PITTSBURGH — In high school, Pitt freshman Jared Wayne moved from Ontario, Canada to Clearwater, Florida where he transformed himself from a quarterback into a three-star wide receiver.
Wayne, a smooth 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver, is showing early on in his Panther career that he is a quick learner and able to adapt to an expanded playbook.
“He’s 18, 19 going on 28, 29,” Pitt wide receivers coach Chris Beatty said of Wayne. “He’s really mature beyond his years.”
But Wayne’s playing time this season was really up until a few weeks ago, despite his talent level that was evident since the day he committed. Once Wayne finally got some traction under his feet in the offense, he pulled his hamstring in practice following Pitt’s win at Duke on Oct. 10. Wayne caught a significant 17-yard reception in that game that was the first catch of his career.
“It was one of those deals that set him back momentarily,” Beatty said. “But really from the beginning of the year, we kind of knew that he had a chance to be pretty good.”
After committing to Pitt and leading up to the start of the Panthers summer camp, Beatty still didn’t necessarily imagine Wayne coming in and competing for a spot right away. Beatty was expecting Wayne to sit out his first year and grow as a player and learn from the older guys in front of him.
“I was (expecting that), yes.” Beatty on if he expected Wayne to redshirt this season prior to summer camp. “My thought was that we had a veteran group of guys, and I felt like those guys would be in front (of Wayne). But Jared (Wayne) showed early that he could grasp the playbook, which I was a little bit surprised (by).”
When there are older guys such as Maurice Ffrench, Taysir Mack, Shocky Jaques-Louis, and Aaron Mathews in front of you, Wayne had no idea what his role in 2019 would be.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Wayne said. “I just figured I would come in here and do whatever I can to get on the field. I just came in here with an open mindset and gave it everything I had.”
The recent injury to Ffrench put Wayne right in the spotlight for last Thursday’s game against North Carolina, this after not seeing game action for over a month.
Wayne and sophomore Jaques-Louis have been called upon to pick up the slack from missing a playmaker like Ffrench. Jaques-Louis was the person to host Wayne when he was on a visit to Pitt, and the two have had a connection ever since.
“When he committed here, I knew what kind of relationship that we were going to have,” Jaques-Louis said. “He’s (a real) hard worker too.”
He joked and said he was the reason that Wayne decided to come to Pitt. “I was just telling him, it’s going to be a little cold, but we are all family we can all cuddle up, huddle up. … (We’ll) be good, bro.”
In a nationally televised ACC must-win for the Panthers, the freshman and sophomore both stepped up in a big way both catching four passes from quarterback Kenny Pickett on a night where Pickett seemed to be on target from the jump. The production from Wayne was a bright spot for the offense as a whole.
“He’s a bigger target,” Beatty said. “He’s a guy that’s easy to find in the middle of the field, and he’s just a really smooth athlete.”
Just months ago, Wayne wasn’t sure if he would get this kind of opportunity this early on at a program like Pitt, but he’s not going to settle now.
“It’s a dream come true,” Wayne said. “Growing up as a kid, every football player has dreams of making plays on the biggest stage. You just have to make the most of your opportunities.”