My family… They started telling me you’ve got to go see what you can really do. That’s more, I just get choked up talking like that…
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview Florida Tarpons, QB Chris Wallace. For those of you, who don’t know him, he’s a great player and someone I think you’d love to see play. After 18 seasons and at the age of 42, he is actually taking the game more seriously now than he has in a long time. The first time I saw him play was this past season in Richmond. The Roughriders had pretty much destroyed a bunch of semi-pro teams that had shown up in RVA to fill out the schedule, so they hadn’t yet been tested. For Wallace and the Tarpons, this was their first real game together against a good opponent. The Riders dominated the game, but it was easy to see that Wallace was a good player who would have done better if he had been surrounded by a stronger team. As it turned out the Tarpons made the playoffs and had to make the return trip to Virginia for the APF Championship game. In the few weeks since their first game, Florida spent a lot of time working on improving their roster and improving their play on the field. By the time they arrived in Richmond, they were ready to play, and boy did they ever! The game went back and forth all night, and if it hadn’t of been for some spotty special teams play and an untimely tipped ball for a pick 6, Wallace might very well have walked away with the trophy. During the off-season, with the support of the team, and more importantly, his family, Wallace is back and ready to make a serious run at the AAL Championship. He’s intrigued by the level of competition in the new league, and anxious to try to put together a championship winning year.
AF Insider: Hi Chris, thanks for speaking with me today. I’ve seen a bunch of video of you working out this off-season. Tell me about your regimen?
Wallace: My trainer, Connoly Smoot, I coached with him with our HS team, and I’d been talking with him about really training because of the last few years. I didn’t play a whole season in a while. I’d come in and play in the playoffs, but with the way last year ended it kind of lit a fire under me.
AF Insider: Why do you think that is?
Wallace; My wife and family were really excited about how I played towards the end, and we were all interested to see how I’d do if the team, and I played together throughout the year.
AF Insider: The Tarpons improved over the last part of the season.
Wallace: Because that team played better together towards the end of the season, we all kind of took a vow to each other, the core guys, and we decided we were going to do it. That’s when I got with Connoly and started jumping in on this Vertimax and started doing some different drills, and I started seeing a vast improvement. I’m getting back to being in some sort of shape for a 42-year-old.
AF Insider: Tell me about Connoly?
Wallace: Connoly is a high school conditioning trainer, and he coaches the D-line. I’ve known him all of our lives; we grew up in the same town and went to the same high school. Now we’re giving back to the kids together. We grew close doing that. Training with him has really brought me back to why I love the game.
AF Insider: It seems like you’re on a mission?
Wallace: I don’t want to play around with it. I want to do what my abilities say I can do. I want to see how great I can be. I haven’t had an itch like I have this year in a long time. When I’d get into the game, I’d want to give it my all, but I don’t think I ate and slept arena football like this in a long time.
AF Insider: Why do you think this is?
Wallace: I would say the biggest thing about it is that my wife and family are behind me right now. I’ve played for 18 years, and when I talk to the young guys, who are just getting involved, they’d ask me for advice and the first thing I ask them is what’s your love life like? Are you married or got a girlfriend? Is it serious, because you’re going to be leaving a lot trying to find your niche in this game? I did that for a long time, and my wife wasn’t always the biggest fan of arena football until the latter part of my career when my kids got older. For a lot of years, I didn’t have her total faith and backing about it; she wanted me home. If you’re attached to someone, you need their support.
AF Insider: How long have you been married?
Wallace: 15 years
AF Insider: How old are your kids?
Wallace: My boy is 9 and my daughter is 15
AF Insider: Are they excited to see Dad playing?
Wallace: Yes, it’s really good for me to let my son see it. He plays QB and the last two years in a row they’ve won their league Superbowl. This year they won a National Title in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Also, the kids I coach, they get to see my workout and get to see me play so I’m practicing what I’m preaching to them too. I try to get my son in the locker room, so he can see everything. My daughter, she was around the Florida Firecats back in the day, so we’re all well adjusted to arena football. There was just something about this year, after that championship game it kind of felt like a win from my family’s point of view. They started telling me you’ve got to go see what you can really do. That’s more… I just get choked up talking like that. When your kids say, go do the best you can it changes your life, and it changed my total focus. Now that I know they’re with me it’s become my mission.
AF Insider: Something special is happening for you.
Wallace: My family wants to see everything I can do and how good I can do it, so I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. The
fire has been rekindled. It wasn’t out, but it was on low. I was there for the playoff game (in RVA); I played hard. I played well, but that shit is on full steam right now, you know what I mean?
AF Insider: (laughter) Yeah, I think I do
Wallace: My kids are for it! My wife is for it! You know when you’ve got total support to go do something, my job, everybody, you go do it. It’s up to me now. I’m going to give it all I’ve got because everybody is behind me. That’s what my motivation is. I’m excited for the chance to show the people, especially the young guys. I’ve been playing with what this game is all about and where you need to be mentally in order to make a championship run. We’re ready to go, and we’re ready to make a run at it!
AF Insider: I saw you in Richmond twice last year, and I think the first game was your first game back with the Tarpons?
Wallace: I was there for a game the week before, but that was one of those 100-0 games. You can’t get a feel for your receivers, or the team, so yeah, Richmond was my first game. I only played two real games last year, and that was against Richmond.
AF Insider: That championship game, there’s no question you could have won it. It went back and forth all night, and it really did come down to the last play or two at the end. After the game, I saw you in the tunnel, and you said,“That was just good old-fashioned arena football” (best quote ever!”). If the team plays as well this year as it did in the APF championship game last year, the Tarpons will be a tough out on anyone’s schedule.
Wallace: (laughter) I think we’ve made some great roster moves this year. With Orlando folding and then Tampa folding there
were a lot of good veterans available, and our moving to Lakeland really broadened the appeal for these guys to want to come to the Tarpons.
AF Insider: Who did you bring in from Tampa?
Wallace: Joe Hills is one of our receivers; we’ve got Justin Hilton, Robert Redd, who played for the Cleveland Gladiators those are our three. We’ve got a guy from the Philadelphia Soul, a couple of DB’s from Tampa, another DB from Jacksonville; We’ve got some guys who know this game. I can say that.
AF Insider: What do you think about the AAL?
Wallace: A lot of teams have a lot of talent. You’re going to have to play. I mean we deserve a good solid league throughout.
AF Insider: To me, it looks like the league will have six or eight teams that are going to be good, and three of four who are going to be very good. You’re the QB of one of those teams.
Wallace: like I said, I got some time to settle my feet in, and it was like, you know what? I need them to see the real me, and I did as much as I could before that championship game to get ready mentally, but the physical part is really starting to come along right now. Now I’m feeling great.
AF Insider: Have you had any injuries during your career?
Wallace: No, I think I’ve might have missed a couple of games being a little banged up, but I’ve never had a major injury. By the grace of God, he’s kept me blessed for 18 years, and I don’t take a moment for granted.
AF Insider: I know you’re looking forward to playing the Roughriders again this season.
Wallace: Yeah, they’re coming down to us. We’ve been up there twice, so they’re coming to us, rightfully so. Let them come down here and rumble in our jungle and let’s see how it goes (laughter). I love playing those guys; I love their coach.
AF Insider: Mook is a great guy.
Wallace: Yeah, I don’t think I had played against Mook before. I know he was in Cape Fear, but I love those guys. They’re great people. I love the fans.
AF Insider: Yeah, the Riders are going to be a different team this year. They’ve brought in a lot of new players, new QB, new DB’s, they brought in Greg Hardy. Did you see that? (laughter)
Wallace: (laughter) Yeah, I’ll get my quick screens together (laughter)
AF Insider: Might be a good idea (laughter), get rid of the ball and get him in coverage instead of coming at you.
Wallace: (laughter) Yeah man! Get the ball out of there and be like man, leave me alone!
AF Insider: Hey, Chris, this has been great. Thanks for agreeing to speak with me and good luck this season.
Wallace: Hey, thanks, it’s been great. I’m getting to work.