BOZICH | Louisville's John Wallace kicks through adversity to NF - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville's John Wallace kicks through adversity to NFL doorstep

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John Wallace is the most productive kicker in Louisville football history. John Wallace is the most productive kicker in Louisville football history.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Your Tweets did not discourage John Wallace -- even the ones that advised Wallace it was time to kill himself because of a field goal he missed for the University of Louisville against Clemson.

Your Tweets did not drain his confidence. His parents as well as his mentor, Colonel Dallas Halcomb, made certain of that, no matter if his kicks were perfect or wide.

John Wallace was taught to compete confidently, embrace success reluctantly and battle failure relentlessly. As a kicker, those three challenges confront you the same night.

That's what happened to Wallace Sept. 17. He made a 26-yard field goal for Louisville's first points against Clemson -- and then pulled the 38-yarder that would have tied the game with 2:28 to play. The Cardinals lost, 20-17, starting the season 0-3.

If you checked Wallace's Twitter mentions you would have wondered if he had thrown 17 interceptions, missed a dozen tackles and gridlocked traffic on Central Avenue.

"I had to turn my phone off," Wallace said. "I was having 'Kill yourself Tweets.'

"My phone vibrated for a couple of hours straight after the (Clemson) game with just hatred. It was still vibrating for hours."

News flash: Wallace's phone will vibrate vigorously Saturday night.

This time the energy will come from job offers, not Internet snark.

The most productive kicker that U of L has produced kicked in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium Tuesday morning. He will be ready when his invitation to perform at an NFL camp inevitably comes.

Wallace does not expect to be selected in the NFL Draft Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Only Florida State kicker Robert Aguayo looks worthy of a draft pick. But teams have talked to Wallace, who overcame his struggles at the start of last season to kick his way toward the top of the prospect list.

"Overall, I'm glad (the stressful times) happened because it made me a stronger person," Wallace said. "Not many people can say they had things like that happen to them. It helped me grow in the end. It was probably beneficial."

His parents, Carla and Patrick Wallace in Cecilia, Ky., should love reading that. So should Halcomb, the friend Wallace affectionately calls "Colonel," while crediting him for his success.

Last season did not begin the way Wallace planned. He missed two of three kicks against Auburn. He hit one against Houston and then had a critical 53-yarder tipped. He made the short one against Clemson and then missed the one that angered a group of U of L fans.

Long-forgotten were the game-winners Wallace made at Cincinnati and Rutgers as a freshman, kicks that put Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.

Wallace worked through it by working through it. Kick. Run. Lift. Repeat.

That remains his plan. He's working on an MBA to add to his finance degree. Some days Wallace lifts weights at the Schnellenberger Football Complex. Other days, he carries his four $100 footballs into the stadium and practices extra points, field goals and kickoffs. NFL teams have told him they want to see more power, consistency and depth on his kickoffs.

Wallace works. He dropped the balls and Wizard Easy Holder at midfield to begin the process of stretching both legs. The kicking began with short stuff. Those kicks must be automatic.

From 28 yards -- good, good, good, good. From 32 yards -- good, good. From 34 -- good.

Now Wallace's right leg was loose and powerful. From 37 yards -- good. From 40 -- bingo. All the way out to 53 yards -- perfect.

Wallace kicked the way he kicked at Gary Zauner's Specialists Combine in Arizona last February, when he drilled bonus kicks from 51, 54, 57 and 60 yards to win the competition against 25 college seniors.

Wallace was the best kicker on the grounds in Arizona, just like Wallace moved to the top spot in the Louisville record books during four seasons as the Cardinals' kicker. He eclipsed David Akers, Art Carmody and others by making 66 of 85 field goals and 186 of 193 extra points while scoring 384 points.

The Twitter universe is guaranteed to find fault with that. I'm not.

After missing four of his first six kicks last season, Wallace rallied to make 12 of his next 13, including a game-winner at Wake Forest, a 50-yarder against Samford and a 37-yarder early in the third quarter that ignited U of L's comeback win at Kentucky.

Not bad for a guy who became a kicker as a freshman at Central Hardin High School because he raised his hand when the football coach came to soccer practice looking for volunteers.

Wallace will never forget that -- and remembers to credit people who have been essential to his success.

That starts with his parents, Carla and Patrick, who took him to kicking camps. There is Mike Lawson, his coach at Central Hardin. There is former U of L coach Charlie Strong, who offered a scholarship and was the first person to call with support after the Clemson loss.

There's more.

The only condition Wallace requested before he agreed to this story was he wanted to credit Halcomb, who invested countless hours in his development after drafting Wallace from soccer practice.

"He's always told me that I could do it and that he believed in me," Wallace said. "Ever since high school he told me that a day like this (getting an NFL opportunity) was possible."

On Saturday night, when his NFL opportunity is secure, it will be time to Tweet that news.

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