It has been one heck of a three years for Caedan Wallace, who went from a raw specimen to a Nittany Lion thanks to good coaching and hard work.
Wallace, who moved to Robbinsville from Georgia in seventh grade, transferred to Hun after his sophomore year at Robbinsville High. He took a repeat sophomore year at Hun, and after showing constant progress as an offensive lineman each season, will head off to Penn State next year.
“It’s been great to watch him grow over the past three years,” Hun coach Todd Smith. “He definitely wasn’t a polished product when we got him. It wasn’t just the physical side of it. He was always big and always able to move kids, but working on his football sense and getting him to understand the game a little better, understanding the plays we run. It was great once it all started clicking for him. He really excelled.”
And exactly when was that?
“I would say toward the end of his repeat sophomore year with us,” Smith said. “We started seeing less thinking and more doing. That’s the goal.”
The more he started doing, the more big-time schools started noticing. The first college to show interest was Delaware State, which actually contacted him the last day of his sophomore year at Robbinsville. The following year, Rutgers came calling. Although the Knights program is struggling, it was a Big Ten school, and Wallace started to realize how much potential he truly had.
“It was kind of shocking,” he said of the Rutgers offer. “I felt personally that I could make it to that level but no coach or anybody from that type of school had made the move to recruit me. So when it happened it was kind eye opening that they approached me.”
The interest started to intensify, to the point where Wallace’s final five choices came down to Penn State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Clemson and LSU. He forewent visits to LSU and Stanford after he sampled life at Happy Valley.
“It feels like home to me there,” Wallace said. “Every time I step on campus I always get like a loving family type atmosphere from the coaches and the people on campus, and it’s just a really loving environment. The coaches and most of the players are like family to me now, it just feels like home.”
Smith, who has sent numerous players to Division I programs since taking over at Hun, feels it’s a good fit for Wallace.
“He’s going to a Big Ten team that is still grounded in running the ball and that’s how they want to make their mark, that’s great,” the coach said. “He’s gonna be playing the right style of offense. A lot of times these kids go to a school and they know when it’s right. He knew it was right.”
Wallace attended Pond Road in 7th and 8th grade but had to play rec football for the Trenton Tornadoes, since they had an unlimited league.
“I was always generally bigger, taller and a little heavier than the rest of the kids in my grade, so I had to go unlimited and Robbinsville didn’t have that,” he said.
Playing on the freshman team at RHS, Wallace actually played running back and scored a touchdown in the season finale against Middlesex.
“It was fun, a good experience,” he said. “I feel like it helped me out for the future.”
Asked if he ever dreamed it would be the last touchdown he’d score, Wallace laughed and said, “Actually yeah, I had a pretty good idea.”
He returned to the offensive and defensive lines as a sophomore and wasn’t at all upset he would not be carrying the ball anymore.
“It was fun, I didn’t mind it at all,” Wallace said. “I just like contributing to the team, making sure the team is doing good.
He transferred to Hun after 10th grade for both football and academics. The Princeton-based school has gained a high profile thanks to the strong team it has and some of the teams it plays that are nationally ranked.
“I just felt like I would get more looks from colleges,” Wallace said. “Hun was close to home, and I didn’t really have to move anywhere to get bigger exposure. It was just a 15-minute drive. And I get a great education.”
An education he takes seriously. Wallace had a career 3.5 grade point average at the end of last school year. He also contributed to Hun in ways other than football, as he went to Ecuador with some classmates for a school service trip.
“We went out and helped some of the under-privileged tribes down there,” he said. “It was pretty cool, it was definitely a culture shock for me, just going out and helping out other people even though we didn’t really speak the same language as them.”
It also made him appreciate what he had even more.
“Oh yeah,” Wallace said. “One hundred percent.”
Throughout the goodwill trip and hitting the books, Wallace found time to ply his trade on the football field.
“He definitely has that work ethic,” Smith said. “Even this year, he started making smarter choices. He leaned up a lot, went from 320 to 295 during the season. He’s just making better choices in the lunch line and lifting harder. It’s great to see it pay off.”
For the first time this season, Smith started charting pancake blocks, which are blocks that put the opposing player on his back. Wallace led the way with 47.
“It was understanding the balance of what he needed to be, whether it was a run block or pass block, how to position his body correctly, understand how to play smarter,” Smith said. “That’s what sets him apart. Even though he is 6-6 and 300 pounds, he’s one of our best athletes. Pound for pound, he could arguably be the best athlete on the team when you see the things he can do at that size with his foot speed and his quickness.”
Wallace credits his coaching, along with his teammates and rival players for making him a better player. He has gone against future Division I players in practice, which helped hone his skills; and also played against some big-time talent on other teams with the schedule Hun played.
It not only paid off in a scholarship, but on Jan. 6 Wallace will play on national TV as a member of the East team in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The game will be on NBC from San Antonio and features the top 100 seniors in the country.
“They contacted me in April,” Wallace said. “I was very surprised at that. I’m just really excited to take that next step and move forward.”
Which is something he has been doing on a steady basis the past three years.