At the beginning of September, before he left Columbus to return to his home state of Florida, Shaun Wade felt he received a sign that it was time to take the next step in his life.
“A green grasshopper was at my door when I woke up that morning, when I came back he was there. The next morning, I woke up, and the grasshopper was at my door, and when I looked it up, it just meant like it’s time to move on in life, and it was a sign from God, for real,” Wade said.
At that moment, Wade started coming to the realization that it might be time for him to leave Ohio State and declare for the 2021 NFL draft, and he officially made that decision on Monday, when he announced he was opting out of the 2020 college football season and shifting his attention to focus on his professional career, joining Wyatt Davis as the second Buckeye to make that decision in a four-day span.
Buckeye For Life pic.twitter.com/b0iP6Rqo4i— Shaun Wade (@shaunwade24) September 14, 2020
Wade had been waiting to see if the Big Ten would make a decision this weekend, but even though there have been reports that the conference could still vote on a return to play as soon as Monday or Tuesday, Wade decided after no vote on Sunday that he didn’t want to wait any longer.
“I just felt that it was the best day for me to do it,” Wade told Eleven Warriors on Monday. “With them not having that vote ... I just feel like they keep on pushing it back, and it’s stressful. I definitely thought about it (waiting for another day or two), but they’ve been saying that for the longest. So I just had to do what I had to do for my family and just for myself.”
Although Wade has consulted with an agent, he hasn’t signed an actual contract yet, so the door isn’t completely closed on a return to Ohio State if the Big Ten announces this week that it will play in October. As of Monday afternoon, though, Wade was moving forward with the belief that his career as a Buckeye is over.
“I haven’t thought about it, because right now I have made my decision, but if they do in a time period that’s the time before I sign, I might think about it,” Wade said. “So we’ll see.”
Wade said he didn’t have any concerns about playing this fall despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but he had been back home in Jacksonville with his family rather than practicing with the Buckeyes. He graduated from Ohio State in August, as well, and that also played a role in his decision.
“They’re not telling us nothing, they’re not keeping us updated with everything that they go through, and it’s stressful,” Wade said, referring to the Big Ten. “And I just graduated. So it’s not like I need to go to school to get my degree, because I just got my degree.”
”I just feel like they keep on pushing it back, and it’s stressful.”– Shaun Wade on deciding not to wait for the Big Ten any longer
Even though he could already be playing in the NFL now if he had declared for the draft after last season instead of returning for another season at Ohio State that he now won’t be playing in, Wade said he doesn’t regret his initial decision to stay at Ohio State instead of declaring for the 2020 NFL draft.
“No regrets. I got my degree. COVID hit. So that’s life,” Wade said. “2020, it’s just a year of uncertainty for real, so you can’t do nothing about it. That’s life. You got to move on.”
Wade said it was difficult to call Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and tell them he was leaving, and to inform his teammates of the same news through a group text. But he also believes they understand why he made the move he did.
“At the end of the day, the boys know I love them, and they understand that you have to grow up as a man,” Wade said. “So I just felt like that was a grown-man decision I had to make.”
Wade’s father Randy has been among the parents of Ohio State players who have been pushing for the Big Ten to reconsider its decision to postpone fall sports, organizing a pair of protests that took place outside conference headquarters and outside Ohio Stadium, which led some to question Monday why his son would opt out when the conference was potentially on the verge of a decision to play this fall. Shaun Wade, though, wants people to know his father wasn’t just fighting for him.
“My dad didn’t just do this for me; it’s for the Big Ten in general,” Wade said. “He understands that if a lot of kids don’t play a season this fall, they can go a different path, because they might shut the school down and send everybody back home, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. So he understands that people need sports these days, and that’s kind of some people’s way of getting out and making money for their family.”
Wade is already in position to make money for his family, as he’s widely projected to be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Now that he’ll have the next seven-plus months to focus solely on preparing for his professional career, he’ll look to take advantage of that time as best as possible. For now, he’ll be training in Florida, and he plans to find a defensive backs coach who can help him continue to develop his skill set while he’ll also continue to stay in contact with Coombs.
“Really just working on my needs and wants, what I need from my body standpoint, what I need to work on strength-wise and what I need to work on football-wise, it’s time so you got to take advantage of the time you got,” Wade said. “You’re definitely going to know who’s been working and who hasn’t been working.”
Wade said he hasn’t yet talked yet about the NFL draft process with his former teammates who are now playing in the league because he wants them to focus on their seasons, which are just beginning. But he has been getting advice from each of his last two position coaches at Ohio State – Coombs and Jeff Hafley, who were both previously NFL secondary coaches – and said his confidence is at an “all-time high” seeing what his former teammates like Jordan Fuller and Damon Arnette are doing at the next level.
After starting at slot cornerback last season, Wade didn’t end up playing outside cornerback at Ohio State like he was supposed to this fall – which could leave NFL teams with questions about whether he can actually play that position – but Wade is confident he can play anywhere in a secondary that a professional team will ask him to.
“At the end of the day, I know I can play all five positions, so that’s a plus on my side,” Wade said. “I can play safety, nickel, go to the outside corner. I can come in the box if I need to, gain some weight and come in the box if the team needs me to.”
As Wade reminisced on his Ohio State career, he said his worst moment as a Buckeye was watching Baker Mayfield plant the Oklahoma flag in the middle of Ohio Stadium in 2017, but he is grateful for all the games he did play as a Buckeye, from his first appearance as a redshirt freshman against Oregon State in 2018 to playing Clemson in the College Football Playoff last year. He’s also appreciative of the opportunities he had off the field at Ohio State, from an externship with four of his teammates at the WWE Performance Center to all the different people he got to meet through the football program.
“A lot of people don’t be able to play in the College Football Playoff, a lot of people don’t even be able to get to college,” Wade said. “So it’s just a blessing just to be at Ohio State. That’s really the main moment, just being there.”
Wade’s departure leaves Ohio State without its only returning starter from last season’s secondary, but he says Buckeye fans should still be confident about the players who will be lining up in the defensive backfield and the team’s chances of winning a national championship whenever they do get to play again.
“I understand a lot of people talking about me. But I’m telling you, them boys that we’ve got there that’s there, they are very gifted and make tons of plays,” Wade said. “Very instinctive. So them boys, they’re going to show out when the Buckeyes play.”