Tyler Wallace will never stop inspiring his teammates.
For two years, he was the emotional glue that held together the West Point Green Wave’s junior varsity offensive line. Wallace did everything for his fellow linemen – picking them up when they were down, driving them to be better players and providing leadership for the future of West Point football.
And in a flash, he was gone. In May, at the age of 15, Wallace passed away in his sleep in West Point, sending shockwaves through this small town and leaving a huge hole in the hearts of his teammates.
Three months later, those teammates are beginning their high school careers this fall, a journey on which they counted on Wallace to lead the way. To Johnathan Jones and Alex Hall, he still is.
“He always pushed me to be my best, every single day,” said Hall, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound sophomore guard and lifelong friend of Wallace. “We were weightlifting partners, and he never let me quit on myself. I can’t believe he’s not there anymore, but when I’m lifting, I still see him encouraging me. I’ll never let him down.”
As a whole, that sums up the Wave’s mantra this season: Every snap, every game, every play is for Tyler.
This especially rings true with the Wave’s sophomores.
“He loved football, he always kept us smiling,” said Jones, a 6-3, 250-pound right tackle who played opposite of Wallace, the Wave’s starting left tackle on last year’s ninth grade squad. “I feel like he’s still here. Everything that we accomplish on the football field from here on out, it’s for him.”
West Point has dedicated this season to Wallace and will sport helmet stickers labeled “TW” this season, a sober reminder of a teammate gone too soon.
“This is a special group of kids on the offensive line,” said Brian Sellers, West Point’s junior varsity head coach. “They were always tight-knit, and they all played hard for each other. It was a huge blow to lose someone like Tyler, but these kids are rallying around each other and playing for him.”
Despite having to enter his toughest football season to date without his friend by his side, Jones already has a plan in mind.
“He always motivated me to get better, to do anything I could do to make this team better,” Jones said of Wallace, “so when I win my first state championship ring, I’m giving it to his parents to thank them for everything he did for me.”
Brandon Walker/NEMS Daily Journal