ORANGE PARK, Fla. – At some point in the very near future, Shaun Wade will wrap up his college football career at Ohio State and likely become the highest-ever NFL draft pick from Trinity Christian.
Just not in 2020.
Wade still has things left to take care of in college, like earning his degree (he’s scheduled to graduate this year) and maybe, just maybe, winning a national championship.
On Saturday, Wade returned home to Jacksonville and announced that he would bypass being a first- or second-round selection in April’s NFL draft and remain at Ohio State for his redshirt junior season. There are too many goals left to accomplish, too many boxes left unchecked for Wade to test the NFL waters. He was a projected first-round pick in numerous mock drafts.
“Lot of people probably thought I was leaving," he said.
It was a major win for the Buckeyes, who have seen a handful of underclassmen declare for the draft since their season ended with a 29-23 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals in the Fiesta Bowl.
“It was difficult, but at the end of the day I felt it was the best decision for me,” Wade said. “I want to graduate. There’s a lot of things I feel like I can give to the university still. Just want to get that natty, too. I feel like this could be a big year for us.”
Wade has 56 career tackles, four interceptions, two sacks and a pair of forced fumbles during two seasons with Ohio State.
When he decides to make the jump to the NFL, it will likely be as a first- or second-round pick, which would be the loftiest for a player from Trinity. Former Conquerors safety Guss Scott was a third-round pick of the Patriots in 2004, while running back Jamie Harper was a fourth-rounder in 2011 to the Titans.
Wade has lived up to the billing in college.
Coming out of Trinity, Wade was a consensus five-star prospect who won state championships from his freshman through senior seasons. He was the All-USA Today Defensive Player of the Year and the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year in December 2016. Wade was named the defensive back of the year during the U.S. Army All-American Game in January 2017.
He still has fond memories of Jacksonville, starring at Sweetwater Athletic Association before going on to a sterling career at Trinity and remains one of the most decorated football players from the area.
“Just the process of Coach [Gerard] Ross and Guss [Scott] and Coach [Verlon] Dorminey pushing me every day,” Wade said. “And all the other guys like Jeff Holland and Kevin Toliver, Isaiah Ford. [They] just pushed me every day and then becoming an older guy pushing the younger guys … Fred [Davis] and Miles [Brooks] going to Georgia Tech and Clemson. … Life moves fast, faster than you think it does.”
Wade has a bit of unfinished business on the football field.
His last play on the field this season came after he sacked Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence on a third-down play. No flag was thrown during the play in which Wade’s helmet hit Lawrence’s. During the replay, Wade was called for targeting and ejected.
“Celebrated, ran to the sidelines. Didn’t see no flags, didn’t see nothing. And all I [hear], ‘24s out for targeting.’ I was like, ‘wow, really?’ I didn’t know what to do,” Wade said.
“I ain’t panic or nothing. But when I got into the locker room … dang, ‘I’m really out for the rest of the game.’ I just told them boys, just go win the game. That’s all I care about. Just go get this natty.”