By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
A move from defense to tight end the spring prior to his senior season paid huge dividends for Wesley Walls. The former Ole Miss standout not only ended up being an All-American in 1988, the move translated into a 15-year career in the NFL.
Walls, who played at both South Pontotoc and Pontotoc High before coming to play at Ole Miss under Billy Brewer, was inducted in College Football Hall of Fame Thursday. The 6-foot-5, 246 pound Walls said he found out he was going in with a phone call from another former Ole Miss great, quarterback Archie Manning.
“Just hearing those words come out of Archie’s mouth made the news double for me,” Walls said Saturday while attending a wedding in the mountains of North Carolina. “I was ecstatic, with a little bit of emotion as well. I was excited and just proud. I was very grateful and very proud all at the same time.”
Walls, who went on to be drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1989 draft, said he got the good news a little earlier than Thursday, when the entire class was announced to the public.
“They gave me a little heads up that I had gotten in. I’m just so proud to be an Ole Miss Rebel and to join eight guys, eight players or coaches from the University of Mississippi, that are in the Hall of Fame. To be along those guys is such an honor,” Walls said. “As soon as I unwound a little bit, I also realized how many people had helped me along the way from Ole Miss and then in the NFL that gave me so much support. I’m so thankful for the award.”
Walls is now one of eight former Rebels to get into the Hall of Fame, but the first to earn the honor since 1997 when Charlie Flowers was inducted. Also included in the Hall of Fame are Bruiser Kinard, who was the first inducted in 1951. Charlie Conerly (1965), Barney Poole (1974), Coach Johnny Vaught (1979), Doug Kenna (1984), Thad “Pie” Vann (1987), Manning (1989), Parker Hall (1991) and Jake Gibbs (1995) are the others who have already earned a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Walls caught 36 passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns as a tight end for the Rebels in 1988. He then caught 450 passes for 5,291 yards and 54 touchdowns in the NFL playing for the 49ers, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.
For more on Walls’ rise from defense to a 5-time Pro Bowl tight end, see the next print edition of the Oxford Citizen.