The Canadian Press
Titus Wall doesn’t always fit the mold when it comes to CFL rookie defensive backs on or off the field.
In just seven games with the Calgary Stampeders, Wall has already turned heads with his ball-hawking ability and physical play, putting himself in the conversation as a candidate for the CFL’s rookie of the year.
“I would suggest to you that what we’re seeing right now from Titus, in terms of the production he’s had in the first seven games, that’s not normal for rookies,” said Dwayne Cameron, Calgary’s defensive backs coach. “He’s been special to this point in time.”
Off the field, Wall likes listening to classical music and is in the market to buy a cello.
“I played a cello in the high school orchestra,” he said. “In college I had my own cello. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring it up here to Canada. I do plan on looking for one in the off-season or in the near future.”
The 23-year-old Missouri State product was named one of the CFL’s top performers for Week 9 after grabbing two interceptions — one he returned 46 yards for a touchdown — and recording six tackles in Calgary’s 17-3 win over Ottawa.
Wall also was named a top performer in Week 2 when he made a key interception in the end zone to snuff out a drive and stripped the ball from quarterback Dane Evans and returned it for a touchdown in a 33-30 comeback overtime win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
This season the six-foot, 205-pound linebacker has 32 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He’s the only player in the league to score two defensive touchdowns and his three interceptions leaves him tied for the most in the CFL with seven other players.
“I’ve always had high expectations for myself,” said Wall. “I always manifest a lot of things for myself. I’m big on manifestation. With the work ethic, your commitment to the game, you’ll reap the benefits from it.”
Wall combines an impressive mix of size and power.
“He’s got great physical tools,” said Cameron. “He’s got a big frame. From a skill set standpoint, certainly his tackling ability, his blitzing ability and his ability to finish plays in and around the box.
“He’s got a great physicality in terms of attacking ball carriers, being able to knock the ball loose. He’s got good hands and he can read the quarterback.”
Wall also is a quick learner. He plays attention during film sessions and recently asked Cameron for a new notebook because he had filled up his first one.
“I always prided myself on being a sponge, you can never learn too much,” said Wall. “Every chance I get to learn something new or make a correction about something, even if it doesn’t pertain to me, I’m going to still write it down to make sure I have it in my notebook.”
Cameron has been impressed with Wall’s preparation.
“I think what really separates Titus as a rookie is his approach to the game,” he said. “He’s very, very studious. His preparation is really that of a veteran.
“He wants to do well. Every day after meetings he asks, ‘What can I do better tomorrow than I did today?’ He takes it very seriously.”
“They’ve helped me since Day 1 and gave me all the knowledge they had,” he said. “Anything they tell me I’m listening to because I’d be a fool not to.”
Wall will face a major test when the Stampeders (5-2) host the BC Lions (6-1) Saturday night in a showdown for second place in the West Division.
The high-octane Lions lead the CFL in average points per game, scoring 36.3 points a game. Quarterback Nathan Rourke is the league-leader in passing yards and touchdowns, throwing for 2,418 yards and 21 touchdowns. Rourke’s receivers, Dominique Rhymes (who has a CFL high eight TD catches), Lucky Whitehead and Keon Hatcher, all have 500 or more yards.
“They have a real good lineup,” said Wall. “Nathan is able to throw deep, is very accurate. The receivers are a tight mix.
“It’s just really coming down to knowing who our opponent is, making sure we’re assignment sound and executing what we’re supposed to execute.”
The Stampeders first noticed Wall at a free-agent camp in Dallas that attracted over 100 players. Coming into training camp Cameron didn’t know what to expect.
“When you bring a player in who really has no CFL or NFL background, you’re hopeful they can compete to potentially make the team,” he said. “Rarely would you envision this guy is going to be a starter, that there’s going to be conservations about the rookie of the year.”
Wall’s passion for the cello comes from his mother, who also played the instrument when she was young.
“I love the instrument, the sound it creates, how easy it was to produce a lot of music,” he said.
While he loves R&B, jazz and the blues, Wall finds classical music helps him relax.
“Just to be able to ease my mind,” he said. “I don’t like listening to a lot of hardcore music up until game time, (then) I switch it on.”
Something Wall misses in Calgary is his dog Tank, an 18-month-old Cane Corso who already weighs 125 pounds.
“I really just love being with him,” said Wall.
While impressed with what Wall has done already, Cameron believes he will only improve as the season progresses.
“He’s still very much in his infancy in terms of his development as a CFL player,” he said. “I would say there’s a lot of upside still to go with Titus.”
Wall isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I have to show up to work every day like it’s my last day on the job,” he said. “Nothing is guaranteed and every day is an interview.
“I’m very excited as far as what I’ve done so far but I have a lot more to give. I’m just excited for this journey ahead of me.”