PITTSBURGH — New Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace has had doubters his entire football career. Coming into the NFL as an undrafted free agent is never easy. Even if a player comes from blue blood like Alabama or Clemson, there is never a guarantee for a roster spot. Wallace knows that full well.
Yet, the former undrafted free agent was one of the most experienced cornerbacks on the market this season. For every game he was active for, Wallace has started. That brings him to 52 total starts over the first four years of his NFL career. That includes seven in his rookie season. Wallace was elevated from the practice squad and started five days later. Not too shabby for an undrafted free agent.
To make it in the NFL as an undrafted free agent and then parlay it into the 2-year, $8 million contract that Wallace received from the Steelers, a player has to have some type of mentality. The mentality that Wallace has developed over his time in Buffalo has fostered his growth and allowed him to get to this point as a bonafide NFL starter.
“There’s a ton of work I put in,” Wallace said. “I don’t take no for an answer. I don’t let people put limitations on me.”
Perhaps the most revealing thing about his mind is how Wallace views himself. It will say on his league biography that Wallace was not drafted. Most people will say that Wallace was not picked in the NFL Draft. However, to Wallace, he was picked. The undrafted free agent market is what Wallace calls the eighth round.
“People say undrafted, but I say eighth round,” Wallace said. “So, I did get drafted.”
Wallace’s journey in the NFL has been one of adversity. The Bills have signed players like Josh Norman and drafted others in an attempt to potentially take Wallace’s spot, but he kept holding on. Now, after walking on at Alabama and starting 52 games in the NFL, Wallace is not stopping. Even though he has proverbially made it, he is still charging head down to become an even better player.
“I walked on at Alabama, and nobody expected me to start there, win a championship, or get a scholarship,” Wallace said. “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.”
Wallace is now likely to have one of the Steelers’ outside cornerback jobs. Even if he has made it, the mentality that Wallace has fostered throughout his career is not going away. For the Steelers, they hope that pays dividends as the secondary tries to take a leap forward.