The rings just keep on coming.
Former Temple linebacker Rian Wallace won a Super Bowl ring earlier this month in just his first season in the NFL when his current team – the Pittsburgh Steelers – beat the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, in Super Bowl XL.
And football pundits say Temple does not have an exceptional football program.
That might be a bit much, but as evidenced with Wallace, Temple does produce Super Bowl champions.
Consider this: Five of the last six teams to win the Super Bowl had former Temple players on their rosters.
“Hopefully it will continue to be a trend,” Wallace said in a telephone interview. “I hope that will always come to be.”
Wallace wasn’t in uniform when the Steelers won the Super Bowl. The former Owl was activated by the Steelers for only four games this season. One of the games was the Steelers’ AFC Championship win at Denver, where he recorded his first and only tackle of the season.
Wallace, who joined the Owls in 2001 from Pottstown High, was one of Temple’s best linebackers. He has the stats to back it up.
Wallace earned All-Big East honors twice in his three years at Temple, where he started 29 of the 34 games in which he appeared. While in a Temple uniform, Wallace recorded 325 tackles, and 148 of those came as a junior, his final season with the Owls. He had 192 solo tackles in his career, recording two sacks and 31.5 tackles for a loss. The Owls went 7-28 in his three seasons.
The 23-year-old linebacker’s decision to forego his senior season at Temple landed him as the Steelers’ fifth-round draft choice last April. It was tough to leave school, Wallace said, but he felt it was the perfect opportunity to get drafted and financially help his family.
Wallace was most excited about his new piece of jewelry, he said.
“I’m ecstatic and it feels great,” Wallace said of the Super Bowl win. “Coming from all the hard-fought losses at Temple to coming to a situation where you’re going to the Super Bowl as a rookie, I mean who could paint that situation better?”
The Steelers’ win in the Super Bowl put Wallace in some esteemed company. The 6-foot-2-inch, 243-pound linebacker joins four former Temple players who have won Super Bowl rings in the last six years. Offensive lineman Dan Klecko won two Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots. Linebacker Alshermond Singleton won his ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII and defensive end Calvin Wilkinson earned his with the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.
Making the adjustment from starting in college to a backup role in the NFL was a challenge for Wallace, but he said he has been in that situation before.
“It’s a position that I am [familiar with] where I’ve been here before, where I know what I have to do to get back to the top [and] to get back to being a player,” Wallace said. “It’s always an adjustment, but at every level of playing that’s the role I had to take my first year out in high school, pee-wee [and] even in college when I first got to Temple. [I will] just continue to work hard and wait for my number to get called because you’re only a play away.”
Steelers teammates Joey Porter and James Farrior, who both play linebacker, were mentors to Wallace in his first season. Wallace said he learned a lot from the all-pro linebackers and their tutelage can only help him as his career flourishes.
“They were the older linebackers who were schooling me about the glory on the field and the glory off the field,” he said. “[They were] teaching me about what you have to go through and the headaches of people [hitting you who were] coming out of nowhere and dealing with certain things in the business.
“The NFL life is not as glamorous as everyone thinks it is.”
Wallace, who resides in his hometown of Pottstown, Pa., was prepared to handle the business side of the NFL, because he said former Temple head coach Bobby Wallace gave him valuable insight before he made the leap from college to pro ball.
Despite several attempts, Bobby Wallace could not be reached for comment.
Asked to describe his first year playing in the NFL, Wallace said: “The first year was bittersweet with a fulfilling taste at the end.”
How sweet it must be.
Jabari Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.