SEATTLE — The bio for cornerback Cleveland Wallace III in the San Jose State media guide uses just seven words to explain the move that brought him to the Spartans: “A transfer from the University of Washington.’’
At the NFL combine this week, though, the former Husky — he spent two seasons at UW, playing in nine games as a redshirt freshman in 2013 — explained that there was a lot more to the story than he was able to tell anyone at the time.
“The reason why I transferred was my oldest brother was murdered and then my grandma was in the hospital at the same time and then my mom got hurt, so she wasn’t working, ’’ said Wallace, a member of UW’s 2012 recruiting class out of Oak Grove High in San Jose, Calif. “So I decided it was better for me to go back home and do something positive for them.’’
Wallace left UW after the 2013 regular season but said he played with a heavy heart throughout that year, knowing it was likely his last in Seattle.
His older brother, 24-year-old Terrence Willis, was shot and killed in Stockton, Calif., in April 2013, the details of which were never fully explained.
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Wallace said.
Still, Wallace returned that fall to join a UW secondary that looks more star-studded with each passing year, working alongside Marcus Peters, the 2015 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year; and Greg Ducre, who in 2015 completed his second year in the NFL with the Chargers.
“It was rough (leaving UW) because I rotated into games with Marcus and Greg Ducre, and I was starting to get some action,’’ he said. “And I know the whole time in the back of my head, though, that probably that was it for me (with the Huskies).’’
Wallace takes great pride in his time at UW, noting that he also was part of a secondary during his redshirt year in 2012 that included eventual first-round pick Desmond Trufant.
Wallace quickly enrolled back home at San Jose State once leaving UW — it helped that a former Huskies assistant, Donte Williams, was the team’s secondary coach (Williams recently took a similar position at Arizona).
But mostly, Wallace wanted to be home. Due to his personal situation, he was able to get an NCAA waiver and play immediately.
Some normalcy returned for Wallace as his mother, who he said was battling an issue with her feet, recovered and is now fine.
The 5-foot-10 3/4 Wallace was listed at 171 pounds at UW and 177 at San Jose State. He said he thought bulking up to prepare for combine and draft season would be better than playing another season in college, where he said it would be difficult to get bigger.
“I thought the best way for me for my body to develop was for me to leave and go somewhere and train, just because the meals I was going to get, I was going to get the same amount or on the same schedule at San Jose State,’’ he said (he is working with the International Sports Agency).
So far, so good as he weighed in at 188 pounds at the combine Saturday.
On Monday, he ran 40 times of 4.69 and 4.71 in the 40-yard dash. Whether that is enough to raise interest among NFL scouts will be revealed in a couple months. That he got a combine invite shows he’s on the radar, though he’s generally considered as a late-round pick at best.
“I’ve got pretty big goals,’’ he said. “I feel like I can come in and make an impact. I feel like my coverage skills are good enough to go guard anybody that I have to guard.’’