With a history that spans over 95 years, the Green Bay Packers are one of the more historic sports teams in the world. The hallowed Lambeau Field, Vince Lombardi, and legendary players like Bart Starr, James Lofton, Reggie White, and Brett Favre loom so large that it’s tough to stand out.
In the 2013 NFL season, quarterback Seneca Wallace did just that. With star Aaron Rodgers on the mend, head coach Mike McCarthy turned to Wallace to start their game against the Philadelphia Eagles. With that, Wallace became the first African-American to start at quarterback in the team’s history.
“Being able to run onto Lambeau, with a team that everyone knows, being the first African-American starting quarterback in the history of the Green Bay Packers organization, was amazing.” Wallace says. “There is a reason why God brought me to Green Bay and gave me that opportunity. I wish it would’ve lasted longer, but it was awesome.”
That journey to the frozen tundra in Green Bay was a long one that featured many ups and downs, but in the end, it has just made Wallace’s rise to the NFL that much greater.
Growing up in California, Wallace was born into a rough situation. His parents separated when he was 11 years old; prior to that, there was constant conflict between his mother and father. His relationship with his father was especially difficult.
“My dad sold drugs. There was me, my two older brothers, and my dad’s previous kids that he had with somebody else. I still remember that the only time we communicated with him was through an intercom; we talked down to where he was at on the first floor. There was no going fishing, there was no, ‘I’m going to help you change a tire on a car or get up under the hood,’ or those types of things.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, his home situation, Wallace was diligent and hardworking on the football field. It paid off in 1998, when Oregon State University offered him a scholarship. Unfortunately, the exciting news came under darker clouds.
“That same year, I found out that my mom had cancer. I was in a little bit of resentment, you know? ‘Jesus, why would you allow this to happen to my mom?’”
He passed on the offer from Oregon State, playing impressive back-to-back seasons at Iowa State University instead; that got him drafted in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Installed as the starter in Seattle at the time was Matt Hasselbeck.
“I think God placed me in Seattle for a reason, you know? I was there with Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Dilfer, Jim Zorn; very strong believers of God in this room. And so as I grew as an NFL player and quarterback, I also grew in my faith.”
“When I got to Cleveland, my faith got even stronger. I was around Reggie Hodges and Ben Watson. Those guys [in Seattle and Cleveland] . . . I’ve never been around that much love and that much faith in my life. Being around guys who showed me how to be a husband, father, man . . . they showed me how to let my guard down and not let it all be about me.”
Though he is not on an NFL roster at the time of this writing, Wallace continues to develop in ways that will help him should his days in the league come to a close. He remembers his childhood and knows that things will be different should he ever have children of his own.
“You know, I don’t have kids yet, but I know that once I have kids, I’m going to be a nourisher, I’m going to be a lover and put God first. I’m going to do all the things to be able to build up son or my daughter. I’m going to be there in any way possible, [because] I know the things that I missed out on when I was younger.”
Whether he gets another shot at making at impact at the highest level of football or not, Wallace is confident in the Lord.
“He’s never going to forsake me, He’s never going to turn His back on me, even if I don’t play another snap in the National Football League. He will still lead me down other paths, other avenues, where He knows that I can serve my purpose here on earth.” —Brian Rzeppa