Darron Wallace gave up an Ivy League scholarship and found something different than he expected at Syracuse

first_img Published on October 5, 2017 at 8:24 pm Contact John: jmacce@syr.edu Darron Wallace sat in the Schine Student Center dining area on a Friday at the beginning of the first semester of his junior year. Simply being there, at Syracuse, Wallace has fully committed to the life he wants to live, even though, to many, he gave up too much.Three years ago, at Montgomery (New Jersey) High School, Wallace was a football and basketball standout. On the gridiron, he starred on both sides of the ball, receiving interest from Division I football programs like Penn State. But, in a practice in August of his junior year, everything changed.His team was doing 40-yard dashes on the track and it was Darron’s turn. He took his mark, ran, crossed the line and then he heard a “pop!”It was his left knee.The injury redirected Wallace’s life and landed him at Syracuse. Since he decided to come to SU, friends and family often asked why he stopped playing football and why he turned down an Ivy League scholarship. To Wallace, the answer is simple. He always wanted to play college basketball more than anything else, and, after SU basketball cut him, he lives that dream on the club team.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“There was disbelief in the way he got injured,” said Zoran Milich, Wallace’s high school football coach. “Then I thought he might be out a day or two, at the most.”Doctors diagnosed a torn PCL in his left knee. While Wallace was thankful it was not as devastating as an ACL, it still ended his junior season, the most important to earn the big-time football offers he sought. Zack Tamuzza, a friend of Wallace’s, could not believe what happened.“We all knew how great of a player Darron was since he was a little kid,” Tamuzza said. “Sitting in the student section without him there was devastating,”Wallace didn’t have surgery but chose to rehab and limped all through his junior season of basketball. Not being fully healthy for basketball season made Wallace question whether football was worth the pain he felt during the slog of practices and games.“I played the whole year on one knee,” Wallace said.After a painful yet successful basketball season, Wallace decided to stay with football. He played well enough during his senior season to earn the attention of Ivy League schools, like Cornell and Dartmouth. The Big Red came to Wallace’s practices and the two parties talked back and forth. Dartmouth and Penn were there, he said, but Cornell remained persistent, so Wallace went on official visit. In order to make the schedules work, he skipped two basketball games.While in Ithaca, all Wallace could think about was how his basketball team back home was playing. He knew then he didn’t want to play football in college. While it may seem difficult to give up a scholarship and an Ivy League education, Wallace found the decision easy.“I could not keep playing,” Wallace said. “When I knew I would be in the training room every day, doing hours of treatment, on top of practice and schoolwork, it was not hard to decide.”So, Wallace needed to make his next step. When he got his college admission decisions back, he decided on Syracuse so he could be close to home. Still thinking he had the athleticism to play basketball, Wallace tried to walk on to the Orange basketball team. Throughout the tryout process, he practiced with the likes of Tyus Battle and Frank Howard, and still talks with some of the players. He also met coaches Adrian Autry and former assistant Mike Hopkins.After a few rounds of tryout cuts, Wallace didn’t get an invite to come back the next day. He came to the tough realization many walk-ons must face. After the whole process, Wallace said Syracuse basketball did not give him a fair shot.“I thought it was very political,” Wallace said. “Adrian Autry’s son tried out and he made it, and I thought I was better than him.”Wallace returned to being a regular student, going to class while he tried to move on after coming up short on his dream. But then, in the fall of his sophomore year, he discovered another athletic outlet he’d always had in the form of club basketball. After talking to his friend on the team, he went to tryouts.This time, he made it.“I am so happy I found it because it fuels competitive fire,” Wallace said, “and I get to keep playing.”In the Schine Dining Center, Wallace gathered his things. People gathered across the room for an alumni event. Wallace picked up his food tray, needing to leave for a 3 p.m. lecture. Before he left for class, he turned around.“I would have been lost without being able to play,” he said. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more