College football players across the country – even in Stillwater – have opted out of regular season and bowl games to prepare themselves for the NFL.
Not Tylan Wallace.
The Oklahoma State senior wide receiver, who’s made numerous highlight reel catches during his time in orange and black, missed the Cowboys’ regular season finale after suffering a minor knee injury the week before, but he wasn’t about to opt out of his last bowl game.
Wallace could have done as his teammate, redshirt junior running back Chuba Hubbard, did and opt out of the bowl game to get fully healthy in preparation for the next level. Hubbard sat out more than the bowl game, but Wallace will be on the field at the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, Florida, when the Cowboys play Miami at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“For me it’s kind of just a personal thing,” Wallace said. “I think to me, playing in the bowl game for me is the right way to go out. I feel like I’ve put a lot into the program and it means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to the guys. I wanted to go ahead and finish out the right way in my eyes, to finish out the bowl game with them and spend the last however – the last game, last few moments and everything with them.”
In nine games played this season, Wallace had led OSU with 53 receptions for 877 yards and six touchdowns. He needs just 26 yards to match last year’s total of 903 yards, which is the second highest of his career, following 1,491 yards in 2018 that helped him become a Biletnikoff Award finalist.
This year, Wallace is on pace for his second-best season as a Cowboy, and he’s done it after returning from a torn ACL last year.
“For me, I think that was a key thing that everybody was wondering, like if I was going to be able to be the same guy I was or be able to bounce back from an ACL injury,” Wallace said. “That definitely took part of the decision to come back, but also, I knew what the kind of team we had and I knew what we were capable of.
“So I think that was another big, key part that I wanted to be a part of and I wanted to make sure that I felt like I was doing the right thing, and I was very happy, very grateful to make that decision and I’m happy that I made that decision. (I) feel like I’ve kind of proven that the ACL injury hasn’t really affected me too much and I think it was just – I just felt right. I’m really happy that I did that and I was able to go out the right way with my team.”
OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn talked about his excitement to have Wallace on the field to face the Hurricanes, especially after what his star receiver has overcome.
“He loves the game of football. So as far as what I’ve seen from him, I’ve seen the same guy,” Dunn said. “I’ve seen him just go back and work again. It’s almost like it never happened. You see him out there running routes and competing and playing and he’s a joy to watch, he really is, because he plays so hard all the time. He’s a fantastic blocker, loves the game and that’s why he’s playing now. He probably has as much reason to opt out as much as anyone, but the guy loves playing football, and he wants to be out here with his team, with his teammates, and there’s a lot of senior receivers here that he enjoys playing the game with, and this is his last opportunity to do it.
“So I have a ton of respect for the fact that he’s going to be out there on Tuesday playing that game with us and sharing those moments. Pretty exciting for me, and I’m just happy I got a chance to get that kid recruited and here. I love the fact that he returned for his senior year and he’s competing. Exciting times and one last opportunity to watch him run around the field. The last time I had a group like that, we were down there at the same Bowl game, the Camping World Bowl at that time and we had three receivers, and James (Washington) was part of that. I was with him for four years and now Tylan for four years and now they have played the same position, so kind of come full circle, I guess, but I’m excited for the game plan.”