By Ryan Velez
The scene could have been out of a movie with photographer Ted Jackson seeing a man living under a New Orleans bridge in 1990. After a chat, the man mentioned that Jackson should do a story about him, mentioning that he played in three Super Bowls. While Jackie Wallace slightly embellished this (playing in two) this started a harrowing tale of addiction and loss covered by The Times-Picayune.
Jackie Wallace, 39 at the time he first met Jackson, played for the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts, and the Los Angeles Rams before being cut, starting his spiral towards the bottom. After eight years, he was living under the bridge. The original article and the attention it got helped Wallace enter a rehab program, get sober, and even get married. But after 12 years sober, something snapped. ‘It was one day of me not taking care of myself,’ Wallace said. The next morning, he bought a Greyhound bus ticket and headed for New Orleans. ‘It only takes one slip, and I’ll end up right back where you found me,’ had told Jackson in 1995.
Rather than sleeping under the bridge, he would simply hop from shelter to shelter, using the pension checks he got from the NFL to buy drugs. He noted that drug dealers would give him the drugs on credit, knowing that his checks as a former NFL player meant that he had guaranteed money to buy with, even though it wouldn’t be enough to buy a place to live. In 2008, he was arrested for writing bad checks, and when it was discovered he wrote more checks that he failed to disclose, he spent 3 ½ years in jail. After spending that time in jail, Wallace went to get drugs right after his release, until he stopped in 2014. As he put it, options were recovery, jail, or suicide. He checked himself into rehab again, and made great progress, though the staff reported he was susceptible to relapse.
One would love to say this story had a happy ending, but no such luck. The last time Wallace was seen was a few months after getting a full hip replacement in February of 2017, following a return to using. His girlfriend, Yolanda, told Jackson that he had cleaned out his apartment and that the ‘drug boys’ had gotten him.
‘They’ll keep him until he gets his NFL settlement,’ she said. One slip, indeed.