When Clemson opened spring practice in late February, K’Von Wallace was right up front leading the way as the team began its warmups.
No one asked the senior to do it. He just took the initiative and did it himself.
“As a leader, that is just something you take upon yourself,” the safety explained. “Nobody should have to tell you to do anything. Nobody should have to tell you to pick up behind yourself. Nobody should have to tell you to pick up bottles in the weight room. Nobody should have to tell you to pick up your towel and all of that stuff on the ground.”
And no one told Wallace he has to be a leader. It just comes naturally to him, which is refreshing to a coaching staff that is looking for leaders on a defensive unit that lost seven starters from last year’s national championship team.
“K’Von is just one of those guys that gets it,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.
Wallace begins his third season as a starter for the Tigers’ at strong safety. He has become one of those players the coaches don’t really worry about. He knows what he has to do, and he goes to work.
“I want to show the coaches they can trust me,” he said. “I want to show them that I will lay it all on the line for my team and my family.”
Wallace is one of three starters returning in the secondary—free safety Tanner Muse and corner A.J. Terrell are the other two—along with reserve safeties Nolan Turner and Denzel Johnson. All four of them have been through the battles and big moments. Several times in the national championship win over Alabama, all four of them were on the field at the same time.
“We have always been leaders, just the light was always shined on the front end,” Wallace said. “They were great leaders, though. We lost some great leaders. Great leaders lead others into becoming great leaders. A lot of guys, like Xavier Thomas, are coming in and being more vocal and being more committed. Seeing his growth and how well he is doing and knowing he has others coming in behind him, he is going to have to step up. There are a lot of special guys.
“Isaiah Simmons leading Mike Jones. A.J. Terrell leading all the corners out there. It is a special group.”
It is a defense Wallace says still has a lot to do, but they are learning, and he feels they have the potential to be every bit as good as last year’s unit, which led the nation in scoring defense, sacks, tackles for loss, yards per rush allowed and yards per play allowed.
“This is a special team that is coming into the making. A lot of people don’t think we are going to be good on defense. We lost a lot of guys, this and that. But we are still special,” he said. “We still have leaders and we still have some ballers up front and in the backfield. It is going to be a great season.
“A lot of guys are just out there competing and have shown what they can do.”
And Wallace is right up front leading the way.
“It is even more important now with the young guys coming in,” he said. “I am out there working with the lineman, trying to see what they know so I can help them the best way possible. I am being the best leader I can be for my team.”