UL senior safety Deuce Wallace seems to have a firm grasp on his mental approach as a leader of the Ragin’ Cajuns.
And reports seem to indicate most of his teammates do as well.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t the potential for some issues to get complicated.
Take UL’s homecoming week in preparation for Saturday’s 4 p.m. Sun Belt Conference contest against Texas State at Cajun Field, for instance.
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Sure, Wallace would love to partake in the fun of homecoming, especially with a father that played quarterback at UL in the early 1980s.
But when you’re 5-2 overall, tied for first in the SBC West race at 2-1 and have lofty aspirations for the season, that's not an option.
“For us, it’s not going to be as tough to get ready because it’s homecoming,” Wallace said. “It’s normal to be hyped and ready for homecoming, because you want to impress the former players coming back and the former students coming back and stuff like that.”
The former walk-on from St. Thomas More has been around long enough to know it’s virtually impossible to have fun during homecoming week like a student does and still get the job of an athlete done.
“It is big,” Wallace said. “I do enjoy it, but throughout the week, I try not to think about it because that’s dangerous. It’s dangerous to get caught up in the homecoming festivities when you’re game-planning. It’s easy, because they have all kind of awesome events going on on campus and stuff like that and people to get in touch with.
“But you have to keep the main thing and that’s trying to win on Saturday, and not only win but meet our goals — make it impressive.”
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The homecoming opponent issue can be tricky as well. Like many football players over the years, Wallace is one that doesn’t like the stigma homecoming opponent's carry.
“But it’s understandable that teams that are scheduled for your homecoming somewhat feel disrespected, so they’re going to come ready to play,” Wallace said.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of the dates working out, but Wallace didn’t really buy that line of thinking.
So if the shoe is on the other foot, he’d feel …
“Disrespected,” he said. “That tells us that they feel like it’s an easy win. It’s just the pride of a football player.”
Understanding the complexities of a particular issue range further than the opponent.
Take UL’s depth situation this season, especially in the secondary where Wallace resides. The first reaction of many players might be that having a teammate take some of the plays on the field away from you as a bad thing.
It’s not technically the midseason point.
Wallace and his teammates are too wise to fall into that trap.
“Just to keep the competition strong, it keeps guys motivated to keep playing,” he said. “We understand that we’re all going to play. It’s just a matter of who plays when and what. I’m comfortable with it. We have a very selfless group. It’s new and it’s awesome, because that’s not something we should be worrying about right now.”
Wallace has seen firsthand how destructive owning a position can be.
“I’m comfortable with in-and-out,” he said. “It keeps it competitive. Just being on different UL teams, I think it’s safe to say I’ve been on the good, the bad and the ugly. When you get to the ugly and you just have people that are set and they don’t have to fight for their spot, complacency hits and I think that’s the worst thing that can happen to a team, a position group, whatever.”
Another issue is looking ahead. After losing to Appalachian State, the Cajuns’ goal is to repeat as Sun Belt West champions to potentially give themselves another shot at upsetting the No. 20-ranked Mountaineers.
That long-range goal can be motivating, but at the same time it can be counterproductive if short-range obstacles aren’t properly addressed.
It’s not that UL senior guard Kevin Dotson had any doubts.
“I feel like that’s human nature,” Wallace said. “I’m the main one to say it, but I’m always the one that just wants to win them all. I want to win the rest of them. It is important to focus one game at a time.
“Unfortunately, we still have some guys, including myself, thinking about there’s a team that we can’t seem to beat, so we’re trying to see them again. I think in terms of that, I think that’s OK to keep them in the forefront of your mind, because that’s the objective. We’re trying to see them again and in order to do that we have to take it one week at a time.”
Furthermore, even individual honors can be complicated for Wallace, who was named to the Wuerffel Trophy nomination list for an award that honors community service.
“It means a lot to me,” said Wallace, who has been involved in the Boys and Girls Club, Adopt-A-Family and St. Jude’s Hospital. “It really does, but I hate that all of the people who are with me don’t get the attention that I’m getting, because I never do a community service project alone.
“That nomination is really for everybody that joins me – my teammates, my position group, but it’s awesome just to show that we are doing something in the community.”