He grew up on the streets of Atlanta, Ga. and by his own account, he was a kid that, “grew up a child without focus or direction.” Then one day at a high school assembly he heard a motivational speaker say that you should always try to do your best in everything and never give up.
It was a message that changed his life. For the first time Steve became focused in school and in doing his best in every area of his life. Because of that dedicated focus, Steve lettered in three sports, graduated with honors, and had 57 football scholarship offers from major universities across the country. He chose Auburn University.
And he went on to become one of the most decorated players to ever wear the Orange and Blue. He played tackle for legendary Auburn Coach Pat Dye.
One of his greatest moments at Auburn came in the 1982 Iron Bowl. Trailing Bama 22-16 late in the game, Auburn drove the length of the field and scored with two minutes left to go ahead 23-22 and take a historic victory – breaking a nine game winning streak by the Tide.
What most fans remember about the game was ABC’s Keith Jackson yelling “Bo over the top” as Bo Jackson went over the top of the pile from the one yard line. What many didn’t notice that day was that Bo’s yardage on the drive and his goal line TD came behind the blocking of tackle Barron ‘Steven’ Wallace.
Like all linemen he never was in the spotlight on the field. Nevertheless, he was named All-American, Lineman of the Year, All- SEC, All Legends Team, and voted to Auburn University’s Team of the Century.
After being drafted by the San Francisco 49er’s …
it didn’t take long for Coach Bill Walsh to recognize that Steve was just not any old lineman. He was different. Many said he played with a nastiness that confounded NFL defensive greats like Lawrence Taylor and Chris Doleman.
He played 12 pro seasons, never basking in the spot light, yet setting a record for playing in more playoff games than any other tackle in the history of the NFL. A Pro Bowler and two time All-Pro, he played on 10 Division Championship and three Super Bowl Championship Teams.
He was a pioneer in getting franchises to recognize the value of the left tackle. It was largely due to his play that the phrase “blind side protector” was coined. He became the first lineman to command a $10 million dollar deal largely for his value in protecting quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young.
Wallace paid dearly for his tenaciousness though; he suffered five concussions during his career and had to be carted off the field during Super Bowl XXXIII with a broken ankle. But he never backed down, always doing his best, playing “nasty and tenacious” football.
Yet off the field Steve Wallace was a kind and gentle humanitarian, always giving back to the community. He was the only 49er to do United Way commercials in 1992, which earned him the “Community and Charity Player of the Year Award.”
And now that his playing days are over Steve has founded and runs the non-profit Steve Wallace Foundation for Everyday Champions; an organization that is dedicated to community outreach, mentoring of high-risk youth and helping young people get a college education.
“Doing his best” has brought Steve Wallace many honors. Just this past Saturday, he was enshrined into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies in Birmingham. A great honor to be sure; but not as important to Steve as his work with young people.
His message for them is that they, “Don’t all have to compete for the spotlight to be successful.” Like him, they “can achieve their goals with hard work and commitment, one day and one play at a time.” In short, if they do their best and never quit, they can be “Everyday Champions.”
Through his foundation, Steve travels the country as a motivational speaker to young people – giving them the message that changed his life.
And maybe through it he can change someone else’s life. After all, one adult changed his life in high school. Maybe he can have the same impact on some young person today.
Who knows there may be another Steve Wallace out there – just waiting to be changed.
Steve Wallace speaking to Auburn Football team during 2010 Championship season.