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Be like Kodi: Jonathan Wallace wants big finish at Auburn
March 30, 2015

Jonathan Wallace is ready to help Auburn in 2015

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- Once upon a time, in Auburn, Jonathan Wallace was your starting quarterback.

He won two of his four starts on a team that won three games in 2012. But it's not that won-loss record that will measure Jonathan Wallace. It's upbeat attitude, it's his gratitude that Auburn made him the last man in the 2012 signing class, it's his team-first mentality that makes it OK that he's a receiver these days while hoping to find his way on the field for the 2015 season.

"The way it's been explained to me is you truly find about the character of a man through trials and tribulations," Wallace said. "I've definitely embraced that throughout this process. The biggest thing I've kept focus on is the ultimate goal, and that's reaching the next level. I've been doing whatever it takes."

Does Jonathan Wallace's story sort of sound familiar? It should. Before there was Jonathan Wallace, there was Kodi Burns, an Auburn quarterback that Gus Malzahn moved to wide receiver, who accepted the move and became a crowd favorite. Kodi Burns caught a touchdown pass in the BCS national championship game that Auburn won in his last appearance for the Tigers.

"I've talked to Kodi a lot," Wallace said during a spring practice break. "The things he always told me was never give up and always keep a positive attitude because you never know what may happen, you never know when your chance may come. That was big just to hear from him. We've had similar situations, and I've been compared to him a lot, especially from Coach Malzahn."

Wallace was called on to start the final four games of the tough 2012 season. He beat New Mexico State and Alabama State; lost to Georgia and Alabama. Wallace completed 46 of 80 passes that season for 720 yards and four touchdowns, setting a school record for passing efficiency for a freshman. He threw four passes the next season and one last year. He caught one pass last year, too.

Wallace, from Central High in Phenix City, says he occasionally reflects on his quarterback days, and his 2-2 record as a starter.

"I would have loved to be on the winning side of that instead of .500," Wallace said. "But I don't look about is being about me. I enjoy seeing others succeed. The rest will handle itself. The thing I want to do is to play for the guy who is next to me. "

Now, Wallace sees a chance to contribute in his fourth season.

"The years have flown by," Wallace said. "I'm excited about it. I'm embracing it. I'm looking for it to getting better and finding a spot.

"Even before coming here I wanted to be able to produce. I feel like I've done that in some ways, but as a competitor you never are satisfied with producing. For me, going through this spring, that's what I'm trying to do, to find my niche on this team so I can produce."

Malzahn says Wallace can be successful.

"He's a smart guy, he's showing some toughness," Malzahn said. "He's got some similarities to Kodi Burns, understanding the offense, understands defenses and he's got a good head on his shoulder."

The competition at wide receiver runs deep, especially for a quarterback turned receiver.

"It's part of a transition, learning to run certain routes at certain depths. I've been able to play different positions, whether it's inside or outside," he said. "Overall, I know the offense. I have a good foundation of how it works and what we're doing. That's was the easy part for me. I'm working on the smaller details.

"The biggest thing for me is finishing plays. I'd say that will get me on the field. It's been pretty fun for me right now."

Auburn's theme this spring has been "Count on Me." Wallace believes, and is trying to convey that conviction to the coaches.

"They've got to be able to trust you, and it starts now on the practice field," he said. "The biggest thing for me right now is gaining their trust so I can find a spot on the field. Coach Malzahn does a great job of getting guys in the right position and doing what they're good at."

Wallace was committed to Central Florida with an eye of playing quarterback for four years before Auburn came calling. Wallace is glad the Tigers did.

"This is a tribute of someone who always dreamed of playing college football. And not only that, being able to play for a team you wanted to play for. I've done that."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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