Wallace breaks UNA football win record

by Sports Editor Mike Ezekiel

If UNA head coach Bobby Wallace was not already considered a legend in Florence, he is now.

The magic number was 110 for Wallace Oct. 3 as his Lions defeated conference rival Valdosta State 34-12 to make him the winningest coach in program history.

Wallace, who is in his 14th season and second stint as UNA’s head coach, surpassed Hal Self’s record of 109 with the win.

“I wasn’t even thinking about it (after the game),” Wallace said. “It’s the first time it has crossed my mind. Of course now that it has dawned on me, it is a great honor.

“There are a lot of great coaches and a lot of great players I have had the opportunity to work with. There have been a lot of great memories at UNA.”

Wallace said while he would have preferred to break the record in front of the home crowd, breaking it at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Valdosta, Georgia, had sentimental value .

“I actually won my first GSC (Gulf South Conference) championship on this same field,” he said. “It’s kind of ironic. It’s a good place for it to happen, even though I’d rather it be Braly.”

UNA athletic director Mark Linder, who was responsible for hiring Wallace the second time in 2012, said the fan support for Wallace is tremendous.

“When we brought him back, he was embraced by the community,” Linder said. “I didn’t know him, but obviously the community knew him. He’s a good man. Nobody deserves this more than Coach Wallace.”

Linder said since rehiring Wallace, the program made remarkable strides on and off the field through what Wallace calls “the intangibles” (winning qualities).

“He not only talks about (intangibles) a lot, but he lives them, too,” Linder said. “You can tell by the way the kids play for him, he’s a man of character. Our kids play the right way. That’s a reflection of him and his staff.”

UNA offensive coordinator Cody Gross, who played quarterback on all three of UNA’s national championship teams under Wallace in 1993-95, said it is an honor to play and coach under him.

“I’ve been with him for a bunch of those (wins),” Gross said. “It has been very rewarding. He’s such a good man and a great coach. He hasn’t mentioned (breaking the record) because he’s such a humble guy and gives others credit.”

Gross said he recalls chatting with Wallace about how honorable it is to be mentioned with Self.

“Coach Self got the program started and helped us get the program in the right direction,” Gross said. “That man is a legend, but the guy I’m working for is, too.”

Senior offensive tackle Jalen Beavers said making the decision to play for Wallace out of junior college was one of the best he has ever made.

“I am very appreciative of him for the opportunity he gave me,” Beavers said. “I think a lot of people on the team feel the same way I do. I enjoy being under him and playing for him. He’s a legend in my book.”

Wallace and the Lions will look to add to that number next week on the road against Western Oregon in a non-conference matchup Oct. 10.