As Central-Phenix City quarterback Jonathan Wallace stood in line Wednesday morning, watching his Red Devil teammates walk on stage and tell the world where they’d be playing college football next season, there was little evidence to show a surprise was coming.
Dressed in a light gold suit, it appeared that Wallace was ready to confirm the commitment to the black-and-gold Knights of the University of Central Florida.
As he walked on stage, though, the last of his teammates to do so, Wallace was carrying the approved props of national signing day. With a UCF hat in one hand and an Auburn hat in the other, the crowd of a couple of hundred people could tell things were about to change.
“I must say this was a long process,” Wallace said on stage. “I’m happy with where this process took me. All I have to say is War Eagle!”
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Wallace reached down, grabbed the the Auburn hat, essentially ending what has been a taxing process.
“Auburn, of course, has always been the place I’ve wanted to go,” Wallace said moments after he made his decision public. “I got the offer that I wanted and the opportunity to play there and in the SEC. I look forward to the challenge.”
That offer from Auburn, Wallace said, came on Monday, and he accepted on the spot.
It was the offer Wallace had been waiting for all along.
“Through all the years of high school, this is the place I wanted to go,” Wallace said. “When the opportunity came, I took it. Everybody wants to be that guy to win a championship.”
The offers got bigger and bigger throughout the whole recruiting process,” Wallace said. “With this decision I feel great about it. I’m happy. I’m ready to go to work, War Eagle.”
In August, Wallace accepted an offer from Southern Miss and said he would play there. When coach Larry Fedora left in early December to take the head coaching position at North Carolina, Wallace opened his process back up. In mid-January he accepted an offer from Central Florida.
“I was set to go to UCF,” Wallace said. “I was ready to play there. I was happy with that decision. I just couldn’t pass this opportunity up when it came. Any college player would love the chance to play against that level of competition. I’m just glad to be able to have the opportunity and take it to the limit.”
Jonathan Curry, Wallace’s Central teammate and tight end, confirmed his commitment Wednesday to play at Purdue.
Central’s only other player to receive and athletic scholarship from a division-I school was excited as he mingled easily with friends, family and members of the media before the ceremony.
“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. It’s a great day for me. A great day for Central football. It’s really a blessing,” Curry, who was sporting a black, gold and white tie in honor of Purdue said. “Purdue had the best fit for me athletically and academically. I feel I have the opportunity to play early. They’ve talked about using me a lot of different ways on offense. They’ll use me as an H-back, tight end and receiver. I’m very excited about everything about it and this day.”
Curry, who also announced his intentions last August, made only one official visit, but he said he made many unofficial visits that included Alabama, LSU and Stanford before deciding on Purdue and the Big Ten conference.
“It really is the best opportunity for me to play and make an impact right away,” Curry said. “I think playing in the Big Ten is a great opportunity. If you’re a good player then people are going to find you. That’s what happened with me.”
Curry plans to study communications or sports science at the Indiana school.
Curry was not only happy with his decision but he’s ready to slow down a bit.
“I’m relieved it’s over,” he said. “Recruiting is crazy. I will say that I’m glad it’s over.”
Wallace is also happy the process is over, even though he readily admits that changing his mind played a part in the added stress of the situation.
“I wasn’t the only kid in America getting that last offer,” Wallace said. “I know that looking at it from the outside people get an idea of what’s going on. But until it’s happening to you it’s hard to fully understand. This is happening all over the place today. I was set to go to UCF. I was happy with that. But this opportunity came.”
Wallace said he let the UCF coaching staff know of his decision just before he walked out to the cafeteria on Wednesday morning.
“This isn’t an easy process,” Wallace said. “At the end, though, I’m really happy about Auburn and I hope people are happy for me.”
Other players from Central who announced where they’ll be playing football in the fall include: running back Trent Miles will attend Benedict, running back Jerald Walker, linebacker Trevaris Horton, linebacker Luke Wilson, cornerback Justin Wiley and linebacker Reggie Brown will attend Shorter, linebacker B.J. Hunter will attend Alabama State, receiver Skyler Moor will attend Tuskegee, defensive end Zach Dean will attend Murray State and center Paul Waldrop plans to walk on at Alabama.