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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 13 Jackie Wallace

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at UA: Cornerback, 1970-72

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Was a first-team All-American in 1972, as selected by UPI and the Sporting News. … The Associated Press selected him as a third-team All-American. … Earned first-team All-WAC honors as a junior and senior.

Why he made our list: Jackie Wallace, from St. Augustine High in New Orleans, is one of the program’s top defensive playmakers of any era. Not only did he intercept 20 passes — 19 coming in his final two seasons — he returned two for touchdowns and scored four times on punt returns.

Three of his punt returns came during his junior season, covering 73 yards vs. Texas Tech, 94 against UCLA and 74 against Utah. In that 14-3 victory over Utah, Wallace also intercepted two passes, one coming in the end zone and the other returned 36 yards for a score.

UA coach Bob Weber, in a UPI story, called Wallace’s performance “the best game I’ve ever seen.”

Wallace’s 20 interceptions rank second in UA history behind Chuck Cecil’s 21 and are tied for the 17th-best mark in NCAA history.

Unless the WAC restarts as a football league, Wallace will forever share the conference record for career interceptions and single-season interceptions (11 in 1971).

Life after college: The Minnesota Vikings selected Wallace with the eighth pick of the second round, No. 34 overall, in 1973.

He spent one year on the taxi squad, then played six seasons in the NFL, making 11 interceptions in 70 games in a career that included stints with the Baltimore Colts and Los Angeles Rams. He led the NFL in 1978 with 618 punt return yards. He played on two Super Bowl teams, including with the Rams in 1980, but was cut from camp that fall.

A couple of years later, his life spiraled into alcohol and drug abuse. He spent time in prison. He was off the radar until a photographer from the New Orleans Times-Picayune found him living in a cardboard box underneath an overpass. A front-page story alerted friends and alumni of St. Augustine to help.

Employed and through rehab in Baltimore, he remarried two years later and bought a house in Baltimore. In 1995, he told the Baltimore Sun, “I am a miracle.”

The latest update on Wallace came in June 2012, when a New Orleans TV station aired a piece on the potential closing of The New Orleans Mission due to lack of funding. The station interviewed a homeless Jackie Wallace, who said he had been going to the mission for about two months (see the video at this link).

“(I’m there) just about every day,” he said. “I might miss one or two days out of the week. Believe it or not, this place is wonderful, too. Nice bedding, people are nice, food is outstanding.”

In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.

Arizona’s top 50

No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley

No. 49 — Hubie Oliver

No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski

No. 47 — Jim Donarski

No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter

No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin

No. 44 — John Fina

No. 43 — Glenn Parker

No. 42 — Bobby Lee Thompson

No. 41 — Marcus Bell

No. 40 — Fred W. Enke

No. 39 — Ka’Deem Carey

No. 38 — Juron Criner

No. 37 — Dana Wells

No. 36 — Tom Tunnicliffe

No. 35 — Bruce Hill

No. 34 — Chuck Osborne

No. 33 — Brandon Sanders

No. 32 — Sean Harris

No. 31 — Mike Thomas

No. 30 — Bobby Wade

No. 29 — T Bell

No. 28 — Joe Salave’a

No. 27 — Eddie Wilson

No. 26 — Chuck Levy

No. 25 — Allan Durden

No. 24 — Nick Foles

No. 23 — Tony Bouie

No. 22 — ‘King Kong’ Nolan

No. 21 — Bill Lueck

No. 20 — Walter “Hoss” Nielsen

No. 19 — Trung Canidate

No. 18 — Mark Arneson

No. 17 — Chris Singleton

No. 16 — Mike Dawson

No. 15 — Max Zendejas

No. 14 — Dennis Northcutt

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