Wallace still has a chip on his shoulder

Shortly after Levi Wallace agreed to join the Steelers, he made a call to someone he knew would be happier than anyone about him joining the black and gold.

He called his mother, Wendy Wallace, and shared the news with her.

"My mom is a real Pittsburgh fan," said Wallace. "She grew up in Newport News, Virginia. My mom and her brother love football. My mom could name every player off of every Steelers team. She talks about the Steel Curtain all of the time.

"I called her about coming here and said what do you think about me going to the Steelers. She is so dramatic. She pulled off the road, started fake coughing, and said what did you say son. She has been a real fan."

Wallace has heard his fair share about the Steelers from his mother, but she isn't the only one who has been in his hear about the black and gold. Former Alabama teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick shared his love for the Steelers organization with Wallace multiple times since being traded to Pittsburgh and got in his ear recently with free agency approaching.

"Minkah called me the day before free agency officially started and I was in Pilates," said Wallace. "He asked what I was thinking. He told me he wanted me to come to the Steelers. I told him, you didn't hear, I am coming to the Steelers. He was like what. It was dope.

"Then it all hit me. He wears my number, No. 39. I was laughing thinking maybe I made a mistake. But that is his number here. So, I changed my number. It's great having him again, a familiar face, trying to bring back that continuity we had back in college."

Wallace said as of now he plans to wear No. 29 for the Steelers, and just can't wait to get to work for an organization he immediately fell in love with when he first arrived at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

"The people are great," said Wallace. "The organization seems like genuine people. Everyone is so excited in the building. So am I. I have to learn my way around here. I look forward to meeting people and remembering everyone's name."

And the one person who really sealed the deal for him is someone who's name he has known for a long time – Coach Mike Tomlin. Wallace said he can't wait to play for him, someone he knew about before making his way to the NFL and continued to hear great things about when he played for the Buffalo Bills.

"Just the way he carries himself," said Wallace. "I haven't had too many conversations with him, but he can be a role model for me, how he walks, talks, so down to earth. And you hear about it from the other guys in the locker room. I want to be a part of that. Coming from Coach (Sean) McDermott in Buffalo, he was kind of the same. They played together back in the day in college.

"I felt like it was time for me to get out of Buffalo and the Steelers were the perfect place for me. The organization as a whole. I played against the Steelers a few times and the fan base is amazing. And the people. I talk to Minkah all of the time and he raves about this place, this organization. And the defense that is here. Coach Tomlin, he has done a fabulous job. Learning under him is something I look forward to."

Wallace's path to the NFL wasn't the easiest one. He was a walk-on at Alabama after playing intramural football with friends at the school made him realize how much he missed the game.

"I was bored. Friends were like let's do intramural football," said Wallace. "I was the best athlete on the field. I was playing quarterback, throwing dimes, running around like Lamar Jackson. It was a lot of fun. Those moments made me realize how much I missed football, being part of a team. The next semester I walked on at Alabama."

Wallace earned a scholarship and started for the National Championship team in 2017, alongside Fitzpatrick. But he still had to prove himself when it came to heading to the NFL. He signed with the Bills as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2018 NFL Draft, and his 52 starts are the most by an undrafted defensive back since 2011.

Wallace doesn't refer to himself as being undrafted, instead saying, 'People say undrafted. I say eighth round.' With that, comes a mentality, a bit of a chip on his shoulder that will always remain.

"It's what has gotten me here," said Wallace. "If it's not broken, don't fix it. Keep pushing. Act like you are still the walk-on back at Alabama. I take that with me every day.

"I come in here with the same mentality. I hate being comfortable. I don't like the word comfortablility. I still have to work for it. I still have to prove myself to the Steelers organization. That is why I am here. I am here to help the team win. That is my goal. I am a winner."

"I think new challenges, new opportunities, a new city, new people to meet. It is going to push me and challenge me in ways I haven't been challenged since I have been in Buffalo. When you are in one place you can get stagnant, I am here to push myself and prove myself to the Steelers organization and the league I am one of the top guys in the NFL."

Wallace is excited to get into the playbook, start to learn the defense, and just get ready to do what he loves most. Play football.

"I am excited to learn the defense. I love learning new plays and soaking in defensive coordinator schemes," said Wallace. "When it comes to opening a playbook, count me in. I just like to learn. I want to learn new plays and how we are going to affect quarterbacks. My job is to get turnovers."

And while talking to him he might be quiet and soft-spoken, rest assured, when he gets on the field, he is completely different because creating turnovers truly is his mission.

"I am a nice guy, but I love to compete," said Wallace. "I am a competitor. I do change. The fire does come out because it's something I love. I am very passionate about football. I don't hide my personality on the field.

"I am excited to play football because tomorrow is not guaranteed. People don't have jobs right now and I am blessed to sign with the Steelers. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, today is what we have and I am excited to play for the Steelers."