The Yale football team has gone on the offensive in the first two weeks of its season.
The strategy has been successful, with the Elis piling on a total of 103 points, 1,308 offensive yards and 14 touchdowns in its 2–0 start.
In order for head coach Tony Reno’s no-huddle offense to work as well it has, all pieces of the puzzle need to operate in unison. One of those pieces, wide receiver Grant Wallace ’15, has been a major part of the attack since Reno introduced it in 2012. And in his senior season, he remains a key to the team’s offense.
As a starting X receiver in Yale’s spread offense since his sophomore year Wallace’s role is to block for running backs and receivers along the perimeter and also to provide a sideline option for quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 in single coverage, he said.
Though his blocking ability cannot be directly measured beyond the 642 rushing yards Yale has tallied this year, it is clear that he has proven a reliable target for his quarterback over the years.
The St. Louis, Missouri native has recorded the second-most catches on the Bulldogs in each of his three seasons as a starter, including this year, when he has caught 13 passes for 168 yards in Yale’s first two games. Nine of those completions were quick passes to the outside for first downs.
“[Wallace] is a rare species of receiver that is physically gifted and also intellectually football savvy,” Roberts said in a message to the News. “This is not Grant’s first year making an impact on our offense … but I do believe he has made great strides this off season to become a standout player in this league.”
Wallace is the only starting Eli wide receiver with two full seasons of experience under Reno, as captain Deon Randall ’15 missed all of 2012 with an injury.
That experience has proven invaluable to Wallace’s leadership and guidance of underclassmen. Wideout Robert Clemons ’17 has five catches for 39 yards, and freshmen Ross Drwal ’18 and Mike Siragusa ’18 each have three receptions, with Drwal scoring a touchdown last week against Army.
Wallace said that this time has allowed him to better understand his role in the offense and to become a leader among the Yale receivers.
“Deon is the captain, he’s the vocal leader of the receiving corps, and I’m more of a leader by example,” Wallace said. “That translates to the whole offense … Whether it’s through vocal leadership or leading by example, the whole offense has taken it upon themselves to lead the younger guys in an effective way.”
Part of what makes Wallace a strong example for younger players may be that he rose to the top of Yale’s depth chart without ever seeing time on the field in his freshman year.
Unlike other offensive playmakers Roberts, Randall and running back Tyler Varga ’15, Wallace began his Yale career on the junior varsity squad. It was not until after a full year of practice, in which he won a team award for most improved wide receiver, that he began starting in his sophomore year.
He quickly made an impact, catching 35 passes for 371 yards and leading the team with three touchdown receptions.
“When I came in as a freshman, the game was definitely fast for me,” Wallace said. “That year of JV football, [of] playing on scout teams, really helped me learn what it was [like] to be a college receiver … I got faster, I understood the receiver position better.”
Before setting foot on Yale campus as a freshman, Wallace already had ties to Yale football. His father, Bob Wallace ’78, played under long-time head coach and college football hall-of-famer Carm Cozza as a running back.
Though the elder Wallace did not get any significant playing time, he went on to work as a vice president and general counsel for the St. Louis Rams, who won a Super Bowl in 2000.
Grant Wallace said that he is honored to follow in the footsteps of his father at Saybrook College and on the football team, and that his father feels the same way.
“He said that seeing me on the field and being able to help this program, make catches and score touchdowns has been the proudest he’s ever been,” Wallace said. “He’s worked in the NFL for 30 years and has won a Super Bowl, and to hear him say that’s the proudest he’s been is really, really cool.”