Still, his younger brother has his back. In addition to putting money every week into Reggie’s prison expense account, he plans to set him up with a home and car upon his release. But if Reggie slips up again, Mike Wallace III is prepared to cut him off for good, dad said.
The family’s financial relief came in 2009, when Wallace entered the NFL Draft. Selected in the third round, he joined a Steelers receiving corps already loaded with talent. Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes were the stars then, but within three years, Wallace was the No. 1 option.
By that point, he had outplayed his rookie contract and wanted a new one. In a power play, he held out of training camp last summer – a move that might have all but ended his time in Pittsburgh, and opened the door for Miami.
Instead of negotiating with a disgruntled Wallace, the Steelers gave big money to fellow receiver Antonio Brown. From then, it was all but a formality that Wallace would leave Pittsburgh upon reaching free agency.
Wallace saw his numbers regress last year, but still caught 64 passes for 836 yards.
“When you factor in all of those things, he clearly wasn’t focused,” said Ward, his pro mentor who retired after the 2011 season. “He wanted to have a contract, and at the same time, was trying not to get hurt. That can be a distraction for anyone.”
As for now? Those issues should be gone.
“He’s still young, that’s what scary,” Ward added. “The kid hasn’t hit his prime yet.”
The same can be said for his earning potential outside of football. Andrew Ree, an Atlanta-based attorney, is his publicist and marketing agent. Ree says that with Wallace’s combination of talent and personality — he’s described as a clean-cut, teachable guy with a great smile — “the sky is the limit.”
Ree is working to line up endorsements for Wallace, and before long, don’t be surprised to see him popping up on prime-time programs or TV talk shows.
Playing it safe
As for the Dolphins, they’re starting slowly. The organization is trying to shield Wallace from interviews until he gets better acclimated to his new team.
“Being the face of the franchise anywhere in any sport comes with performance, comes with community involvement, leadership within the locker room, within the team,” said Dolphins CEO Mike Dee.
“Does he have the ability to? Sure. … I haven’t met Mike. Everything I’ve heard about him, he’s going to be a personality.”
He’s back in New Orleans this week after spending a month in South Florida, hanging with college friends such as BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Wallace plans to return to Miami soon for the start of the team’s offseason conditioning program. He hopes to bring his 2-year-old daughter with him.
But first, he needs some family time. Get-togethers usually include barbecue and boiled crawfish in the backyard. This will probably be the last extended chance he will get until the summer.
Reggie Wallace gets out around the time training camp begins. Little brother intends to be in town when he does.
Free air tastes wonderful, particularly with family.