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Rams' Wallace embraces challenge

August 29, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - To Dervon Wallace, football is more than a game where you score touchdowns.

It's really a proving ground for scoring points in life.

So, when the Shepherd University tailback pondered what he could do to top his breakout last season, he turned to philosophy instead of history for the answers.

"It's not pressure, it's a challenge," Wallace said recently. "Life throws at you a lot of challenges. I love to excel under that situation."

Many will argue that life and football are like comparing Romes and Valencias. They are two different places but they still provide fruits for all the labor.

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Wallace rejuvenated his college football career in 2005 by transferring from West Virginia State to Shepherd. His new lease on life and new challenges in football produced one of the most productive seasons in Rams history.

The 5-foot-8 junior started only seven games but still managed to roll up 1,389 yards rushing while setting school and West Virginia Conference records for points scored (162), touchdowns (27) and rushing touchdowns (26). It helped Shepherd to an undefeated regular season, a second consecutive conference title, a national playoff berth and an 11-1 overall record for the Rams, not to mention a number of individual honors for Wallace.

Wallace entered last season as part of a running-back tandem with Bryan Wright, who transferred from West Virginia University. Wright was the power runner, while Wallace was supposed to be the change-of-pace speed back.

It all changed when Wright was hampered with leg injuries for most of the season. For Shepherd - and Wallace - it became full speed ahead. Wallace's personal and the Rams' overall success gave him a new outlook and a lot of appreciation for the choices he made to get to Shepherd.

"I came from a successful high school program but when I got to West Virginia State, it wasn't successful and it put a lot of things into perspective," Wallace said. "I needed to get out and get away from the losing attitude. Here at Shepherd, it's a winning attitude. Here, I feel very humble about myself and I work hard not to take it for granted."

As this season opened, football - like life - had changes in store for Wallace.

On the football front, Wallace will be one of the prime targets to be taken away by opposing teams' defenses. He will be a marked man all season.

In life, Wallace had to relearn and possibly enjoy the aspects of the art of sharing. The tandem plan is back as Wright is healthy again, which will give the Rams' running game the diversity it was looking for in 2005.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to duplicate my numbers and get better," Wallace said. "Last year, I did very, very good and if I do the same, that would be fine. But now, with Bryan back, my numbers might not be as high."

Wallace doesn't see it all as a bad thing. With Wright in doing the heavy work, Wallace might be able to get as many yards in fewer carries, which means less wear and tear on his body.

Shepherd opened with a 28-7 win over Millersville on Saturday and the tandem proved to be double trouble for the Mauraders. Wallace ran for a game-high 145 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Wright won conference co-offensive player of the week honors with 113 yards and two TDs on 10 carries.

Using two running backs may even make the Rams more explosive than their 37.8 points-per-game average last year. Wright's power forces defenses to play more honest, opening up the passing attack and, quite possibly, slowing reactions to Wallace's jitterbug style.

"We will help each other out," Wallace said. "We got a lot different with Bryan healthy. Now, they can't focus on me. It will open up a lot more things and get other guys going. We have a lot of weapons.

"I'll excel a little, but no one will see what's coming. Bryan will be the new player of the year in the conference this season."

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