in a game. It wasn’t a very popular decision at the time, but he did it and I owe him a lot for that confidence he had in me. Of course, I’ll always love Coach Connors and Coach Logan.”
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9. Best Locker Room Story

“We were playing Central Florida the year after they had hurt Marcus Crandell. And coach Logan…man, he loved Marcus, you know, it was quarterback thing. Anyway, Logan flipped out before the game saying like, ‘if you guys are going to let someone take a cheap shot like that at one of our own,’…then he picked up a brand new projector and slammed it into the table. It broke into pieces and then he kicked the buggie. It was a very serious moment and we went out there and took care of business.”
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10. Best Emerald City hangout?

“The Mack nightclub off of 5th Street…that was a great place and then, of course, BW-3s on Tuesday nights…good place.”
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02/23/2007 02:07:27 PM

 

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