With a speaker out back that had broken and some plumbing issues in his Florida home that needed work, Randy Wade spotted an opportunity.
So last month, he gathered his kids together – including redshirt junior Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade – and laid out all his tools in front of him. There, he remembers, they stood, not a clue what to do with any of them. Rather than fix everything himself, Randy decided to educate his children.
For two hours, he went through each tool. He talked about their names, their utilities, how to use them and what they’d need when they eventually own a house.
“Just simple stuff that you think they would know, but you don't have the time to teach them or you don't take the time out to teach them,” Randy said.
How did Shaun do?
“Oh, he sucks,” Randy said with a chuckle. “He's the worst. He's the worst. Even my daughter beat him out. Shaun, since he was like 12, he's been traveling to a lot of different places to play basketball and football, so he didn't have much time. On most weekends, he's always gone. He was flying on his own at the age of like 13, 14.”
Not at any point in his recent memory has Randy had so much time at home along with his wife and kids, especially Shaun – and he’s not alone in that feeling. Those across the country dealing with the coronavirus pandemic whose children are enrolled in college have suddenly welcomed them back home for the past couple of months.
Ohio State, along with the rest of the nation’s universities, suspended in-person classes on March 9, moving to virtual learning. Spring football practices got stopped four days later and never resumed.
The parents of three Buckeyes football players – Harry Miller’s mother, Kristina; Shaun Wade’s father, Randy; and Marcus Williamson’s father, Marlon – offered an inside look into how they’ve managed this situation.
“I think, if I can put it into perspective this way, I think even though this is unprecedented, it's drawn us closer together as a family,” Marlon said. “Having those tough conversations about how do we navigate going through this now and then how do we prepare ourselves for the future.
“That's been our story.”
The ESPN push notifications came quickly on their phones, Kristina Miller remembers.
At the time, out of the continent, it was the best way to stay up to date. She was staying in Nicaragua at the time with her oldest son, Harry. He had brought along one of his teammates, redshirt freshman linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, and another Ohio State student for a week-long trip with Mission for Nicaragua slated for March 7-14. Master Teague was also scheduled to join them before his Achilles injury.
There, while delivering 12 beds to the local community with what Kristina called a “nice, small group,” they learned of the postponement of their classes and remaining spring practices. While abrupt, they weren’t worried about being overseas as the coronavirus spread. At the time, there were no cases in Nicaragua, and she’d been tracking the virus since January.
“To be honest, I was more concerned coming home and going through the Atlanta airport than I was being down there,” Kristina said.
Took the kids from the Barrio of Los Brasiles to #RubyRanch for a day of fun, food and fellowship. Biking, soccer, jumping, sliding and getting swamped by two giant gringos. pic.twitter.com/bQUQcVPMFk— Kristina Miller (@KschilbMiller) March 10, 2020
Quickly, it became evident to the Millers that this would be a long-term ordeal. So before they left Nicaragua to head back to their home state of Georgia, they contacted Harry’s personal trainer, Ryan Goldin, to let him know they’d unexpectedly need him again as soon as they arrived back in the United States.
He got back to them, saying, “We’ll be ready.”
Soon after they returned to Georgia, Harry began working in small groups of two or three players with Goldin every morning while preparing to potentially start at left guard this fall. No, it wasn't the competitive environment of an Ohio State football practice. But Goldin has had dozens of NFL players as his clients.
“I'm on him 24-7 to make sure nobody's sick, make sure nobody has any kind of symptoms,” Kristina said.
Next on Kristina’s mind? Food.
See, things change in her household when Harry’s home from Ohio State. Instead of it just being her, her husband and her younger son in the house, they add a fourth member of the family who happens to be a 6-foot-4, 315-pound offensive lineman who quite literally eats as much or more than all of them combined.
During the spring semester, which ended last month, he had a routine. He’d wake up for an early morning workout between 6 and 8:30 a.m. On the way home, he’d effectively place a breakfast order with his mother. Then he’d typically do schoolwork from 9 a.m. to noon, freeing him up to do whatever he pleased for the rest of the day.
That breakfast order usually consists of yogurt, fruit, either water or chocolate milk … and between eight and 12 eggs. To suffice, she says she immediately bought a case of eggs – “when I say case, it's 15 dozen” – and headed to a local restaurant supplier, Restaurant Depot, to stock up on meat for Harry.
“We had our next couple of weeks planned with visiting up there and coming to the spring game and shifting home and making sure I have enough food in the house to feed him because, honestly, our food bill doubles when he's home,” Kristina said. “It's the three of us that are here, and then when he comes home it doubles. So yeah, trying to get enough food to feed this kid because these guys are documenting what they're eating, and they're maintaining their weight, whether it should be high or low or whatever.”
The Wade family weighed just about everything when deciding whether or not Shaun should enter the 2020 NFL Draft or stick around for a fourth season as a Buckeye.
Participating in spring football, while it certainly wouldn’t have hurt him, wasn’t necessarily high on the list. So Randy wasn’t particularly devastated when word came down in mid-March that Ohio State would suspend – and eventually cancel – its remaining practices in March and April.
“As far as him missing out on spring and things like that, he probably just kind of needed the rest,” Randy said. “He's had some stuff that he was battling, injuries and stuff like that. He just kind of needed the rest. This couldn't have happened at a better time because now when they finally come back, he'll be 100 (percent) and ready to show these younger guys.”
Wade, who’s played more than 1,000 total defensive snaps over the past two seasons combined, began the spring – and ended it – as a limited participant. The unexpected time off will give him a chance to rest, recover and recuperate, and while doing so, he’s also spending extra time with his family.
With Shaun expected to spend one more year in college and brothers who are 16 and 18 years old, Randy’s not taking this time for granted. He’s got his entire family back under his own roof for what feels like the final extended stretch.
“It's kind of good because I feel like this is our last full moment together before one of them gets married, or they're going back to school. It gives you time to kind of just be with everybody,” Randy said. “We've been playing all kinds of board games, not just watching TV. Just doing all different things and talking about different things in life and stuff like that. It gives you one more chance to do some parenting, so it's kind of cool.”
Family pic.twitter.com/z2tqRqSEfW— Randy L Wade% f@Ly..... (@gslsff) March 30, 2020
They’ve played monopoly together. They’ve fixed parts of the house together. They’ve watched the Last Dance documentary on ESPN together as Randy has tried to show Shaun, whom he described as a “Michael Jordan hater,” the greatness of the former Chicago Bulls guard. They’ve played spades together, with the loser having to do pushups. They’ve competed in games on their phones. They’ve talked about the lessons from the Jordan documentary, including the need to sometimes make things uncomfortable early in order to simulate what happens late in a football season.
And, they’ve also worked out together.
“It'll never be close to what he does at Ohio State from what he tells me and what we talk about,” Randy said.
Still, Shaun benefits from his parents having a home gym – even though he says it’s a mess since none of his kids know how to put anything away. It has a hip machine, a bench press and a pull-down machine, among other pieces of equipment.
“I've got a lot of stuff in there, and we kind of bring things out into our foyer to kind of have some space to do lunges and stuff like that,” Randy said. “That's motivating me to get back into it also.”
Randy never could have anticipated this happening, but like everybody else, he’s trying to make the most of his family time while staying safe.
Marcus Williamson stood up, turned toward his mother, smiled and raised his hands above his head to make a celebratory “O” as she snapped a photo of him with the school’s band playing in the background.
For years, his parents – Maron and Tamar – had dreamed of this moment. Of their middle son, a Westerville native and rising senior cornerback at Ohio State, graduating from the university in just three years. On May 3, that day came. It just didn’t go as they once expected.
Rather than the traditional graduation garb with a cap, Williamson wore a white and gray sweatshirt with matching sweatpants. Instead of packing into Ohio Stadium with the rest of the graduates and their families, the Williamsons watched an online presentation with Tamar connecting her phone to broadcast it on their television in the living room.
“In terms of graduation, it was kind of, how can I put it,” Marlon said. “It was a rewarding but disappointing moment for me because my oldest son, which his name is Matthew, he graduated from Ashland University. I was able to see him walk across the stage and we were there and we were taking pictures afterward. With Marcus, to be a graduate from The Ohio State University, for years I looked forward to going down to the university and seeing him walk across the stage. A heck of an accomplishment. He did it in three years. That's a testament to his hard work and effort.
“But we made the most of it.”
Shortly after the ceremony concluded, Marcus walked outside of his house to excitement. His mother had contacted family and friends who drove by as part of what his dad called a “car parade.” Out of their windows, they cheered, honking and yelling congratulations to him. Their neighbors soon came outside to wish him success and happiness.
“It turned out to be a really nice situation,” Marlon said.
There’s a decent chance Marlon will get a second chance to see his son graduate from Ohio State. With law school as the long-term goal, Marcus is planning to attend the John Glenn College of Public Affairs for graduate school next year.
As he’s doing that, of course, he’s also gearing up for his senior year of football as a Buckeye. In a normal, coronavirus-free year, he’d have gone through a final slate of spring practices while trying to capture one of the two open starting cornerback jobs. Instead, camp ended in March after just three practices, forcing everybody out of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“Just like in life, man, you're going to have challenges and you're going to have to adjust,” Marlon said. “I think Marcus did a great job of adjusting.”
Luckily, as Marlon put it, Marcus is a “stone’s throw” from his family’s home in Westerville. Rather than moving back in with his parents, he’s been able to stay at his apartment with his roommate, who’s a senior on the men’s soccer team.
That’s especially beneficial for his parents, who’ve done their best to keep Marlon’s 78-year-old mother healthy. Since he often works on home projects, Marlon went down to his shop to grab her an n95 mask the moment he found out of COVID-19 gets transmitted. For the rest of his family, he rushed out to buy the last pack of surgical masks he found at a local Kroger.
Marcus’ younger brother, an incoming freshman defensive back at Bowling Green, has moved in with his brother. So whenever either of them returns home, Marlon said, they make sure to keep their distance from their grandmother or wear their mask, doing what they can to maintain proper social distancing.
“Nothing is 100 percent, man, but you can just be smart and try to protect yourself the best you can and the loved ones around you as well,” Marlon said.
Since Marcus and Myles are living together, they’re working out together with the same personal trainer they’ve used for years. As a father, Marlon likes the dynamic, and he also sees the progress in Marcus.
“Really, I don't think he's missing a beat, to tell you the truth,” Marlon said. “I see the maturity with him and really taking ownership with making sure he's getting his rest and taking care of his diet and training and training hard. Because you're going to be able to tell when guys come back who's been training and who hasn't been training. I think we're excited about the future and we're going to go out there and he's going to compete like he always has.
“And I'm just hopeful that we have a season.”
Marlon isn’t alone in that thought. He does, however, have reason to root for it to happen more so than most others.
If the season goes on without a hitch and he’s allowed in the stadium, he’ll get to see Marcus’ Buckeyes take on Myles’ Falcons at Ohio Stadium in the Sept. 5 season opener.
“if they're both on the field at the same time, that's just, I don't know how I'm going to feel at that moment, man, but I know I'm going to be excited,” Marlon said. “We're rooting for them to stay healthy and to keep fighting.”
Photos via Twitter/@shaunwade2017, Twitter/@community1stOH and Instagram/@h_miller76