Lamont Wade relishing starting safety position
By CORY GIGER
For The Express
Lamont Wade’s story is a good cautionary tale for every high-profile high school recruit who believes he’s going to come in and immediately set the world on fire in college football.
It takes time.
It takes patience.
It can take being humbled.
It can even take questioning everything, including if you even want to stay at the current school where you haven’t been playing as much as you had hoped.
Wade started his first career game for Penn State on Saturday against Idaho. The junior safety expected his first start to come to come much sooner given all the hype around him as an elite recruit coming out of Clairton High School in 2017, but he took an interesting detour from then until now.
“I was a little nervous the night before the game,” he said of Saturday’s start, “but as soon as I woke up I really wasn’t. I thought I would be nervous on the field, but I wasn’t nervous before the game at all. It just shows me I’ve been ready.
“I’ve been preparing like I’m the starter since I was a freshman, watching endless film. So that just kind of multiplies once you get older. Once you get out there you really know how to do things.”
Wade spoke openly with a lot of candid comments during a teleconference Wednesday, addressing the ups and downs of his career, his decision to enter the transfer portal earlier this year, why he decided to stay at Penn State and how he’s progressed as a football player and as a person.
Wade has grown up and matured over time, and he has a different perspective than most college football players, as he has a 1-year-old son.
“The game of football means so much to me,” he said. “I’m in love with football, my first love. I’ve been playing it since I was 4, and it’s a different kind of perspective.
“I understand, I know that every role is crucial, and that is so important because whenever I was going into those little dark points or whatever, I had to understand that whatever my role was, it was crucial.”
Wade played in 12 games as a freshman but didn’t have a major impact. He was expected to do big things as a sophomore in 2018, but that didn’t happen. He appeared in all 13 games, but again, he didn’t produce in a big way.
“I got really humbled,” Wade said of his early experiences. “I came in, had a good spring ball (in 2017), and I was expected to play a lot my freshman year. I did that. And then the year after, kind of taking some steps back.
“That step back my sophomore year probably kind of hit me,” he added. “I kind of realized, I got to get this together. I got to get myself right on all aspects.”
Wade, though, stunned many people in January when it was revealed that he had entered the transfer portal. He said his teammates “were a little surprised.”
“They were caught off guard by it, and they were a little worried,” he said. “These are my guys, and the bonds I built with these guys over the years are tremendous. So they were a little worried.
“They didn’t want me to go anywhere. But when I came back, they were excited for me, they were happy for me. They welcomed me back with open arms.”
There were no hard feelings within the program about Wade looking elsewhere. He decided to stay at PSU, worked hard all spring and summer and wound up earning the starting job that people had foreseen for him a year or two ago.
“The amount of pressure that he came into this program with in terms of how he was recruited and rankings and all those types of things and expectations, I think all that adversity and all of those experiences really helped him grow,” coach James Franklin said.
“At the time you don’t probably want to go through it, but I think looking back at us, all of us, we know we are who we are and where we’re at in life because of all those experiences. So I just think he’s in a really good place. I think he knows the defense inside and out. He’s an experienced guy. He’s a mature guy, and I think he’s excited and ready to take that next step.”
Wade said he feels like he’s “a completely different player” than when he arrived at Penn State.
“I just feel like I’m in better shape, I’m way more mentally prepared, way more physically fit and physically prepared,” he said. “I’m the fastest I’ve ever been, I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, and I have the most confidence that I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Wade also was asked what advice he would give players about the transfer portal.
“Know yourself, trust yourself and believe in yourself,” he said. “Everything is how it’s going to be, and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. If you know yourself, deep down inside who you really are and what you really do and how you do things, then you have to trust that.
“You have to take whatever opportunity is best for you. Whichever one can put you where you need to be.”