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Rookie Diary: Trevin Wallace seemed destined to be a Panther

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CHARLOTTE— The Carolina Panthers seven man rookie draft class has experienced a whirlwind over the past month. Since NFL draft weekend, rookies have moved to Charlotte, gone through rookie minicamp, and started organized team activities (OTAs). Mandatory minicamp is on the horizon (June 11-13), and training camp will arrive quickly in July.

As the rookie draft class works through their first offseason, each will take time to reflect on their journey to this point and their time in the league thus far. Three rookies will take us along through the end of OTAs and mandatory minicamp, while the rest will take us along through training camp.

First up is linebacker Trevin Wallace. The Kentucky alum and South Georgia native was drafted by the Panthers in the third round (No. 72 overall).

"Draft night, it was smooth. I was chilling because my agent told me, he was like, you'll go late second or early third, so I wasn't tripping. But I saw everybody else was kind of curious or like what's going on because the first linebacker didn't get taken until late second (round). So my agent was kind of worried. I was the one relaxed. I was like, it's all in God's hands.

I'm not tripping over it though, I was like when the time comes, the time's gonna come. You just gotta sit down and wait. So then the second linebacker got picked up—it was Junior Colson from Michigan—he got picked up and I was like, ok, because I was ranked like the fourth linebacker coming off the board, fourth, sometimes like the sixth or seventh.

So I was like, ok, maybe I'll come off. But I was sitting there and my manager called me and was like, 'hey, stay by your phone. A lot of teams texted me and said they could come get you.' Then the Panthers traded up and then that's why I got a call.

Before the draft was going on, my one year old, Elauni, she kept picking up the Panther's hat.

I said put the hats down baby. So she put it down and she kept picking it up, trying to hand it to me and it was only like in the 2nd round. It was like early second, but she kept picking it up and handing it to me.

She put it on her head and I was like, she might be telling me; like she knows something.

What's crazy was, I wouldn't have even thought I was coming here because I had a top 30 obviously with them. But my agent said, they showed interest but they really weren't talking back and forth.

So when I got called, I was like, I'm going to Charlotte but I didn't even cry. I'm not the type of dude that cries. I'm blessed to be here, just happy, smiling. But everybody else in the house, my grandma cried, my daddy cried. Everybody was happy."

When the Panthers rookie class arrived in Charlotte the second weekend of May, they took to the field for the first time in process blue.

"As soon as I got drafted, I got a text, 'what's your address, so we can send you the playbook?' I was like, dang already? It's really like happening…they going straight to it. So that's when I knew, this is strictly business. It's a billion dollar business. They get straight to the point.

"I was watching film every day, because they had the film on the calls (the playbook) was going over. So I was watching it every day. Because it is the expectation of, 'hey, I'm giving these rookies millions of dollars. So they need to know what to do when they get here.'

"We're not in college any more, where they give you leeway; learn this but if you mess up, it's ok. No, when you mess up here, it's, 'Hey, you should have been paying attention.' Or, 'You got the film to go look at it, now go look at it.'

"I really got prepared for it in Kentucky. I had my coach, Brad White, he was like that. He used to throw everything at us; some days, we'd come in on a Monday and I'm like, dang man, there are seven sheets up there, what in the world. He's always said, this is preparing you for the NFL because in the NFL, you're going to get info with seven things and you got to know it now and then when you go outside, you got to redo it. So I can say I'm thankful for him."

Trevin Wallace rookie minicamp

Soon after rookie minicamp, veterans returned to start OTAs. Wallace is in a linebacker room with fellow draftee Michael Barrett, and starters Shaq Thompsonand Josey Jewell. Playing behind experienced vets has already proven valuable for Wallace.

"It was real fun (when they returned). They had open arms. They welcomed us in. They would let me know, hey, we're here to help y'all. Some people have that mindset, 'He's here to take my job. Obviously, they have that mindset, but they're here like, hey, we need everybody on the same boat to win.

"You can't just, say, 'Hey, learn this and then go away.' That's not how they are.

"They're like, 'Hey, come on, we're all going to the same ship and sail straight.' They're just open, normal to help us out with anything. And then they give us little small stuff, like the detail, 'Hey, you can do this. You're doing good but do this better.'

"Has there been something they, one of them has shared with you?

"Shaq's, he's always telling me, just trust what I see. Because I get used to struggling laterally and then sometimes, just struggle, and he's like, just go play ball. I hear it from a 10-year veteran and that's (helpful).

"It's really fun. (Shaq and Josey), they're not the type of leader that's always like ball, ball, ball, ball. They're type, we can do things besides football. Let's go out sometimes and really get to know each other. Obviously we're here to be a professional but outside of football, like today, we're going to go eat with each other. They're like, we need to get outside, get the brotherhood with the whole linebacker corps.

"They tell you too, don't get so stuck in football and forget about your body because your body is your money maker. So when there's time to rest, take that time to rest. Like Memorial Day, when we had that, rest your body. They always say, yeah, we want you to go out there and perform. But if you don't take care of your body, how can you perform?"

Trevin Wallace OTAs

There is always one moment that brings the realization someone is now in the NFL. For Wallace, that came in a recent practice, when he was given the green dot helmet, the one indicating the wearer is calling the defensive plays on the field.

"This week when they I got the green dot. I was like, wow, I'm really in the NFL. It was crazy because I'm sitting there and they give me the call and I was like, when I break the huddle, I'm like, dang, I really just broke the huddle in the NFL, that is crazy.

"(The green dot), it's just like playing a video game, it's like a headset. You hear it, it's crazy because they're staring at you and asking you get the call?

"Shaq was here, but sometimes they call Penny and Penny is one linebacker. So they just gave it to me and let me use it. I broke the huddle and it was like, 'Wait, bro, what did you just say? They were like, bro, your accent is strong. You got a country accent.' They were like, you need to hang with some West Coast people, because what you said, it was the right call. But it's South Georgia. When we talk, it's all run-on.

"They look at me trying to just go through their head and (work it out), 'Ok, we got it.' It's funny though. So we got a call, I said, 'Don boys en Fuego, ready, break.' And they were like, what did he say? I said it fast because, South Georgia, we talk fast. But Michael (Barrett) was like, 'He said, Don boys en Fuego.' And Mike was like, 'Bro, you talk fast.' And I was like, it'll be fine."

Rookies are often asked to perform menial and monetary tasks as initiation. While the veteran linebackers aren't sticking Wallace with the bill when they go out for unit dinners, there are still some good natured things Wallace and his fellow rookies are having to deal with in their first year.

"I asked them about bringing snacks. They said wait till training camp. But Shaq is kind of chill though. They're not really like that.

"But we have to buy donuts for the locker room. Krispy Kreme, straight glazed. They get that.

"We can't (ride the golf cart). We're rookies. They'll tell you if you're fined and they'll write it on the board. We have (a board) in our linebacker room. The rookies know better though. We know."

View photos of Kentucky linebacker Trevin Wallace, drafted by Carolina in the third round of the 2024 draft.