Carlson: Why Oklahoma State football's Tylan Wallace should be celebrated, not criticized for the way he opted out
Spencer Sanders was asked an impartial question about Tylan Wallace on Tuesday evening.
Was the OSU offense aware of the plan to play Wallace just one half of the Cheez-It Bowl?
Sanders said he was in the know, but almost immediately, the Cowboy quarterback started defending Wallace, saying his decision to play the bowl but not play all of it was fine because the receiver had already done so much for the team.
And then before you knew it, Sanders was offering to fight anyone who disagreed with what Wallace did.
“I really wish I would hear somebody try and doubt him and call him a quitter because they gotta deal with me,” Sanders said. “That’s unacceptable.”
I’m not sure who told Sanders what before that postgame interview. He wasn’t listening to the game broadcast or monitoring social media — but I was. And some of the stuff I saw and heard had me fired up, too.
I’ve long been a proponent of college football players taking advantage of whatever power they have. They make this multi-billion dollar sport go. They stand at the tip of the spear. But they have the least say so.
If some of them say they’re going to opt out of non-playoff bowls — superfluous events filling TV time to the benefit of the conferences' bottom lines, filling hotels and restaurants to the benefit of the host cities' bottom lines but having no bearing on championships — that is fine by me.
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And early in the Cheez-It Bowl, we got a stark reminder of why it should be fine with everyone with a lick of humanity.
Miami quarterback D’Eriq King injured his knee on a run in the second quarter. His right knee buckled inward at one point, and after he was tackled, he laid on the turf grabbing at that leg as everyone watching grabbed at their chest.
How could that not hurt your heart?
King had already announced he intended to return to Miami next season, but still, what a gut punch.
Someone close to Wallace told one of our OSU reporters Tuesday evening that the plan all along was for him to only play a half. But even if that wasn’t the case, it would’ve been hard for anyone to blame Wallace for pulling the plug after seeing what happened to King.
Or at least, you’d hope it would be hard.
But it wasn’t.
There were pundits, both professional and amateur, who took Wallace to task for the way he opted out. What kind of plan was it to only play a half? Why was he still on the sideline in uniform? What about the practice reps he took from other receivers, especially the youngsters?
First of all, the other receivers looked just fine, and no one looked better than Brennan Presley, the youngest of them all.
Second, it wasn’t hurting anyone to have him on the sideline. In uniform. Out of uniform. If he wanted to stand there in a bathrobe and a rainbow clown wig, what difference would it have made?
Wallace has been the best kind of player. Super talented but extremely humble. Frankly, Wallace along with Chuba Hubbard will go down as two of my all-time favorite college football superstars because of how they acted with reporters. Both have been generous with their time and honest with their answers.
They have even been known to thank us in the media for what we do.
It’s pretty refreshing.
But that’s not why I got my hackles up when I heard some of the nonsense about Wallace’s decision. No, it’s just frustrating that he was criticized for playing and for opting out, for wanting to be with his team one more time and for wanting to protect his future. He was essentially taken to task for finding a compromise.
Couldn’t we all use a little more middle ground these days?
“He did what he had to do,” Sanders said of Wallace, “and it shouldn’t even be a question.”
That it was says more about others than it does about Tylan Wallace.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok, and support her work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.