COLUMBUS — Shaun Wade already passed up a multi-million dollar rookie contract in the NFL to return to Ohio State.
That’s the plan, and he’s sticking to it.
Wade could have been a first-round pick in April, but instead chose one more year of college football, one to become a leader and develop as an outside cornerback. But that was the pre-pandemic vision from Wade. In a new season of uncertainty, plenty of top-level college talents are opting to skip their final season of amateur football, choosing to prepare for the combine and pre-draft process.
So Wade was, of course, floated around as a talented prospect who may opt out. But the fourth-year junior and newly-minted captain hasn’t had any second thoughts about returning to Ohio State, and he certainly hasn’t thought about opting out of a fall college football season.
“I have had no second thoughts,” Wade said. “No second thoughts here. No thoughts about opting out. Just really taking it day-by-day and just trying to enjoy what we have right now. We’re going through this pandemic, we really can’t do nothing about it. Just have to listen to the Big Ten and our coaches and go through it day-by-day, and just see what they’re talking about.
“We have the best of everything at Ohio State, so we’ve been taking it serious. Really haven’t been thinking about opting out or nothing like that.”
Wade, one of seven captains recently voted on by his teammates and announced by the program Tuesday, put any thoughts of sitting out this season behind him as the Buckeyes opened training camp this week. It’s the best strategy for Wade, as he takes another step in his development — into a leadership role he hasn’t had at Ohio State through three seasons.
All his focus has turned to helping the secondary reach the level it was at last season, when the Buckeyes fielded two first-round picks at cornerback and an NFL-level safety behind them.
“I can’t really think about [opting out] right now,” Wade said. “I have to focus on camp right now. We’re looking forward to that, looking forward to playing That Team Up North, looking forward to playing the teams that we play. Right now, I just have to focus on camp. I can’t worry about the outside world right now.”
So the focus also turns to becoming a better leader. Wade has never been a vocal person. And he tries to lead more by example than by expression.
But the vocal aspect of his leadership is coming quickly. He’s ready to grow.
“Shaun certainly has credibility, but Shaun shouldn’t cut himself short,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said after the Buckeyes opened training camp Thursday. “When he speaks people listen. When you get into that role, I don’t know if you ask Jeff Okudah what kind of leader he was at this time last year, he probably would say the same thing. But when you get put into that role and you become the elder statesman in that room, you start to get that voice. And guys listen.
“He’ll find his way in that role, and he’s going to do great.”
He’s already done big things at Ohio State, which is why he had those options after last season anyway.
If he didn’t opt out of another year before the NFL Draft, why would he opt out this year? With a new captain’s label and more opportunity to prove himself, Wade is ready for the next challenge with the Buckeyes.
Shaun Wade is looking forward to the future, and that future is still on Saturdays.
“Really just looking forward to the season, play with them boys and lead them boys, lead this team to the natty,” Wade said. “Really just looking forward to it.”