Please see the first part of my interview with Clairton’s Lamont Wade here.
Lamont Wade has offers from Akron, Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Boston College, Buffalo, Duke, Illinois, Iowa State, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami (Ohio), Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Old Dominion, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Toledo, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin and UCLA.
Even he’s not 100 percent sure at this point. Can you blame him? With at least 30 Division I offers, this summer has been a whirlwind for Wade, a five-star recruit entering his senior season at Clairton High School.
Wade has known for some time that things would get hectic as the college recruitment process picked up a notch. While it’s a different atmosphere than the one he’s most comfortable with on the football field, Wade has taken to his newfound celebrity status with aplomb.
After all, not many other 17-year-olds have over 7,500 Twitter followers and spend their summer crisscrossing the country. Wade has been to camps from Columbus to Oregon and has an official visit scheduled at UCLA. That’s quite a summer vacation.
The big job coming into this summer was whittling down his extensive list of offers into something more manageable. He actually found that to be less difficult than expected.
“It’s pretty easy,” he said. “You get a feel for where you want to go. I have offers from Arizona State, Wisconsin, Nebraska … I’m not going to go to those places. Some of them, they offer me, but they’re not really recruiting me. Schools like that, I know I’m not going to go to, so I kind of cut those schools out. Then you start to think about schools that you actually want to play at, schools that are actually recruiting you.”
From that, Wade narrowed things down to a top-ten list and he said there are about eight schools that he is still in serious discussions with. He said that for the most part, he’s able to gauge a school’s interest from amount of contact with coaches he gets.
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“If a school is showing me love, I’ll show love back, visit and see what the school has to offer me,” he said.
Those official visits can be a time for Wade to learn more about a school, for a school to learn more about him and sometimes, just to help put his mother at ease about where her son will spend his next four or five years.
“I just take the visits so that I can be comfortable around the campus and comfortable around the coaches — and my mom might have questions,” Wade said. “My mom always says stuff like she wants to come to my games.”
As with most high school students, Wade’s family and coaches — and there’s some overlap there — have been involved with his college search, but they’ve made sure to let him make up his own mind.
“They talk to me and let me know certain things that I should do and what they think, but they don’t really get too much involved because they want it to be my decision,” Wade said.
So when it does come down to making his decision, Wade has decided that opportunity is going to be the number one factor.
“I’m just trying to get comfortable with a program,” he said. “I want to feel like when I go there that it’s the program for me and have a good chance at playing early. … That’s like a 10 on my priority sheet of what I’m looking for in a college. I’ve never really been good with sitting on the bench.”
Wade plays running back and corner back in high school. He’s mostly being recruited as a defensive back, but he says he doesn’t care where he plays collegiately. He also says he doesn’t care what scheme a school runs or where that school is located.
“Wherever I go, I’ll have to learn a whole different program,” Wade said. “I want to go wherever I feel most comfortable and I feel that program is right for me. Whether that’s right down the road at Pitt or all the way across the country at Hawaii, then that’s what it’ll be.”
Since he mentioned Pitt, what are the chances that Wade follows Tyler Boyd, Terrish Webb and Aaron Mathews from Clairton to Oakland? Well, the Panthers are in his top ten, and Wade was complimentary of the work that the program has done under Pat Narduzzi. Being from the area, he’s been able to watch the changes that Narduzzi has implemented unfold, and he likes what he’s seen.
“I would definitely say it’s different in a good way with Coach Narduzzi bringing a lot of energy back,” he said. “He’s brought new uniforms, a new locker room, he’s trying to change things up and get it turned around in a good way. That’s definitely a positive thing.”
Beyond the football field, Wade is looking for a good education — with his list, that seems like a given — and the type of community that can help him be successful for years beyond his graduation date.
“I’m just looking for what the school can do for me 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road,” he explained. “The network that the school would be able to provide for me, alumni programs, different types of stuff like that.”
So this summer, Wade will continue his information gathering with official visits, but don’t expect him to make the final call while he’s on a campus. He has given himself a time-frame: December 16
“I’ll be an early enrollee, so I’ll be leaving school in January and January is that time when a lot of recruits would be taking official visits,” he said.
So between now and December, Wade will continue to navigate through his visits and contact with coaches — and the by way, finish his senior year at Clairton, where he hopes to win a state championship. It would be difficult for anyone to not spend a lot of time thinking about that upcoming decision.
“I’ll try to hold it off, but it’s really hard to,” he said. “You can’t. That’s the biggest decision that I’ll ever have to make. That decision will affect me, not just those four or five years in college, but 20 or 30 years down the road. It’s the first real decision I’ll make as a man. It’s completely in my hand. I’ll try (not to think about it), but it’s always in the back of my head.”
In some ways, his season can’t get here soon enough.
“When it’s time for football practice, I’ll have my focus completely on that, and then when I have spare time, I’ll think about my decision,” he said, noting that his “tunnel vision” when it comes to football will help him keep distractions at bay.
When Wade does finally make his decision, he’ll be both relieved and excited. He’ll also be sure he’s made the right one. While his family is allowing him to make his own decision, that doesn’t mean he’s ignored their influence.
“My granddad always told me to go with my gut,” he said. “I’m going to trust that feeling.”
// Header image: Photo courtesy of Lamont Wade