The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their college careers, as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
Depending on your point of view, Shaun Wade's recruitment was quite the roller-coaster ride. The journey ended on Sunday afternoon, however, when the five-star cornerback arrived on Ohio State's campus.
By now, Wade's story is no secret. He became the second member of Ohio State's current recruiting class on Jan. 12, 2015, the same day the Buckeyes beat Oregon to capture the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship.
The Wade File
SIZE: 6-foot-1, 177 pounds
SCHOOL: Trinity Christian (Jacksonville, FL)
COMPOSITE RANKING: ★★★★★
COMPOSITE RANK: 3 (CB)
Wade's pledge seemingly came out of nowhere, but Trinity Christian suggests all sophomore athletes make a soft verbal commitment to help further their relationship with a coaching staff while also keeping their options open.
His only other offers were from Clemson, Georgia, North Carolina, Ole Miss, UCLA, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, and the Buckeyes were simply recruiting him the hardest at that time.
The immediate concern was whether Wade's pledge would stick when other prominent, local schools came calling.
“He's a player that most have discussed as your prototypical 'big' corner, the kind that usually end [up] at LSU or Florida State like his teammate, 2015 five-star Kevin Toliver, did. Wade, like Toliver, has committed nearly two and a half years before he'd be able to sign a letter of intent, so the challenge for the Buckeyes becomes 'how do we hold on' at this point.”
Wade made his first trip to Columbus in April and then returned to campus in June, but then things went quiet and the ominous feelings surrounding his recruitment returned during his junior year when he made trips to Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, UCLA and USC.
“Wade himself has reiterated numerous times that he's comfortable with his choice, but there are outside pressures — family and friends — who want him to double check.”
Those worries seemed to go away when Wade and his parents, Randy and Gwendolyn, made their first trip as a family to Columbus in June 2016.
Head coach Urban Meyer, defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs, co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and then-quarterbacks coach Tim Beck were all on-hand to give the Wades a crash course on what Ohio State had to offer their son.
“I thought the visit went very well,” one source close to the Buckeyes shared. “It seemed like his mom and dad like it a lot.”
Rumors began to surface in July about a potential flip to Alabama when Wade revealed at Nike's The Opening that his mom is a big Alabama fan.
While she wasn't pushing her son toward her favorite school, Wade is originally from Montgomery and the Crimson Tide could seemingly offer everything the Buckeyes could in terms of winning tradition and player development.
With the blessing of Ohio State's coaching staff, Wade visited Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech during his senior season.
Each school had positive attributes, for example, Florida offered early playing time; Notre Dame had great academics; and Virginia Tech gave Wade the chance to play alongside his childhood best friend. But the visits were ultimately all about making sure Wade was making the right choice.
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“We want him to go to Ohio State. He wants to go to Ohio State,” Randy Wade said. “This is an opportunity to make sure. The things he's doing, he'll never be able to do again.”
Once Wade concluded his official visits — which included a trip to Columbus for the 62-3 win over Nebraska in early November — he tentatively set his announcement date for reaffirming his commitment or flipping to another school for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7, 2017.
Meyer, Coombs and Beck made one final in-home visit with Wade right before Trinity Christian played in the state championship in early December. Following the win, Wade proclaimed he would win a national championship at Ohio State, giving fans hope heading into the recruiting dead period.
It was later learned only uncommitted prospects are allowed to announce their college decision during the game, meaning Wade would have been forced to decommit from Ohio State beforehand.
So instead of going through all of the hassle to stick with the status quo, Wade reaffirmed his commitment to the Buckeyes on Dec. 12 with a simple tweet.