After his recent experience in the Spring League, former Los Angeles Wildcats offensive lineman Dwayne Wallace is thankful that the XFL will return in 2022.
Former LA Wildcats player Dwayne Wallace’s training regimen includes boxing three times a week. It’s rather fitting that he does because, in the nearly hour-long interview that I conducted with him on Wednesday night, Wallace pulled no punches about his recent experience in the Spring League, the United Football Player Association’s response to allegations against TSL, and his experience in the XFL.
Let’s take a quick trip back to Wallace’s most bittersweet moment thus far as a pro football player.
The XFL Experience
On Sunday, March 8th, In what ended up being the final game of the 2020 XFL season, the Los Angeles Wildcats rallied and beat the Tampa Bay Vipers 41-34. Days later, because of the pandemic, XFL play would be suspended and then ultimately canceled a month after.
Dwayne Wallace recalls what he felt like when it happened.
I had so much fun in the XFL. Like when TSL shut down, I didn’t care. I just wanted to get up out of there. When the XFL shutdown, it was so hurtful. We were getting so good as a league and as a team. The first and last game I started was against Tampa’s #1 ranked defense, and we had a great game.
Ask XFL fans what their favorite game of last season was, and many will point to that specific game. That Sunday evening was also special for Wildcats offensive linemen Dwayne Wallace. The former Cal Bear and Kansas Jayhawk guard was making his first pro start. Wallace was right there in the trenches as Josh Johnson calmed down offensive coordinator Norm Chow and the entire Wildcats team.
Wallace reminisces fondly about the now infamous interaction between LA Offensive Coordinator and Johnson during the Tampa game.
It was a funny relationship between Norm Chow, Josh, and the coaching staff. Norm Chow, he was kind of uptight. Josh was like, look, man, I got it, I will get everyone on track, and that’s what you want your quarterback to do. You want him to tell the coordinator, hey man, don’t worry about it, trust in me, I got it. That type of attitude gives the coordinator room to relax and call something on the sheet and know that your quarterback knows what he is doing and that he’s going to execute.
Wallace speaks so glowingly about quarterback Josh Johnson, referring to him as ‘My Quarterback’. Wallace is happy to see Johnson back in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.
Dwayne says that the two best players he has ever played with are his former Cal teammate, Jared Goff from the Rams, and Josh Johnson.
Dwayne Wallace raves about Josh Johnson’s calming influence in the locker room, the sidelines, but specifically in the huddle.
In the Wildcats’ final win of the season. After LA’s offense struggled early on and fell behind Tampa 17-0, Wallace recalls how Johnson calmly pointed out Tampa’s defensive alignments and instructed the line where it needed to slide for protection on blitzes. Wallace says that Johnson made everyone’s job easier, including his. “Josh put all of his teammates in the right situation”.
Wallace also speaks highly of his experience with the entire Wildcats coaching staff. Wallace keeps in touch with his former coaches and they talk about the possibility of getting the band back together in XFL 2022.
Former NFL players and coaches Jerry Fontenot (line coach) and Dave Atkins (rb’s/run game assistant) were singled out by Dwayne as being instrumental in his growth and development while he was in LA.
I definitely learned a lot from Jerry Fontenot. He taught me the pro-style. Coach helped slow down the game for me. Everything started to make sense. We had so much experience on our Wildcats coaching staff. They really helped us grow. They never gave up on us; they believed in the players and what we were doing.
Many of the XFL’s former employees and supporters watched with admiration and joy as PJ Walker helped lead the Carolina Panthers to victory last Sunday. In our interview, Wallace spoke about what it meant to him and other players in the league.
I was happy to see it. It was well deserved on his part to be able to get that opportunity. And everyone in the XFL, we were all underdogs. I feel like a lot of XFL guys out there haven’t gotten their shot. It’s very encouraging to see guys like Walker go out there and not only be efficient and effective but to come home with a W. That just shows the product of the XFL. That the league had good quality players. Walker showed everyone that.
The TSL Experience
Like most players who recently played in the Spring League in San Antonio, Texas. The experience had its fair share of positives. Dwayne Wallace was happy to find an outlet that would allow him to put back on the pads and play again. Wallace was pleased with the level of play, considering the circumstances.
With the Spring League, It felt good to be back out there on the field. The opportunity to get some more film. To get back into the flow of football again. I was playing tackle a lot, and my natural position is right guard. I played on the left side for the first time. It was kind of different for me, but it was fun. It was something new that I had to conquer. I am proud of how I played several positions.
The Spring League’s season was cut short due to a COVID outbreak, and it was not without controversy. There have been allegations by players of infrequent COVID testing and issues with the treatment of coaches and players—some of it stemming from the Spring League’s ambiguous payment process.
For his part, Dwayne Wallace says that he played in the Spring League for free. Something that he thinks should change if TSL plans on functioning as a genuine league in the future. There were rumblings that some of the “name QB’s got paid” for their participation in TSL.
When asked about these issues, Dwayne Wallace, who played for ‘The Blues’ team, was very candid in responding to how the league ended and in what he experienced and witnessed first-hand.
Wallace on TSL’s abrupt end:
It was definitely a crazy environment towards the end, with people getting COVID. At first, it was good. The bubble was good, and everybody was staying in, but it only takes a couple of guys to leave outside the hotel, and with COVID being so high, it kind of brought it back to the hotel. Once players started testing positive for COVID. Everyone started panicking. Some players were tested and some weren’t. Players were worried about players playing with the virus. When players were told to come back for a championship game, they didn’t want to. With the holiday season, the covid situation and not being paid. Some players didn’t want to come back.
Wallace on the atmosphere at The Spring League.
It was a lot of stress. The people are not getting paid. Coaches are not getting paid. Players are not being paid. There was a lot of animosity between the league, players, and coaches. Because of all the COVID stuff going on and because people are not being taken care of. In that type of environment, it just created a negative energy.
Wallace on the Spring League’s confusing player payment structure and how some of the players felt about it.
It was frustrating for some guys who paid to be in TSL and didn’t play. To be honest with you, they weren’t playing because their performance was bad. Some players came in, paid to be showcase guys, and were sent home. It wasn’t explained well to some of the players who were labeled as showcase guys. Some guys were supposed to be paid and didn’t get what they wanted. Let’s call it what it is, most of the people were doing TSL for free. It was a mess. There were definitely a lot of issues that needed to be addressed and it could have been run a whole lot better.
Dwayne Wallace on whether or not, he would consider being a part of The Spring League when it starts back up again, presumably in the spring.
Me, personally with the experience I had. I don’t know if I want to. For the Spring League’s future, if Brian Woods cleaned it up, got more funding, and solved some of these issues, it could make it more appealing the second time around. Then people might consider the spring league. But with how everything went down. I don’t think people are going to buy into that possibility.
The United Football Players Association
During our interview, without being asked, Dwayne Wallace volunteered some strong feelings about the recently formed United Football Players Association. Wallace’s biggest gripe was with the UFPA’s level of involvement in dealing with the issues players had with the Spring League.
Those guys were nowhere to be found. And I feel like for those guys (UFPA) to be saying something after the fact. What is the whole purpose of your organization? Because not once did they address Brian Woods during the situation. If you guys are really concerned about players. Then this was the perfect opportunity to make some type of noise about it. If they are a non-profit organization. Then they should be making no money because they aren’t working for us. How are you going to have an organization that says it stands for players when you didn’t stand up for players during the most important time. When you are talking about health, safety, and security for players and all of that, their organization is pointless. What did they do for us, the players when we needed them?
When asked if he has contacted the UFPA. Dwayne Wallace says “that he did not because those guys won’t do anything for anybody”.
Dwayne Wallace’s Playing Future
Wallace is hopeful that he’ll get the opportunity to play in the XFL again. The league was affording him the opportunity to play and get better when it abruptly ended.
2022 may seem like a long way away, but there is sure to be news coming about the XFL soon. And a 2022 season means that players and teams will be reformed at some point in 2021. Whether that be through a draft or player signings. Wallace is hopeful that he is among the many players included in that process.
As for the possibility of playing up north in Canada with the CFL, Wallace is open to the idea but is not sure of the structure of the Canadian Football League when they resume playing or how the contract structure will be for international players.
Uncertainty has been the theme for the year 2020. But for players like Dwayne Wallace, he is certain that he can play at a high level. He’s just looking for the right place to do it. The old saying goes, ‘You can’t go home again’. Perhaps, Dwayne Wallace can. At least, that’s the dream.
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