Linebacker selected by Steelers in draft

The football team may not have a conference to call home this season, but Rian Wallace could find his home in the National Football League.

Wallace, a junior linebacker, was chosen Sunday by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 166th pick in the NFL Draft. Wallace was the 57th Temple football player selected since the draft’s inception in 1936.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Wallace will begin his professional career following a productive junior season. He was named First-Team All-Big East Conference last season when he made 101 tackles, ranking him second in the conference and 18th nationally. With 325 tackles in three seasons, Wallace is ranked eighth on Temple’s career list.

The Steelers finished 2004 as the top-ranked team in total defense. Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said, in comments posted on the team’s Web site, Wallace’s chances of forging a regular spot in their 3-4 defense will be difficult. Butler said special teams, a prerequisite for most Steelers’ backup linebackers in recent years, could be a good fit for Wallace.

“Right now we have a pretty good starting group [of linebackers],” Butler said. “It is going to be hard for [Wallace] to break the starting lineup. He is going to have to be a good special team’s player for us [to make the team.]”

Wallace was the first Owl drafted into the NFL since 2002, when defensive lineman Dan Klecko was taken by the New England Patriots in the fourth round. Like Wallace, Klecko entered the NFL after a successful career in a Temple uniform. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year after recording 68 tackles and 10 sacks as a senior.

Junior quarterback Walter Washington, who like Wallace chose to forego his final season, went undrafted. Last season Washington, a 2004 Second-Team All-Big East selection, led the nation in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 15.

Christopher A. Vito can be reached at cvitox01@temple.edu.

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