Imagine being a five-star recruit, imagine going to the biggest college football program in your own state.
And then you don’t play.
Well you play, but not as much as you imagined. Sure you understand there are veterans ahead of you, but somehow you saw this all going differently.
And then it might actually be your time, and then it isn’t. None of this is unfolding like how you mapped it out in your head.
So you check out the transfer portal because maybe a different program will talk to you and say, “We need a safety just like you next season.” You’re frustrated, you’re a little angry, you just want to try something different.
But then you realize that you’re closing in on your degree, and that your current team could use you in 2019. You take a deep breath, and you return. This is what you wanted all along, now it’s time to go and do it.
You’re Lamont Wade.
“I was expecting to play a lot my freshman year,” Wade said earlier this week. “Then the year after, I kind of took some steps back. Sometimes in life that’s what happens. You take steps back and it’s not because of your ability.”
“I didn’t grasp certain concepts,” Wade said of his change from corner to safety. “I didn’t know the ins and outs of the safety position. Adjusting to that, learning that and trying to play while you’re doing that, you’re going to play slower.”
For his first two years Wade was more a fixture on special teams than defense, it was trying. Wade admits that it was a dark time, not seeing his career pan out the way he was hoping, but as he is quick to remind everyone, adversity is part of every career.
The growth is the part that comes afterwards.
"I think we would all recognize and all agree with, that both the positives and the adversity that you go through in life, they make you who you are," coach James Franklin said Tuesday. "And Lamont right now, the success that he's having and the confidence that he's playing with and the confidence that our coaching staff has in him is a byproduct of everything that he's been through over the last three years. ... I think he's in a great place right now."
"That step back my sophomore year probably kinda hit me," Wade said Wednesday. "I kinda realized, I gotta get this together. I gotta get myself right on all aspects."
Wade did test the transfer market, somewhat publicly as he posted a photo of his empty locker on social media. This was it; he was gone.
But then he realized, through conversations with Franklin, his parents and himself, what the best choice really was. A choice that could impact his future on and off the field.
“I feel like this was the best opportunity for me,” Wade said of staying. “Obviously with me coming in and getting reps with the ones. ... I'm not gonna lie, when I was talking to (Penn State) coaches they told me that wasn't just gonna be my spot. They said it wasn't just gonna be given to me.
“It's whoever works for it and whoever deserves it is going to get the spot and that's something I really like. Most places will tell you, 'If you come back, you'll be the starter. If you do this, you'll be the starter.' And that wasn't the case. So with the work ethic I have, that was something I liked to hear.”
It’s a sentiment that Franklin echoed on Tuesday and an interesting look into the thought process of a coach on the angles of player retention. The departure of former quarterback Tommy Stevens has never been discussed in great depth but an injured quarterback hoping for job security could have looked for something that he was never going to get: a promise.
“I'm not a big believer in making promises in the recruiting process or making promises with players,” Franklins said Tuesday. “Because that can create some tough situations and dynamics. You know, we're going to play the guys that earn it, and Lamont has earned it.”
Wade will have a journey to keep his job with plenty of talent in the safety room. Even so, there is a peace that comes with knowing you’ve made the best choice you could have. Wade can only control his own effort now. All he ever wanted was a chance, and now he has it.
“I’ve matured a lot,” Wade said. “Not just as a player, but also as a man, also as a student, and as a father as well. I feel like that's what this whole experience is for.”
Is he prepared for what’s next?
“I was a little nervous the night before the game but as soon as I woke up I really wasn't. I thought I would be nervous on the field, but I wasn't nervous before the game at all. It just shows me I've been ready.”