Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 18, 2002

BOGUE CHITTO – This is a feel good story.

Linebacker John Wallace of Bogue Chitto has signed a footballscholarship with the University of West Alabama Tigers. Wallace isone of those hard-working young men who loves the game of football.The scholarship is a dream come true for the Bobcats’ leadingtackler in 2001.

Blessed with good looks and an All-American smile, Wallacepersonifies a typical small town, high school football hero. A trueleader with a fierce competitive spirit, he has much more to give,mainly a compassionate heart, a love of God and a love offamily.

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Former Bogue Chitto football coach Carl Cole said it best. “Johnmight be a step slow and a few inches short but he plays with somuch heart. He would be an asset to any college football team. He’sa good citizen, a great person.”

UWA coach Randy Pippin has been searching the rural countrysidesof Alabama and Mississippi for quality players who somehow gotoverlooked by other colleges. Wallace is one of his finds.

“This is a dream come true for me,” said Wallace. He wasbeginning to wonder if he would ever play college football. Colehad beat the publicity drums loud and long for many of his playerswho helped compile a school-best 11-2 worksheet and a berth in theClass 1A state playoffs.

Offensive tackle Ernie Johnston signed with Copiah-LincolnCommunity College. Running back Dominick Addison signed withJackson State University. Cole sent plenty of game films todifferent colleges promoting his stars.

College coaches sent questionnaires for the players to fill out.Many of them made long-distance telephone calls inquiring aboutBogue Chitto athletes.

Wallace patiently waited for scholarship offers. Few came hisway. The Daily Leader’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year on theAll-Lincoln County Team was a linebacker who liked to hit.

Would he make a hit with a college recruiter?

West Alabama invited him to visit the Livingston campus andparticipate in a tryout camp. The coaches were impressed. They alsosaw him play against Puckett in the state playoffs.

UWA has a local connection in linebacker coach Blake Frazier, aNorth Pike graduate.

Wallace comes from a football family. His father, Loyd, playedlinebacker at Bogue Chitto and graduated in 1976. He wore jerseyNo. 33, the same as his dad. John was promoted to the Bobcatvarsity after completing his eighth grade season.

His introduction to high school football was a jolting,first-person encounter with the mighty Dexter Bulldogs. Wallacepersevered, lifted weights with religious fervor and kept ongrowing.

Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 200 pounds, Wallace possessesplenty of muscle on his strong frame. A standout in the classroom,he wants to major in physical training at UWA and obtain a minor inbusiness.

“I always wanted to play college football,” said Wallace. “Iknow God has a plan for me.”

The prospects of being redshirted and doing the usual freshmandrudgery of playing on the scout team doesn’t faze Wallace. Heloves the game.

The Tigers finished 1-10 overall and 0-9 in the powerful GulfSouth Conference last season, Pippin’s first at the helm.Recruiting results have been encouraging. There are eightMississippians on the varsity roster and nine more who signedscholarships.

UWA opens its season Sept. 7 against Belhaven College inJackson. “It will be like a home game for us,” said Wallace.

Lloyd and Donna Wallace are extremely proud of their son. Infact, they have four sons. The youngest, Barrett, will be a senioron Bogue Chitto’s varsity this fall.

John Wallace is said to be the first Bogue Chitto graduate toplay football at UWA. Hopefully, more will follow in hisfootsteps.

Gearing up for the 2002 football campaign, The Daily Leader’sannual Gridiron Preview is in the works. Publication date is Aug.30. Area coaches are asked to check their mail boxes at school, andreturn the DL’s questionnaires as soon as possible. Wesson headcoach Ronald Greer was the first mentor to return the form. Thatqualifies him for a week’s vacation in Bude.

Greer’s Cobras are anticipating a great year after finishing11-2 and making the second round of the state playoffs. They kickoff their season Aug. 30, hosting the Salem Wildcats.

Speaking of football, the 53rd Bernard Blackwell FootballClassic is Friday night at Madison Central High School. The 7:30kickoff will be preceded by pregame ceremonies starting at 7p.m.

Playing on the South squad from this area arefullback/linebacker Billy Ray Miller of Wesson and defensive backJason Snell of Lawrence County. Miller (6-2, 198) has signed withthe Co-Lin Wolves and Snell (6-0, 185) has signed with Delta StateUniversity.

Another player from this area is Marcus Gatlin, a wingback fromMcComb. Gatlin (5-8, 155) helped the Tigers win the Class 4A statechampionship in 2000 and advance to the state playoffs in 2001 asthe Region 6-4A runner-up.