Maybe you’ve heard. Levi Wallace posted his phone number the other day and encouraged Bills fans to call and chat. Seriously.
Well, who knows? Maybe it was a prank, and the guy people talked to was just some random guy who had studied Wallace’s bio and just made up stuff as he went along. I mean, unless the guy’s mother or girlfriend or one of his buddies called, who else would know it was just some guy?
No, it wasn’t a prank. It actually was Levi Wallace.
Being retired, having no place to go these days, and being the Bills junkie that I am, I was hanging out on The Stadium Wall at www.TwoBillsDrive.com when someone posted that Levi Wallace was taking calls. I looked at the post, thought “that’s weird,” and moved on. Then I looked a second time and thought, “well, at least dial it.” So I did. I got the answering machine and hung up without leaving a message.
I went away for a couple of hours, then happened to go back to the forum, where I clicked on a video of the entire Bills-Cowboys game from 1984. I had been watching the game for about ten minutes when my phone rang. It said Levi Wallace was calling (I had added the number to my contacts, just in case).
“Hello?” I said.
“Hello?” someone said. “Did you call me?”
“Who’s calling?” I asked.
“This is Levi Wallace.” And we were off and running!
I’d like to say that after 73 years on this earth I was able to maintain my composure and have a mature, warm, human conversation with him. I’d like to say I asked about his family and whether everyone is safe. I’d like to say I thanked him for playing, or for calling, or for caring. This was, however, a current starter on the Buffalo Bills, so instead of any of those things, I just became a blabbering Bills fan, asking football questions and dumping my personal story on him as I could. I remember I was afraid he’d interrupt me and say he had other people to talk to, but we just rambled on, talking about football for about 15 minutes.
So what was he like? He was pleasant, relaxed, straight forward, polite, accepting of the fact that he had fan-boy on the phone. The more he talked, the more I thought “this guy is different. This is the kind of guy McDermott wants and Beane looks for.” I mean, it was hard to get past the fact that the guy just decided it would be nice to spend his entire day talking to fans on the phone, one by one. Who does that?
He was on the phone for me. He didn’t call to ask me for anything, to tell me who to vote for, or to tell me the IRS is about to send me to prison. The only purpose of his call was to bring some happiness or joy or comfort to me. He accepted me just as I came at him, just as he accepted the person before me and the person after me. One by one, he was there for whatever we might want or need. Who does that?
A 24-year-old football player, that’s who.
I asked him about his past. I knew some of it, but had forgotten some of it, too, He grew up in Tucson, went to Alabama and walked-on. I asked why he went to Alabama – after all, who expects to walk on at Alabama? He said he didn’t expect to walk on; he went because there was some reduced-tuition deal available because his father was a veteran. He told me he just kept working every day, competing every day, learning every day. There it was, McDermott’s mantra. Now Wallace is in the NFL.
I asked him whether all this “competition, improvement, team-first stuff” we hear about the Bills is true, and he said “most definitely,” a favorite phrase of football players these days. He said he loves the commitment each guy has to his teammates. He loves to compete, and his teammates do, too. In so many words, he said there’s a locker room full of guys like him.
I asked whether McDermott holds himself to the same standard he holds players to, and he said “most definitely.” He said McDermott sees it as his job to make himself better every day, because he has a commitment to his players and their families to make this team successful. He’s as committed to them as they are to each other and to him. Wallace said it’s powerful.
I asked him whether Nick Saban was different. I knew it was a loaded question, but Wallace had no trouble avoiding any disrespect to either coach. He said Saban was the same kind of guy, it was the same process. Yes, he actually said “process.” Saban was more “energetic,” which I took to mean Saban was more of a drill sergeant. But Wallace quickly pointed out that Saban had to be that way, because he was working with boys, and he had to make them into men.
I asked about Daboll. He liked Daboll a lot at Alabama and he’s glad he’s in Buffalo. He said Daboll is fun to be around. I didn’t ask and he didn’t say anything about Daboll’s offense. He simply said at Alabama he always liked practicing against Daboll’s offense. It was a good challenge.
Someplace along the way he said Bills fans are incredible.
It seems that pretty much everyone who talks to the guy is having the same reaction. Good man, dedicated. He’s impressive.
Not that he’s reading this, but just in case: “Thanks, Levi!” You did bring some joy to my life. It was fun. Maybe you could do me a solid. Could you ask Mitch Morse to give me a call? I’ve got a few questions for him.
Editor’s babble: Wow, what fun! We are so blessed. After decades of misery we finally have a team, coach, and front office deserving of this fan base. Big thanks to Levi Wallace for taking Mark’s call. And thank you Mark Korber, for your contributions to our blog. You won’t find Mark on Twitter but you can find him posting on twobillsdrive.com’s Stadium Wall.