That’s why, he says, he would stay on the field after spring practices catching passes from the Jugs machine long after his Dolphins teammates had walked off the field to conduct interviews or head inside the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University to get out of the sun.
In fact, almost without fail, Wallace always was the last Dolphins player to finish his work after a practice. Wallace says it’s all about “getting the edge.”
There’s another reason, an important one, Wallace put in the extra work in the offseason. Despite finishing with a career-high 73 receptions in the 2013 season, his first with the Dolphins, he believes he can do better.
“Obviously, I didn’t have the kind of year I want to have,” he said. “But that’s just the type of player I am. I’ve always been a hard-working player, whether some people believe it or not. I didn’t get here just by getting here. I work hard. You can never get complacent. I always stay on the grind, never forget what it took to get here. Every single day, I’m going to keep working hard trying to get the edge.”
When Wallace talks about his 2013 season, he’s quick to mention the fact he wasn’t able to add to his total of two 1,000-yard seasons. He also believes there are a couple of reasons he should be more productive in 2014.
One of them is the mere fact he’s more comfortable now that he’s heading into his second season with the Dolphins, as opposed to arriving as a highly touted free agent.
Wallace himself said in the spring he was feeling a “lot more comfortable.”
Perhaps a biggest factor than the comfort level, though, is the arrival of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and a new scheme. One of the big changes that easily could be noticed during the spring was the extensive use of pre-snap motion.
Wallace clearly is in favor of that new twist.
“Nobody can ever key on me,” he said. “Last year, you kind of knew where I was every single play, what you had to do because I was there every game, same spot. Moving around, it’s harder for the defense to know where you’re at, harder for them to adjust.
“I think it just makes coming to work easier, more fun for you when you know you can move around and do different things that, my whole career, I had never really done. It’s a fresh opportunity every day.”
Wallace ended up second on the Dolphins behind
That was no great surprise because Wallace’s speed and ability to create big plays was precisely the reason the Dolphins signed him away from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In fact, there was some disappointment that Wallace didn’t end up with more long receptions. His ability to connect with quarterback
“Well, it’s big,” Tannehill acknowledged. “It’s big time. I think that’s one thing you looked at from last year is just connecting more. Not only on deep balls but just connecting more on every run and he’s been here working in the offseason and putting forth a lot of effort, and that’s exciting from a veteran guy like that who’s been in other organizations that maybe haven’t had the same offseason type program that we have.”
Wallace called his rapport with Tannehill a “work in progress” but added that the two have been making steady progress and have been on the same page.
Clearly, it’s important that the Dolphins make the most of Wallace’s unique talents because of his game-breaking ability. But deep passes or short routes, Wallace is simply looking to give the Dolphins offense more in 2014.
“Last year, I didn’t even have 1,000 yards,” Wallace said. “So we can be a lot better, so much better. It’s not just moving around, it’s just playing football in general, just myself, being a better player and putting in more work. I always feel like I work hard, but work even harder. Just try to get better every day.
“I’m going to play. I just want to make plays and be the best player that I can be. You’re always going to set goals for yourself. You’ve got to set them high, just in case you fail, you still do well. I haven’t gotten to that point yet. By the time I come back for training camp, I’ll have a couple of goals.
“(Last year) had nothing to do with the offense, it was just myself, not playing up to my personal standards for myself. It was a new situation. But I feel a lot more comfortable. I’m ready to go.”