MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Something was missing.
It wasn’t the physical knowledge of his father’s existence; Clemson sophomore tailback Wayne Gallman always knew of, and was always proud of, his dad during his days serving in the Marines.
However, the quiet teenager, who would develop into a first-team All-ACC performer and viable NFL prospect, needed more of a spiritual connection with the man who is his father, but was more like a brother.
So Gallman forced himself to leave the comfort of his friends, mom and stepsisters in Loganville, Ga., and live with Wayne Gallman, Sr., for two years in central Florida.
Five years later, both men are forever grateful.
The feeling was mutual for Wayne Gallman Sr., Battalion Sergeant Major, of wanting to get to know his son on a much closer level.
His service to the Marines took him from station to station every two to three years in places like Japan and Somalia. Near the end of his military career, Wayne Sr. settled in Jacksonville in 2009, which happened to be the birthplace of his only child.
Up until that point, Wayne Jr. had lived most his life in Georgia; his parents separated when he was three months old, and he was always curious about his military dad.
So after some summers spent in Florida when he was younger, Wayne moved to Jacksonville full-time for his eighth- and ninth-grade years.
“Ever since then, we’ve been as close as we can be,” Wayne Jr. said. “The set values I’ve learned growing up are the base values of learning to respect women, respect people and never change who I am.”
Although Wayne wasn’t much of a troublemaker, his dad’s straighten-up-son background began to rub off on him.
“We talk a great deal about doing the right things, setting the example and being the example,” Wayne Sr. said. “I think he’s captured that.”
Whenever Wayne Jr. has to make tough decisions as a college athlete and student, he constantly remembers his dad’s lessons.
“I won’t mention the topic, but there have been instances where he’s called and said, ‘I see what you mean, you were right.’ I’m just being Dad, on the other end, smiling from ear to ear,” Wayne Sr. said. “I just keep my composure and say, ‘hey, I’m not gonna lie to you.’ Character is everything.”
Wayne Sr. played free safety at Valdosta in southern Georgia, and has been coaching at Middleburg High School in southwest Jacksonville (he is also an ROTC coordinator there.) Other than some father-son throws in the backyard, he never took charge of coaching Gallman.
“His dad was involved a little bit in the recruiting process, a very nice man,” Clemson offensive co-coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott said. “I know Wayne has reconnected with him, and thinks the world of him. I’m happy for Wayne, because I’ve been there to where you may have had a family disconnection for a little while. But now he’s got that relationship reestablished. You can tell he’s now at peace, and he can just go play.”
Feeling homesick and missing his friends, Wayne Jr. decided to return to Georgia to complete his high school years, going on to star at Grayson High School before committing to Clemson.
“I think he was homesick,” Wayne Sr. said. “He didn’t have the friends that he grew with, his pals. That’s definitely understandable.”
“We all knew he had — has — a close relationship with his father,” said Clemson backup quarterback Nick Schuessler, who was teammates with Gallman at Grayson. “Both of his parents have done an unbelievable job. Wayne’s probably one of the best kids on the team, on and off the field.”
On a team with colorful personalities, Gallman comes off as the silent type.
“I would tell you I wasn’t the most outspoken,” he said. “I’m laid back. If you talk to me, I’ll talk to you all day. But if we’re just chilling, I’m more to myself.”
When suggested to Wayne Jr. that in conversation, he sounds exactly like his father, he smiled and responded, “We get that a lot.”
On Dec. 1, as Gallman took a seat to speak with reporters leading up to the ACC Championship Game, Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret said, “You’re exactly 200 yards from the Clemson record. Why don’t you just do it Saturday?”
Gallman smiled and said, “If they give me the ball enough.”
Gallman then rushed for 187 yards against North Carolina as the Tigers won the ACC title, and with 1,332 yards he is just 14 yards from establishing Clemson’s single-season rushing record.
As for Wayne Sr., he retired from the Marines in 2011 and recently earned a graduate degree in mental health from Webster University. He is looking into launching his own institute to aid high school athletes in the area of mental health.
He will be in the stands at Sun Life Stadium when Gallman plays in the Orange Bowl for the first time.
“Watching him on the field, I can’t even describe it. It’s a proud moment every time I see him play,” Wayne Sr. said. “Seeing the transition that he’s making as a player, as a young man, and being able to remain as humble as he is — he’s so down to earth. To me, that’s my favorite part of all these years.”