BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from WBRC FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
As I drove home from work I actually turned off the radio. Sometimes I need to do that, as from the moment I wake up to the moment my head hits the pillow, my brain is bombarded with so much information via working in television news that it simply needs a break.
As I drove down Highway 280 at 11:47 p.m., I was struck by my late sportscast I had completed some 90 minutes earlier: I had led my sportscast with the dismissal of Auburn receiver Duke Williams, and I had ended it with Auburn receiver Johnathan Wallace being honored by the Allstate Good Hands people.
Two Auburn receivers who are similar, yet different in so many ways. One may in fact get it together and find himself playing in the NFL, while the other is destined to be a high school coach. It's the future coach who has received my admiration.
Gus Malzahn made it official Monday night: Duke Williams, one of the top receivers in the country, a kid who returned to Auburn for his senior season rather than turn pro last spring, had been dismissed from the team.
If Gus Malzahn deserves any criticism in the wake of his announcement, perhaps it's for not sending Williams packing much earlier. Suspended for last January's Outback Bowl, then suspended in August only to be allowed back, the talented wideout's third offense (a reported altercation) ended being three too many.
It's a gift few college football players can say they have, and Williams had the gift of athleticism and talent. Duke Williams, formerly the nation's #1 JUCO player, the receiver projected to be taken #1 in next spring's NFL Draft, is now jettisoned.
Will the Auburn nation miss him? They would have missed him if his head was on straight, but consider this: Duke Williams had 154 receiving yards in his Auburn debut against Arkansas last fall, yet has a total of 147 receiving yards through 5 games in 2015.
Williams' departure leaves 29 yards per game off the Tiger's offense. Get this: His absence may wind up doing the team good, as perhaps his shenanigans were a distraction to his teammates.
On the flip side, I offer you senior wide receiver Jonathan Wallace. While Duke Williams was being shown the door on Monday, Wallace was being welcomed to Cary Woods Elementary School, a place where he has been student teaching.
Jonathan thought he was about to give a quick talk to the kids, but when he arrived in the gym, he saw more than smiling grade schoolers: Wallace saw his parents, Auburn school officials, and the big-wigs from the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
Yep- Jonathan would soon learn he was being named to that prestigious team for his work in the community. His resume? Impressive indeed, as Wallace works with the Fellowship Of Christian Athletes and the Boys & Girls Clubs. Jonathan is a youth mentor for "Youth For Christ," he visits sick kids and he's a semi-finalist for the Campbell Trophy post graduate scholarship.
What has Jonathan Wallace done on the football field this fall? In games, next to nothing, but on the practice field, just about anything asked of him.
Wallace was there in 2012 when he was asked to salvage some of the 2012 season. As the Tiger's quarterback, he went 2-2, his first start at that position going 15-of-22 for 181 passing yards.
In 2013, Wallace, about to make the switch to receiver, soon owned an interesting accomplishment: He threw a 17-yard completion to Nick Marshall in the South Carolina game, while he hauled in an 18-yard completion from Jeremy Johnson in the Samford game. And his 2014 stats? One catch, 18 yards.
Why should Auburn fans be pleased about losing a receiver who had 45 catches for 749 yards in 2014? They shouldn't be, but perhaps the team is in better shape today without the drama.
I certainly hope that Duke Williams has a superb NFL career, as he is talented beyond words. But how about taking time to celebrate the other senior receiver who offered the team a mere 18 yards of offense last season?
Auburn fans may not realize what they have in Jonathan Wallace, a team captain and a young man who offers up no drama, a young man who fellow teammates can admire.
Sure, go ahead and lament the loss of Williams, but if you root for the Tigers and happen to run into Jonathan Wallace? You may want to shake his hand and remind him that he is an example of what an Auburn man is all about.