Both hail from Georgia, where they were high school rivals, and
both ended up as tackles for the San Francisco 49ers, where they are
now the twin pillars of football's finest offensive line. But in many
ways Harris Barton and Steve Wallace are as dissimilar as two linemen
After high school in the town of Chamblee, Wallace went to Auburn,
where he opened holes for Bo Jackson. Barton, from Dunwoody, became
an All-America at North Carolina. Wallace was dubbed a bust after his
rookie season with the Niners; he has since boomed. Barton's
transition to the NFL was smooth: He has started in 109 of his 113
One is a technician, the other a street brawler in cleats. Says
49er offensive line coach Bobb McKittrick, ''Harris could block a man
all day, and that guy might say, 'He's not that good -- I just didn't
do my job.' With Steve, the same guy would feel like he'd gone 15
rounds. He just mauls you.''
For years, Wallace was known as the nastiest hog on the league's
dirtiest line. But he has mellowed of late. This newfound serenity
can be traced to a ! United Way promotional spot he filmed in 1992.
Surrounded by foster children during the filming of the commercial,
Wallace and his wife, Vassar, decided to move up their timetable for
starting a family. They had planned to adopt just one child, but the
first little girl they met at the agency had a sister. Unwilling to
split the children up, they adopted both. Elle is now five, Xaia
three. His metamorphosis from s.o.b. to D-a-d did not damage his
career. After the '92 season, he went to the Pro Bowl.
Barton admits that he was jealous that his linemate had made it to
the game in Honolulu. This was an accolade he lusted for, and so,
during the season, Barton reported to the 49er offices by 7 a.m. He
watched video for an hour and lifted for an hour, by which time some
of his teammates had begun to trickle in.
Barton's efforts paid off at the end of last season, when he was
finally voted a Pro Bowl starter. But by then, he could not have
cared less. His father, Paul, was dying of brain cancer. When Harris
gave him the news about the Pro Bowl -- ''Well, Dad, I'm going to
Hawaii'' -- his father said, ''Why don't you just go to Panama City?
It's just as sunny, and it's cheaper.''
Paul died last May. Harris says, ''For six years, people had been
asking me, 'Harris, if you make the Pro Bowl, is it going to change
your life?' I realized how unimportant it is. I learned to appreciate
They are the best tackle tandem in football: Barton and Wallace.
And they both have great perspective on exactly how important that
This is an article from the Feb. 16, 1995 issue