In the course of college football, it’s fairly normal for a young player, even a talented young player, to cut his teeth before jumping right into the fire.
For some young players, that might involve a redshirt season and some time on the scout team. For others, it might mean sub-package and special teams duty.
That’s been the case for Clairton alum LaMont Wade the past two seasons at Penn State. The five-star prospect started out as a nickel back in 2017, was moved to safety, where he backed up in 2018, and was a solid special teams contributor throughout.
With the graduation of senior free safety Nick Scott, Wade seemed first in line for the starting role heading into the 2019 season.
That was, until the news broke on Sunday that Wade had entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.
It was a move that surprised many. After all, Wade didn’t seemingly have any of the usual reasons to transfer. He was apparently close to a starting role, and would have done no worse than enter spring practices in a battle for that spot. James Franklin, Brent Pry and Terry Smith have been the head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach since Wade was recruited — a rarity in the days of a rapidly spinning coaching carousel. Wade hadn’t been in any off-the-field trouble in State College, hadn’t gotten into a public altercation with his teammates, hand’t been suspended for a game. Nothing.
The most publicity he’d garnered off the field was for participating in the protest marches in Pittsburgh after the police shooting of Antwon Rose II, and most of that was positive.
In order to make some sense of the situation, Pittsburgh Sports Now reached out to Jarrod Prugar, who covered Penn State for DK Pittsburgh Sports last season. Prugar confirmed that Wade was in line for a greater role at Penn State going forward.
“Terry Smith talked about it at bowl week in Orlando,” Prugar said. “He said that Lamont is going to be part of the secondary. I honestly think it’s more family related, because the playing time was about to come. It’s not like he’s going to have to wait another year behind someone else.”
Of course, just because Wade has entered his name in the transfer portal does not mean that he is definitely going to leave State College.
“I don’t know what kind of behind the scenes conversations he and Franklin have had. I don’t know if this is him seeing where his options lie,” Prugar said. “Franklin has always been about the players doing what’s best for them, whatever that might be. … I think there’s still an opportunity for him to come back.”
Prugar believes that whatever reason Wade decided to explore a transfer, it was more related to his situation off the field that on the field.
“He’s an aspiring rapper. There’s nothing in State College that screams, ‘I’m an aspiring rapper. This is where my career should be,’” Prugar said.
Any final decision would almost certainly have to be made before the late signing period opens on Feb. 6. Wade is still currently listed as an enrolled undergraduate at Penn State’s University Park campus, but he posted a photo of his empty locker on Monday, with the caption “this wasn’t my decision, but hey 🤷🏾♂️”