A Q&A here with former Ole Miss tight end All-American Wesley Walls. Lots of topics here, his recruitng experience, his thoughts on the Super Bowl, the modern-day tight end and the Mannings …
(With signing day just completed, what do you remember about your recruiting experience?)
I remember Bear Bryant, his defensive coordinator was Ken Donahue, I think he saw me one time in a spring scrimmage at Pontotoc High School, and then I get a scholarship offer when the season was over my senior year. It seems like a lot more stress these days. Just getting your name out there on Youtube and other social media, just letting people know you’re out there and you’re a good player. It was word of mouth in the old days.
(I imagine Billy Brewer sat in your living room and made his pitch, right?)
He did. Coach Brewer, I think the world of him. He was like part of the family. Robert Youngblood, he was the one, the defensive line coach at Ole Miss. He came to every basketball game. I’ll never forget, he got in a snow storm or something coming to one of my basketball games. He was fine, but it made me feel, ‘Man, if the guy’s going to get in a snow storm coming to my basketball game in Amory, he really wants me to come play for him.’ He and his wife Miss Judy, I still talk to them.
(What do you remember about your experience in Super Bowl XXIV?)
I just remember running out on the field after warm-ups for the start of the game, and it felt like my feet weren’t touching the game, I was so excited. It was the most excited I’ve ever been in a game. It felt like an out-of-body experience. And then winning, just feeling like you’re on the best team in the world … what a feeling. You and 45 other guys. We only had 46 active back in those days. You went through a season and came out the best team in the world. That’s a great feeling. I thought we were going to do it every year back in San Francisco.
Never got back to the Super Bowl, but I wear this one ring I have proudly. I love wearing it Super Bowl Week to remind me what a great feeling and great experience that is, to accomplish something as a team, you end up being the best in the world at the end of the season. That’s a great feeling.
I caught one pass from Joe Montana. I’ve got it up in the “I love me room” here at the house. I was the second-team tight end behind Brent Jones. I got a lot of playing time in that game on all the special teams, long snapper, contributing in a lot of different ways.
Everybody matters on a team, especially in a game like the Super Bowl. I believe we’ll see Sunday somebody you didn’t expect to rise up and make plays and put their team in position to win.
(What do you remember about Super Bowl Media Day?)
It was wild. Guys are starting to have fun with it now. In 1990 it was still a big deal. I was from Mississippi and had just gotten to San Francisco, and that was strange enough, then you go to the Super Bowl and have these people from all over the country coming to interview you. My line was real short, so I always got those guys. They’d come over to interview me, because I didn’ thave anybody else in the line. Guys have fun with the media now, it’s different. You guys are pretty tough on the players. Back in the day it seems like there wasn’t as much controversy in the media. Now it’s such a big sport, a big game, the social media and all the ways you can interact, the internet things, you guys are a big part of the game.
(What do you think about how tight ends are used in today’s game?)
I wish I was still 22 and playing in the game. The way the offenses are set up today, the way they utilize the tight end, and the way the rules have changed. Guys can have free releases off the line of scrimmage, that’s something I rarely got. And then after five yards, they can’t even touch you, so you’re getting very athletic tight ends in space with big bodies, creating distance, and they’re hard to cover.
Plus, the defensive guys can’t hit you in the head any more. When we used to go across the middle, if you didn’t think about it, you just weren’t human. You knew that Ronnie Lott, guys like that were over there lurking and about to take your head off. Nowadays, with the emphasis on concussions and likcs to the head and all that, guys aren’t getting hit like they used to, so they’re taking more chances down the middle, and you’re seeing these big, athletic guys making plays, I love it. I just think I came 10 years too early.
(You look at guys like Eli and Peyton, 23 years between them, each with their original team. How difficult is that?)
That’s just how good those guys are, Eli and Peyton. You see guys bounce around in free agency. Now, when you’re a top pick like those guys were, you’re going to see them stay with those teams for a while. A guy like me in the second round, he has to move to get into the right situation. When you’re that good, like Eli and Peyton, they build the team around you. We saw that this year, when Peyton was injured, you had a defense that was built to play ahead, not from behind, and they just couldn’t adapt without Peyton.
And you’re seeing it with Eli this year. Eli is an elite quarterback, Eli is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and he’s a winner. He gets out and he wins football games. It may not be statistically the pretties game on Sundays, but it’s winning, and that’s all that matters in this league. They can build that team around Eli. They’ve got a great defense and special teams, powerful running backs and explosive receivers. They’re tight ends can make plays in the red zone too.
I’m a big Manning fan, especially Eli, being from Ole Miss, and I’m wishing him luck Sunday.