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Shaun Wade puts ‘Cleats on the Ground’ to make a difference before NFL draft

Former Trinity Christian and Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade speaks to Mandarin High School football players on Tuesday during a practice.
Former Trinity Christian and Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade speaks to Mandarin High School football players on Tuesday during a practice. (News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When the NFL calls, Shaun Wade will be ready.

But before embarking on his pro football career, the former Trinity Christian and Ohio State star wanted to take care of a few things in town.

Volunteering. Speaking locally. Trying to make a difference with his presence and his words.

The cornerback will likely hear his name called Friday or Saturday in the NFL draft. He could go as early as the second round or as late as the sixth, according to a slew of different mock drafts.

Shaun and his father, Randy, plotted out the five days before the draft to do a bit of outreach in Jacksonville. They called it, “Cleats on the Ground,” a nod to Randy’s military background, blended with Shaun’s football knowledge.

Shaun Wade giving back to area before NFL draft
Shaun Wade giving back to area before NFL draft

So, they reached out to high school and youth football programs. Juvenile detention facilities. Military groups. Randy said that there were so many requests from football teams to have Shaun speak that they had to essentially put names in a hat and choose them randomly. On Monday, Wade visited Ribault High. Tuesday, it was Mandarin.

“It doesn’t have to be football players, basketball. It could be anybody,” he said. “I’m just trying to encourage them that you can do it, too.”

For Wade, the desire to try and make a difference in a positive way started long ago. He said that it was his father who made it clear early in life that being a good person and offering to help in any situation was how it was supposed to be. As a high profile athlete — Wade won four consecutive state championships at Trinity and was the USA Today defensive player of the year, for starters — Wade’s status gave him a greater platform to do more.

“When he was coming up, nobody ever came where he was at,” Randy said. “No one came in his neighborhood where he played in Sweetwater [Athletic Association]. He wanted to be able to do something like that.”

Former Trinity Christian and Ohio State star Shaun Wade poses with a football player from the MOT Cowboys. (Randy Wade)

So, Wade has continued to try and do that whenever possible. Mustangs players asked Wade an assortment of questions Tuesday, everything from types of workouts to what it was like being a star athlete in college and having women pursue him. Wade doled out honest and raw answers each time, including one that drew some laughs. He’s in a long-term relationship and didn’t get distracted by women in college.

“So many of these guys they watch these players and they want to emulate them they want to be them they want to be where they are but to actually have one come in front of them and talk to them and really share their experience and just be very honest about what the process involves and what it takes if you want to get to where you want to get to,” said Mandarin coach Bobby Ramsay.

“It’s one thing for us coaches tell them about it, but when somebody comes along and is willing to give their time and donate their time, it’s pretty special.”

When Wade was a player at Ohio State, Randy often looked for ways for his son to make an impact locally when he returned home for periods of time. He reached out to hospitals to see about Wade and certain teammates visiting. Wade volunteered numerous times with the Julian Woods Foundation in Jacksonville, a group named in honor of the former Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class, who died in 2004.

This week, Wade has made visits to a variety of spots in town.

He’s been to the VP-62 patrol squadron at NAS Jacksonville and spoken to juveniles at the Duval Academy, a stop that made a lasting impression on him. Wade has also visited Star Ready Athletes, the MOT Cowboys football team and the Police Athletic League. He has another full day and several stops planned Wednesday.

“I learned a lot at juvie. It definitely hit different because I’d never been through a lot of stuff they’ve been through, but my parents have and they told me their story,” Wade said. “So, trying to change their life is definitely different and just getting word of wisdom to encourage them. Just because you’re here [now], things like this can change and it’s possible to change.”

Wade joined us on The Morning Show on Wednesday to talk more about his mission and the NFL draft:

Shaun Wade and the NFL Draft
Shaun Wade and the NFL Draft

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.