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June 26, 2017

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Oregon, USC fighting over this recruit — and he didn’t play 2 seasons

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Jeremy Rincon

Desert Pines’ defensive back, Tony Wallace (3), and Spring Creek receiver Dakota Larson (4), battle for positioning during the 3A high school football championship game, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, NV.

Prep Sports Now

Twins and travelers

Ray Brewer, Case Keefer and Jesse Granger discuss all things high school basketball, including this week's big Southeast matchup between Foothill and Coronado.

Tony Wallace didn’t play high school football as sophomore or junior. That’s what happens when your grade point average dips below the 2.0 threshold to be eligible.

So, when he started gaining recruiting attention from colleges last spring before his senior season, landing scholarship offers from Hawaii, BYU and UNLV during a two-week stretch, many wondered just where this 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back and wide receiver came from.

“It’s crazy. It all happened so fast,” he said. “Yeah, I’ve got a pretty good story to tell.”

After he finally played this fall, helping Desert Pines win a state championship and getting game film to send to recruiters that highlighted his raw athleticism, the offers came from a different caliber of college program. In this wave of interest, heavyweights Arizona, Oregon and USC offered him a scholarship.

Wallace played on the varsity team as a freshman at Spring Valley, but poor grades forced him to miss the following two seasons. There were no stats for recruiters to evaluate and no profile in databases at Rivals and Scout, which track recruits nationally.

Because he’s still a relative unknown, he’s listed as a two-star recruit on the evaluating scale of five stars, making him one of the less-heralded players on the radar of powerhouse USC and Oregon. Wallace is verbally committed (those are nonbinding) to Arizona but has official visits scheduled for USC and Oregon later this month. Signing day is Feb. 1.

“I grew up watching SC and Oregon. Those are two of my favorite teams,” Wallace said. “Wow, I never thought I would get those offers. I’m just a two-star (recruit). Nobody knows about me. I’m the underdog and that’s how I like it.”

By the start of his junior season, Wallace said he started to figure it out. He did enough work in the classroom to become eligible at the quarter-break of the academic schedule, but Spring Valley missed the playoffs before grades became official to signal other wasted season.

He transferred to Desert Pines last spring and caught the eye of recruiters who were frequently at the school to court the program’s other recruits. Soon, Wallace became one of the main attractions.

“There’s a lot of competition here. Every day I came out here, they pushed me to be better,” he said of his Desert Pines teammates. “They always motivated me to get better.”

He’s only briefly started to show his potential, including in Desert Pines’ state championship game victory. He had a nifty catch in the corner of the endzone on a fourth-down play late in the first half to give Desert Pines the lead for good.

Despite the two-year hiatus, he was a difference-maker on both sides of the ball for Desert Pines and was selected as a second-team Sunset League selection at defensive back.

More important: He’s on track academically to be a Division I qualifier, a process that included making up five classes in summer school.

“I didn’t do anything last summer — just went to school,” he said.

This summer, he’ll be the first person in his family to go to college. Four years later, he’s eyeing another accomplishment — being a college graduate.

“That’s what I am hoping for,” he said. “With how far I have come, it would be dumb to go back to how I used to be.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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