Wesley Walls, a rugged, five-time Pro Bowler, heads to Hall
Former Ole Miss All-American Wesley Walls, one of the last, great-two-way players in college football history and a five-time Pro Bowler in the National Football League, goes into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night.
“I am humbled,” Walls said. “When you think about all the great athletes who have played sports in Mississippi and realize you are recognized as one of the elite, it is truly humbling.”
Walls, from Pontotoc, was a high school quarterback and fullback but became a highly productive defensive end and tight end at Ole Miss. At defensive end, he seemed to live in the opponent’s backfield. At tight end, he was a dependable receiver, especially on third downs and in the red zone.
In truth, Walls was so gifted and athletic, he could have played any position. Or any sport. He was a high school baseball and basketball star as well. Later, in his professional career, he served as a backup punter.
After playing strictly as a defensive end his first three seasons in Oxford, Walls transformed into a two-way player his senior year when the team needed a tight end.
The late Red Parker, then the Ole Miss offensive coordinator, lobbied to borrow Walls from the defense. Head coach Billy Brewer gave his blessing. Ole Miss prospered.
Walls, the 1988 team captain amassed 36 receptions for 426 yards and three touchdowns at tight end en route to earning AP first team All-America and All-SEC honors.
As a defensive end, he recorded 140 career tackles, including 19.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, and he led the Rebels to a win in the 1986 Independence Bowl. One of the most memorable moments of his Rebel career came in the 1988 Alabama game when Ole Miss upset the 12th-ranked Tide 22-12 in Tuscaloosa and did not allow a pass completion all game.
Walls displayed his versatility in that rare Rebel win at Tuscaloosa, catching seven passes for 79 yards and adding a key quarterback sack
An Academic All-America and three-time academic all-conference selection, Walls was chosen as a member of the 1980s All-SEC Team and honored as an SEC Legend in 2007.
Walls was drafted in the second round of the 1989 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers where he joined fellow Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Walls contributed as a rookie; in fact, he caught a nine-yard pass in the 49ers’ Super Bowl XXIV victory over the Denver Broncos.
In 1994, he signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints, where he spent two seasons, and set a team record for tight end pass receptions in 1995 with 57.
Walls signed with the Carolina Panthers in 1996 and became one of the Panthers’ all-time greats, making the Pro Bowl five times between 1996 and 2001, only missing in 2000 when injuries kept him out of eight games.
He finished his career with the Green Bay Packers in 2003. His last touchdown pass reception was a leaping catch of a 22-yarder thrown by fellow MSHOF inductee Brett Favre in the famous game when Favre played the night after Favre’s father had died.
“I usually spiked the ball or threw it into the stands after a touchdown,” Walls said. “Not that time. I wasn’t taking any chances. I just took that ball and gave it to Brett.”
Walls finished his career with 450 catches for 5,291 yards and 54 touchdowns, despite undergoing 11 surgeries on virtually every part of his body. There are Pro Football Hall of Famers with lesser numbers. He remains one of the most durable and productive tight ends in league history.
Today, Walls works as a commercial real estate developer, using the General Engineering degree he got in graduating with honors from Ole Miss.