Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

20 NFL players to watch in 2020: Buffalo Bills CB Levi Wallace

Through Sept. 13, the first Sunday of the 2020 NFL season,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting one Christ-following player each day for 20 days.

The Buffalo Bills’ secondary unit was one of the best in the league in 2019. It ended the regular season with the fourth fewest passing yards allowed per game (195.2) and played a key role on a defense that allowed only 16.2 points per game (second best in the NFL).

Cornerback Levi Wallace was a big part of that secondary, starting all 16 games in his second NFL season. And he was about to get his first taste of the playoffs, but an ankle injury in Week 17 sidelined him for the wild-card round against Houston. Buffalo failed to advance, and Wallace and his teammates were sent home.

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Over the offseason, the Bills added former first-team All-Pro Josh Norman to their already-impressive secondary, and he is expected to compete with Wallace for a starting position. The competition has yet to really materialize as Norman has been nursing a hamstring issue, and Wallace missed practice time this week with his own hamstring injury. But when they’re healthy, the 25-year-old Wallace wants to prove he is up to the task.

“We were really looking forward to those competitive practices between those two,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said last week. “It really felt like that would really be good for our defense to have that competition going day in and day out … One of those guys is going to have to start.”

Wallace recorded two interceptions and 76 combined tackles in 2019 for a team that finished 10-6, good for second in the AFC East and the No. 5 seed. In 2018, Wallace’s rookie year, he started seven games after beginning the year on Buffalo’s practice squad. He was rated as the best rookie cornerback that year by Pro Football Focus.

Wallace’s impressive 2018 season came as a surprise to many. He signed with Buffalo after being undrafted coming out of Alabama, even though he was a starter on the Crimson Tide team that captured the 2017 national championship.

Wallace had been overlooked before. He was not offered a football scholarship while at Tucson High School in Arizona. He decided to attend Alabama anyway, walked onto the team and eventually earned a scholarship before his junior year in 2016.

“It’s been hard. It’s been challenging. But it’s been worth it. I wouldn’t change my story any way,” Wallace said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in July 2019. “… It’s definitely a story that couldn’t be possible without God. There’s no question about it.”

Much of Wallace’s development as a cornerback happened during his years in Tuscaloosa. It was also the setting for much of his development as a follower of Christ, especially as he processed the death of his father.

“I actually abandoned God for awhile,” Wallace said on the podcast. “I was confused, I was hurt, and I didn’t know why it happened. I turned to everything else but God. I stopped going to church for a while. I was just heartbroken, and I was lost and confused. But at the same time, I turned football into my God so to [speak]. I dove into just dedicating my life to football.”

As Wallace immersed himself further into football in an attempt to make his father proud, he earned his scholarship. Afterward, he said, he still didn’t feel fulfilled.

Shortly after his team lost to Clemson in the national championship game in January 2017, Wallace was invited to a prayer event with some friends from college.

“When I got there, immediately I just broke down and confessed that I left God,” Wallace said. “I felt I had abandoned Him, and I think that’s the closest I had ever been to God in my life.”

Wallace, who had grown up in church and been baptized, poured himself into the study of God’s Word with his good friend and current NFL free agent Jamey Mosley.

Since he’s arrived in Buffalo, Wallace has found a discipleship group within the team to invest in as his faith continues to grow. Now he says he is free to play for the only One who ultimately matters, all the while impacting the lives of those around him for the better.

He even said he received a message from a high school kid who admires Wallace and whose faith has been strengthened by the cornerback’s own professions of faith.

“Football is just my platform, and without football I think I couldn’t reach that kid,” Wallace said. “The only thing that I care about is affecting those around me and helping those around me and building them up with my faith.”

Wallace’s journey has never been smooth or easy. Still, he knows God always has him exactly where He wants him.

“I think I’m supposed to be in Buffalo,” he said, “not only to play football but to build those up around me and to build on my faith as well.”

Buffalo opens the 2020 season at home Sept. 13 against the New York Jets.

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