Sierra DL signs with University of Tennessee

Sierra DL Jamal Wallace signs with Univeristy of Tennessee! 
Image courtesy @Volscoops
Sierra DL Jamal Wallace signs with Univeristy of Tennessee! Image courtesy @Volscoops

By Ryan Callahan, from 24/7 Sports


Jamal Wallace knew from the moment he received a scholarship offer from Tennessee almost three months ago that it would be tough for him to pass up the opportunity to play for the Vols. His official visit to Tennessee this weekend only further convinced him that he belonged in Knoxville.

The Class of 2024 defensive lineman from Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif., announced Sunday afternoon that he has committed to the Vols, choosing Tennessee over Utah State and Houston. He also took official visits to North Texas and USF before spending the weekend before Early Signing Day in Knoxville and being sold on the Vols.

The 6-foot-2, 302-pound Wallace gave Tennessee its 20th known commitment for the 2024 class and its fifth from a projected defensive lineman. He has three years to play his two remaining seasons of eligibility.

Before publicly announcing his choice, Wallace — a former wide receiver and defensive back at Ruskin High School in Kansas City, Mo. — said Tennessee "was always my dream school."

It started with former Vols cornerback Inky Johnson, who's now a motivational speaker, making an appearance at his high school and speaking to students there. He said it also didn't hurt that former Tennessee star safety Eric Berry played for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, the hometown team he grew up watching.

"When I first got the Tennessee offer, I kind of knew that that's where I was going to commit," said Wallace, who played in 10 games this season and finished the year with 39 tackles, including 3.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss, along with two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and three pass breakups.

"But I also wanted to give other schools a chance, because it could've been a possibility that I had changed my decision. … It's really amazing. Everything is God's planning, because I don't really believe out of high school — me being at 190, playing wide receiver and corner and safety — that I could've gotten here.

"But it was still a dream of mine, and God took me another route and I was able to get this offer."

If Wallace hadn't completely made up his mind before traveling to Tennessee, his experience during his official visit to Knoxville this weekend helped him finalize his decision. He said he was impressed by "just a bunch of players coming up and talking to me, wanting to take pictures with my auntie and uncle, how the coaching staff worked, how (Tennessee defensive line) coach (Rodney) Garner talks and speaks and carries himself."

"He gets upset at the little things," Wallace said of Garner. "The little things matter to him. He coaches hard. It's a football visit, and we didn't really even talk about football much. They wanted to get to know me personally, so that's pretty dope to me.

"And just the (indoor facility) was amazing, the training room. And then what really got me was walking out onto that field. See, I'm from juco, so seeing the stands the way it was, you can't beat that."

Wallace liked Tennessee even before the Vols started recruiting him. But he didn't hesitate to call Tennessee his leader in October after receiving his offer from the Vols on Sept. 22.

"This was my dream offer," he said. "Inky Johnson had came to my high school. He came to my school and spoke with us, and it was just like, 'Dang, I want to go here.' His story is very, very incredible. And I already know the Vols.

"It was more Inky, but Eric Berry, he played in Kansas City. And I'm from Kansas City, so I watched him a lot growing up, too. And his story is amazing, too, from cancer to going back to football."

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel's staff has told Wallace that he could play multiple positions on the defensive line. He lined up primarily as a standup edge rusher at Sierra this season, but the Vols see him as a potential defensive tackle and defensive end.

"Since this is only my second year playing defensive end, he's going to start me out as an edge rusher," Wallace said, referring to Garner. "But then he's going to work me in to D-tackle, so he feels like I can be a first-down, second-down edge rusher and then third-down and fourth-down D-tackle."

Wallace's personal journey from Kansas City to Sierra college and now to the SEC was trying at times. His hard work paid off in the end, but as recently as earlier this season, he wasn't sure it would turn out that way.

"You've just got to trust the process and believe," he said. "See, my auntie was like, 'Man, just post (the highlights) you've got,' because I wasn't doing good my first three games of the season, and I didn't have anything. And my auntie was like, 'Man, just post what you've got. These coaches know that you're a big guy and you can move. Just post what you've got, and let's see what it does.'

"But I still didn't do it. And then one of my coaches was like, 'Look, you're not making the play, but you're making the play look good — getting to the quarterback and making moves on tackles and tight ends and things like that, so I think if you post that, coaches are going to love that and want to see what you can do.'

"And I ended up posting it, and I got my first offer from Utah State, and then Tennessee came right after."