Penn State Football: Defensive Back Mike Wallace Puts Different Spin on his Career
"Make you blink twice when you start to realize, you only live once so you gotta go get it, I'm living in a dream and I highly recommend it" - Just Another Day, Primary Element
Standing outside of the student radio station located in the HUB Robeson Center on Penn State's campus, it’s clear that defensive back Mike Wallace is getting antsy.
“When is he going to get here?” Wallace said, mumbling to himself.
With only minutes to spare, Wallace is locked out of the studio as the second week of his twice-weekly music talk show is set to start without him.
At the last possible moment, a radio manager arrives to let Wallace into the building. A flurry of activity takes place as Wallace and his co-host rush to set up the studio, managing to get on the air just a few seconds late.
“I hate being rushed,” Wallace said as he prepares to deliver a mandatory weather bulletin to the listening audience.
When the show finally settles in, a two-hour marathon of hip-hop music and conversation about Wallace’s recent trip to Florida and run-in with a tropical storm fills the airwaves.
“The eye of this storm is right over head and for some reason I wasn’t scared,” Wallace said, laughing. “We ordered pizza and the delivery guy said they were going to keep delivering until the roads got too bad. It was crazy.”
As the show wraps up, a rock opera plays over the speakers creating a few laughs for everyone in the room. The audible juxtaposition between two hours of hip-hop beats and a heavy metal opera is all too obvious as the late night programming takes over.
“Maybe we should have gone to commercial first,” Wallace said before exiting the studio.
Back at his apartment across campus, a more complete picture of who Wallace is can be found on his wall. A poster of Primary Element, a Maryland-based trio of musicians and rappers, which Wallace takes part in, covers one wall as a framed photo of Wallace in full pads and jersey sits atop his desk.
A pad of paper and keyboard sits underneath it all only feet from Wallace’s bed ready at a moment’s notice.
“I never really did music until I got to Penn State,” Wallace said while enjoying a bowl of noodles cooked by sophomore wide receiver and roommate Matt Zanellato. “It really amazed me how many people responded to it, I was always like, ‘Really, you like it?’ ”
Primary Element, or PE for short, has experienced a fairly high level of success for a college-based music group.
A small clothing line, several high quality produced albums and a handful of professionally done music videos have seen PE's success go from a small fan base to performances in front of thousands at Penn State's THON. A few tracks have even found their way to the pregame music that plays throughout Beaver Stadium on game days.
“I guess everyone has hobbies, some people play video games,” Wallace said, nodding toward the door as Zanellato and State College native Alex Kenney loudly discuss the many virtues of retro video games.
“It’s all about time management," Wallace said. "I get up so early and go to bed so late, you just find time for everything. In the end I am here at Penn State to play football, but music is my hobby.”
Since coming to Penn State, Wallace has been something of a people’s champion. The seemingly normal guy who plays sports, enjoys music and seems to do it all above the aura that comes with the status of a collegiate football player.
Between injury and Penn State’s depth the past few years in the secondary, Wallace’s playing time has been limited. A redshirt junior, he had just one tackle and one pass breakup last season.
Still, the Maryland native has amassed a social media following of 2,500 people on Twitter, a number that reflects Wallace’s personality more than his status as a football player.
“I want people to say that I’m something of a renaissance man,” Wallace said. “I’m just trying to be me and I think people can relate to that. I enjoy talking to fans and being a part of it all, I’m just being me."
Wallace’s role on the Penn State football team this fall has yet to be determined, despite a razor-thin secondary.
But, one is thing for certain. Wallace will be himself, rapping out a tune.